Piles also known as hemorrhoids are characterized by inflamed tissues in the anal area; the affected tissues are the blood vessels, muscles, support tissues and elastic fibers.
Many people have piles but don’t know because the symptoms are not always obvious; the size of piles varies among individuals and they can be located either inside or outside the anus.
Piles outside the anus make small lumps and they are very itchy; if a blood clot develops, it blocks the flow of blood and therefore becomes very painful.
Piles are classified into four grades:
Grade I: This type is characterized by small inflammations inside the linings of the anus and they are usually invisible.
Grade II: Piles in this grade are larger than piles in grade I and they are also internal. They may come out during bowel movement but they return without any help.
Grade III: Piles in this grade are known as prolapsed hemorrhoids; they are located outside the anus and sometimes the individual can feel them hanging from the rectum but they can be re-inserted easily.
Grade IV: Piles in this grade are similar to those in grade III, they are large and are located outside the anus; they cannot be pushed back in and it needs immediate treatment.
Symptoms of piles
Though some people with pile don’t show symptoms others show symptoms that are not serious and they normally resolve on their own after a few days.
The following symptoms can be experienced by someone suffering from piles:
- Bloody stool, blood is usually bright red in colour.
- Feeling pain when passing out stool
- The area around the anus is inflamed, itchy, red and sore
- Still feeling full after passing bowel
- A hard and painful lump may be felt around the anus; it may contain coagulated blood and this type of pile is usually called thrombosed external hemorrhoids and they require immediate medical attention.
- Having difficulty sitting down
- Stool leaking out of the anus even when you are not trying to pass stools
Piles can escalate into a more severe condition and the symptoms can include:
- Excessive anal bleeding that can possibly lead to anemia.
- Inability to control the movement of bowel
- Anal fistula
- A strangulated hemorrhoid, in this condition the supply of blood to the hemorrhoid is restricted and this leads to lots of health complications including a blood clot or infection.
Causes of piles
Increases pressure in the lower rectum is what causes pile; when this happens, it causes the blood vessels around the anus and in the rectum to stretch under pressure; this will lead to swelling or bulging which will form piles in turn.
Pressure in the lower rectum can be caused by:
- Forcing out stool
- Colon cancer
- Anal intercourse
- Rectal surgery
- Rectal cancer
- Strenuous exercise and lifting heavy weights
- Chronic constipation
- Bad posture
- Sitting for long period
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Spinal cord injury
- Lack of fiber in diet
- Chronic diarrhea
Hemorrhoids can be easily treated; there are OTC medications and prescribed drugs that help in controlling the symptoms, soften the stool, reduce inflammation and treat the pain associated with it. Healthy eating, weight loss and other healthy lifestyle changes might be needed to help treat this condition.
It is also possible to manage this condition at home; there are effective home remedies for piles/hemorrhoids.
Home Remedies for Piles
Sitz baths: Experts encourage people with painful piles to sit in warm water for at least 15 minutes and this should be done several times daily, it is advisable to do it after every bowel movement.
Cold compresses: When the anus is inflamed, applying ice packs or cold compresses will relieve the symptoms for 15 minutes. This is effective in treating large and painful piles. Don’t apply frozen things directly on the affected area; always make sure the ices are wrapped inside a cloth or paper towel.
Warm baths: To reduce irritations, swelling and inflammation caused by hemorrhoids; most people sit in a tube that is filled with warm water. You can natural ingredients like Epsom salts or ACV to make it more effective.
Witch hazel: This herb is effective in relieving pain associated with hemorrhoids; it even reduce the bleeding and itching, this herb is rich in tannins and oils that reduce inflammation and bleeding and it has the ability to tighten the skin. It can be applied directly on the hemorrhoids.
Castor oil: This oil is rich in healing phytochemicals, antioxidants, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory chemicals; it is used to reduce pain and decrease the size of piles. Mix milk and castor oil and apply this mixture to the affected area every night till you get relief. It can also be taken internally to relieve the symptoms of piles.
Drink lots of water: A research made it known that dehydration is the cause of most anal problems like hemorrhoids. Drink lots of water during the day and eat natural foods that have high water content. This will keep the stools soft, prevent constipation and aid bowel movement; it also reduces the time and energy used to pass bowel and reduce the irritations and symptoms.
Black tea bags: These are rich in tannic acids that act as astringent that will help in reducing swelling and pains that comes along with piles. Apply warm, wet teabags to the swollen veins for at least 10 minutes and do this three times daily. You can also use cold tea bags.
Vitamin C: It helps to toe and shrink the veins that are swollen; it prevents them from easy bleeding, or from becoming lax or prolapsed. It protects against straining and tearing in the anus by keeping the veins strong. Take rich sources of vitamin C like citrus fruits and other fruits and vegetables.
Apple cider vinegar: This miracle liquid can instantly relief the symptoms of piles; it reduces itching and pain. Dilute it very well before using to prevent aggravating the symptoms.
Increase your level of probiotics: Probiotics are healthy bacteria that improve the functions of the intestines and aids in the elimination of waste products; they aid in the synthesis and bioavailability of nutrients, they also help the body to properly digest food and they modify the pH of the gut. Fermented foods are rich sources of probiotics and they include kefir, kimchi, raw and pastured yogurt and other fermented foods.
Eat foods rich in fiber: Lack of fiber is diet is the major cause of constipation which can also lead to hemorrhoid; fiber absorbs water, soften stools and make bowel movement easier. Rich sources of fiber are fresh and dried fruits, cereals, grains and vegetables. Avoid processed forms and always go for non-GMOs if possible. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for fiber is 20 to 30 grams per day so try and get lots of fiber daily to help your condition.
