Piles, also known as haemorrhoids, is a disease which is never spoken out about loudly. It is always whispered and is associated with a touch of embarrassment. A splash of blood with stools in your toilet bowl should not be a cause of embarrassment but concern as it could point towards anything from piles to cancer. But before diagnosing a streak of blood as cancer lets see what piles are and what else they could be.
Piles or hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed blood vessels in or around anus and rectum. These swollen blood vessels lead to the presentation of symptoms such as pain and bleeding on passing stools, anal itching and lump protruding out of the anus. However, every bleeding rectal pain is not haemorrhoids and can be a more serious condition. So what else can piles be? Let’s find out.
1) Anal fissure: It is a break in the lining of anal canal causing pain in passing stool. They are usually caused by irregular bowel movements in the form of constipation, passing hard stools or repeated diarrhea. Anal fissures are often accompanied by a painful skin tag which can mislead you to think you have haemorrhoids. Your doctor can differentiate between a haemorrhoid and an anal fissure by a physical examination of the affected area.
2) Crohn’s disease: Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract which often manifests itself as painful bloody diarrhea. However, it is mostly accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, weight loss, stomach pain and fatigue. An endoscopy can help in differentiating between Crohn’s disease and piles, Crohn’s usually affects the lower part of small intestine whereas piles affect the rectum or lower part of large intestine.
3) Ulcerative colitis: Ulcerative colitis also presents itself as rectal bleeding, however, they usually affect the large intestine only. An endoscopy is helpful in identifying this condition as it reveals ulcerations and inflammation along the intestine, distinguishing it from piles.
4) Colorectal cancer: Piles can be a symptom of colorectal cancer. 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer initially thought they had haemorrhoids. However, haemorrhoids tend to flare up and then go away, causing an erratic bleeding pattern, whereas, in colorectal cancer bleeding is consistent. A biopsy or an endoscopy can help you rule out colorectal cancer.
5) Anal fistula: Anal fistula or fistula-in-ano is a pathological channel between the anus and the skin near it. It can cause bloody and painful stools. Your doctor can distinguish between piles and anal fistula by a physical examination.
6) Rectal Prolapse: It is a condition when the large intestine loses its natural attachment and protrudes out of the anus. It may be associated with blood stained stools and pain on defecation. A physical examination can help distinguish rectal prolapse.
7) Proctitis: It is an inflammation of the lining of rectum causing pain and bleeding on passing stools. A sigmoidoscopy will help your doctor to effectively diagnose proctitis.
Plies? Tips To Prevent It
The easiest way to prevent hemorrhoids is by eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise. Someone who already has hemorrhoids can make lifestyle changes that make hemorrhoids less bothersome. As constipation is one of the leading causes of haemorrhoids among those over 50, someone who is suffering from hemorrhoids may want to ask a physician whether a medication they use is making them constipated. When this is the case, a patient may ask a doctor to prescribe another medication that does not cause constipation.
Constipation can often be alleviated by eating a diet that is rich in the fiber found in whole grain foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Drinking up to or more than 6 glasses of water every day may also help alleviate the symptoms of hemorrhoids or prevent its onset altogether. Importantly consuming alcohol or coffee does not equate with drinking plain water as both alcohol and coffee dehydrate the body.
A diet that is rich in fiber and which is complemented with sufficient quantities of water helps to soften the stool and adds bulk to it allowing it to be more easily pushed through the intestine which prevents hemorrhoids. Eating refined and processed foods may also exacerbate the symptoms of hemorrhoids or lead to constipation which could lead to hemorrhoids. Hence foods such as chips, cakes, and candy should be avoided particularly among those close to or over the age of 50.
Getting enough exercise will also help prevent hemorrhoids and alleviate its symptoms. Someone over 50 years of age and who has no disability should engage in regular physical exercise not only to prevent hemorrhoids or alleviate its symptoms but also to remain healthy. It is also a good idea to not sit on the toilet for a long period as doing so can put a strain on the veins around the anus or rectum. Finally, gently cleaning the anus after a bowel movement prevents the area from becoming irritated and prevents hemorrhoids.
Bottomline: Every case of blood in your stools may not be a case of haemorrhoids and it can be embarrassing to talk about with people around you. Hence, it is necessary to consult a doctor whenever you see these symptoms instead of visiting quacks or indulging in self medication. It will not only help in confirming a diagnosis but also rule out any serious conditions.