What Causes Hemorrhoid Swelling?
Posted on 19 December 2018 by Maryanne Johnson
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Hemorrhoids come with many bothersome signs. Burning, itching, and pain can be some of the worst symptoms associated with hemorrhoids. In most cases, these symptoms develop because of inflammation. Here’s a closer look at the causes and signs of hemorrhoid swelling, and what you can do to reduce inflammation.What Causes Hemorrhoid Swelling?
Hemorrhoids are blood vessels located in the smooth muscles along the walls of the rectum and anus. While hemorrhoids are a normal part of the human anatomy, the bothersome symptoms arise when these veins become swollen.
Internal hemorrhoids occur in the upper 2/3 of the anus, while external hemorrhoids occur within the lower 1/3 of the anus and around the opening of the anus.
Hemorrhoids only present themselves when swelling occurs. The inflammation of hemorrhoids is caused by an increase of pressure in the small vessels. This increased pressure causes them to swell and become engorged with blood.
This leads to an increase in the size of the blood vessels and the presence of bothersome symptoms.
These are the causes of hemorrhoid inflammation:
- Low fiber diet
- Small caliber stool
- Straining during bowel movements
- Increase in pressure within the blood vessels
- Prolonged sitting
- Prolonged standing
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Colon cancer
- The most common signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Painless bleeding
- Anal itching
- The feeling of a lump at the anus
Internal Hemorrhoids Swelling vs. External Hemorrhoid Swelling
When internal hemorrhoids become inflamed, the most likely symptom is painless bleeding. Internal hemorrhoids do not generally cause pain because there are no pain fibers attached to the veins in the upper 2/3 of the rectum. When stool passes through the rectum, painless bleeding may occur as a result of the hemorrhoids.
In more severe cases of internal hemorrhoids, prolapsed hemorrhoids develop. Prolapsed hemorrhoids are those that protrude out of the opening of the anus. In this case, pain may occur. When internal hemorrhoids become thrombosed, a blood clot may develop.
Thrombosed hemorrhoids are marked by severe pain, and should be treated by a medical professional.
External hemorrhoids are different because they are located in an area of the anus that is sensitive to pain. External hemorrhoids can be seen and felt with the hands. They present as a lump or cluster of lumps around the opening of the anus.
The most common symptoms of external hemorrhoids include:
- Rectal fullness
- Lumps around the anal opening
Top 10 Ways to Reduce Hemorrhoid Swelling
There are many ways to handle the bothersome symptoms of hemorrhoids and treat the condition. From at-home treatments to over-the-counter and prescription medications, there are many options available to resolve the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Here are the top 10 ways to reduce the inflammation and swelling associated with hemorrhoids.
1. Warm Sitz Bath
Warm baths can be a great help to soothe irritation and alleviate inflammation. Sitz baths can be purchased at your local pharmacy or drugstore, or through your healthcare provider. They can also be purchased online. Sitz baths consist of a small plastic tub that fits over the toilet seat. Sitz baths are filled with warm water. You can also add to promote healing and further reduce swelling.
The best items to add to a sitz-bath for hemorrhoids are:
- Epsom salt
- Sea salt
- Witch hazel
- Baking soda
The sitz bath is placed over the toilet seat. Once filled, you should sit comfortably to allow the warm water to improve blood flow and alleviate swelling. If you don’t have access to a sitz bath, you can make your own in the bathtub. Fill the tub with with a few inches of warm water. Sit comfortable with either your knees bent or your feet propped on the edge of the tub to alleviate pressure in the perineal area.
With either sitz bath, you should sit for fifteen to twenty minutes, adding hot water as needed to keep the temperature consistent.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has been used for years to treat hemorrhoids and other skin conditions. The anti-inflammatory properties of the plant help reduce irritation. The pure gel found in the aloe vera plant can be applied directly to external hemorrhoids to alleviate the swelling of hemorrhoids. With aloe vera, you should always check for allergic reaction first. Apply a dime-sized amount of aloe vera gel onto your forearm, then wait 24 to 48 hours to ensure no reaction occurs.
3. Cold Compresses and Ice Packs
Another way to reduce swelling is to apply cold compresses or ice packs to the anal area. When done in 15 minute increments, ice packs and cold compresses can alleviate swelling. This treatment is particularly effective for larger, bothersome hemorrhoids. Wrap the ice inside a cloth or paper towel, never apply directly to the skin. Cold has been effectively used to treat inflammation of all kinds.
4. Over-the-counter Creams and Ointments
Over-the-counter creams and ointments are available in many different brands and strengths. Over-the-counter medications contain active ingredients that reduce inflammation and promote better blood flow. In addition to swelling, these creams and ointments can reduce a number of other symptoms of hemorrhoids. With a variety of brands and strengths on the market, patients can easily find an option that will work right for the severity and type of condition they face.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are a great option to reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatories work by blocking the effect of enzymes that make chemicals in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins produce inflammation and pain in our bodies. Anti-inflammatory medications block those enzymes, reducing the symptoms of inflammation.
6. Fiber Supplements
One of the most common causes of swelling associated with hemorrhoids is chronic constipation. When a person becomes constipated, they tend to strain, forcing hard stool through the rectum. The straining and hard stool leads to swelling. When you add fiber supplements to your daily regimen, or bump up your fiber intake through your diet, you can soften your stool, allowing them to move easily through your body. As you add fiber, you will notice that constipation goes away, and ultimately reduces the signs of swelling and hemorrhoids.
7. Hemorrhoid Suppositories
Hemorrhoid suppositories are available over-the-counter and can effectively treat the swelling and inflammation caused by hemorrhoids. Prescription strength suppositories are also available from your medical provider for more serious cases of hemorrhoids. Suppositories come in a variety of brands. They work by shrinking the swollen hemorrhoid tissue to alleviate the symptoms of pain, itch, and burning.
8. Improve Bowel Habits
Most hemorrhoids start, or are aggravated, by poor bathroom habits. A great way to reduce hemorrhoid swelling is to practice good bowel movement habits. This means you should:
Limit the amount of time you spend sitting on the toilet
Use wipes or other less irritating ways to wipe yourself after a bowel movement
Avoid holding it in when you have to go to the bathroom
Using a squatting position to make bowel movements easier
Practicing better hygiene methods to make sure you are fully cleaned after a bowel movement
9. Avoid Holding Your Breath or Straining
Whether you are working out, lifting something, or going to the bathroom, you should always practice proper breathing methods while you do so. This can greatly reduce the amount of strain you put on your body. A lot of people don’t realize that the hard work they do on a daily basis may be the cause of their hemorrhoids. When you hold your breath as you are pushing, pulling, and making an effort at anything, you can cause swelling in the lower part of your body. This may ultimately lead to hemorrhoids.
10. Improve Your Health
One of the best ways you can reduce inflammation from hemorrhoids is to improve your overall health. A better diet can greatly impact the effects of hemorrhoids on your body. You should always stay hydrated. This not only helps with your overall health; it can keep you regular. Since chronic constipation is often a cause of hemorrhoids, proper hydration can prevent unwanted constipation. And, you should always exercise. This keeps your blood flowing and helps avoid issues with your blood vessels and hemorrhoids. Improving your overall health is a great way to reduce swelling from hemorrhoids and inflammation throughout your entire body.
If you still suffer from swelling from hemorrhoids despite trying these ways to improve your condition, talk to your health care provider. They may suggest prescription medications or non-invasive surgery to help with the condition. In more severe cases, hemorrhoid surgery may be necessary.