Butcher’s broom: This supplement helps in reducing swelling and inflammation of hemorrhoids and it also treats poor supply of blood.
Psyllium husk: This is a supplement that increases the quantity of fiber in the body; it soften stool, regulate bowel movement and prevents constipation. Take in plenty water when using this supplement. Other fiber supplements are calcium polycarbophil and methylcellulose.
Horse chestnut: This is a popular herb used in treating poor supply of blood and swelling; it also helps one recover from hemorrhoids.
Aloe vera: This herb helps in soothing inflammation because this herb is loaded with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Apply pure aloe vera gel on the affected area.
Essential oils: There are essential oils that are beneficial and can help relieve the symptoms of piles; they include cypress and helichrysum essential oils. Cypress oil helps to stop excessive bleeding; it also promotes blood clotting and helps with the contraction of blood vessels. It is a powerful astringent and has hemostatic properties; it tightens tissues, it is also effective in reducing anxiety and this can relieve constipation in some people.
Add 2 or 3 drops of this essential oil to a cotton ball and rub it directly on the affected area. Helichrysum essential oil helps in preventing digestive problems and it also aids proper digestion of foods by stimulating the secretion of gastric juices which helps in the breakdown of foods. It also fights inflammation when it is applied topically. Use it the same way you use cypress oil and you can also apply it on the abdomen.
Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is rich in anti-inflammatory and antiseptic phytochemicals that can help reduce the inflammation, swelling, and itching caused by hemorrhoids.
Lemon juice: It is rich in varieties of nutrients that can give relieve from hemorrhoids and also strengthen the capillaries and blood vessels. Pour lemon juice on a cotton wool and apply it on the affected area; you can also drink lemon juice or lemon water every three hours for best result.
Epsom salt and glycerin: This mixture made up of 2 tablespoons each of Epsom salt and glycerin should be applied to a gauze pad and placed on the affected area for at least 20 minutes. It should be repeated several times daily till the pain subsides.
Almond oil: This is an emollient used for the treatment of external piles; dip a cotton ball in this oil and apply it to the affected area. It will moisturize the piles and relief inflammation; it also eases burning and itching sensations when you do it several times daily.
Olive oil: This is an effective treatment for external hemorrhoids; its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties will help to increase the elasticity of blood vessels, reduce inflammation and shrink swollen blood vessels in the anus. Consume a teaspoon of olive oil daily; you can also mix olive oil and the juice gotten from crushed plum leaves; apply this mixture to the affected area to get relief from pain and swelling.
What to avoid?
Tissues: Don’t use tissue paper after using the toilet; it can aggravate the symptoms because of the chemicals it contains. Wipes made with natural ingredients are better alternatives as they cause no irritation, chose wipes with aloe vera extract or witch hazel extract so that it can offer soothing relief for the symptoms. Avoid wipes with perfumes, alcohol or other irritants that can aggravate the symptoms of piles.
Tight fitting clothes: Replace tight fitting clothes and clothes made with polyesters with cotton clothes and underwear will increase the flow of air to the affected part and this will help to reduce symptoms greatly.
Perfumed detergent or fabric softeners: They aggravate the symptoms of hemorrhoids.
Washing the anus with soap: Don’t wash your anus with soaps if hemorrhoids are present; this act will worsen the symptoms and irritate the hemorrhoids even more.
Don’t use Aspirin: It will thin the blood and increase the risk of bleeding.
Laxatives: They are addictive; they can also weaken the bowels and lead to chronic constipation.
Alcohol: Alcohol is harsh on the digestive system and it also dehydrates the body; it aggravates the symptoms of piles and it is a risk factor for hemorrhoids.
Spicy foods: Heavily spiced foods can worsen the symptoms of piles; limit intake of spicy foods till you have fully recovered from this.
Surgical remedies for piles
Though painful and debilitating, pile is not a serious condition that requires surgery yet it is estimated that 1 in 10 people with hemorrhoids might need surgery because of the severity or development of fistula. Surgical options vary depending on the severity and they include:
Banding can be employed; in this surgical procedure, the doctor places an elastic band around the base of the pile; this is to prevent the supply of blood to the hemorrhoid, the hemorrhoid falls off after a few days. This is an effective treatment for grade I to grade III hemorrhoids.
Another surgical procedure is Sclerotherapy which involves injecting medicines into the hemorrhoids; this is to make it shrink. This is an alternative to banding and it is effective for grade II and grade III hemorrhoids.
Another surgical procedure used in the treatment of grade I and grade II piles is infrared coagulation which involves using a device to burn the hemorrhoid tissue.
Hemorrhoidectomy is another surgical procedure that is most effective for removing all piles but it has complications like UTI and difficulty passing stools. It involves cutting off the excess tissues that cause bleeding.
Hemorrhoid stapling involves blocking the flow of blood to the hemorrhoid; but it can lead to complications like rectal prolapse and increased risk of recurrence.
How to prevent piles?
The best prevention is to ensure that your stools are soft; the steps below can prevent pile or reduce the symptoms.
- Eat foods with high fiber content, they prevent constipation
- Drink lots of water
- Control your weight
- In severe cases you can use fiber supplements
- Try not to force stool out
- Exercise moderately and regularly
- Don’t sit for long periods
- Don’t hold in stools for long, go to the toilet as soon as you feel like it