How Doctors Diagnose and Treat Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your lower rectum or anal area. The symptoms of hemorrhoids—including mild pain and itching around your anus—are as uncomfortable to experience as they are to talk about. Fortunately, home remedies often help treat hemorrhoids and hemorrhoid symptoms. But, if those symptoms don't go away in about a week, or get worse, it's time to see a doctor.
Your doctor can run some tests to find out exactly what’s causing your discomfort. Then, the doctor can prescribe treatment that should help relieve your symptoms.
Your overall health, medical history and symptoms are clues that will help your doctor figure out if you have hemorrhoids. The doctor will likely ask about certain lifestyle habits that could lead to hemorrhoids. These may include your:
Use of enemas
Next, your doctor will examine the affected area and look for:
Leaking stool or mucus
Extra flaps of skin, called skin tags
Your doctor can see only hemorrhoids that develop outside the rectum, known as external hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids develop inside your rectum. Sometimes, though, they protrude from the anus. As part of the physical exam, your doctor will put on a glove and insert a finger into your rectum to check for internal hemorrhoids. This also lets your doctor check for:
Abnormal muscle tone
Unusual lumps or growths
Sometimes doctors also perform an exam with an instrument called a scope, which is a thin tube with a light and camera. It helps them better see the affected areas. The specific type of test depends on how much area your doctor needs to examine.
Hemorrhoid creams and pads can ease mild discomfort. These products contain ingredients that can temporarily reduce pain and itching.
More serious hemorrhoids may improve with a procedure done in your doctor’s office. Options include:
Rubber band ligation: This procedure treats some internal hemorrhoids. The doctor places a special band around the hemorrhoid to cut off its blood supply. This causes it to shrink and fall off in about a week. It’s usually done without pain medication. You may have some discomfort for a few days.
Sclerotherapy: This involves injecting the hemorrhoid with a solution that causes scar tissue to form. The scar tissue cuts off the hemorrhoid's blood supply, causing the hemorrhoid to wither away.
Coagulation: The doctor uses infrared light or electrical currents to generate heat that causes scar tissue to form and reduce the hemorrhoid’s blood supply.
External hemorrhoid thrombectomy: A clot can develop on a protruding hemorrhoid and cause pain. Your doctor can remove the clot through a small incision. This procedure often brings immediate symptom relief.
If you have severe hemorrhoids, your doctor may suggest a surgical procedure, such as:
Hemorrhoidectomy: Your doctor surgically removes very large or painful hemorrhoids. It's effective for both external hemorrhoids and internal ones that are protruding.
Hemorrhoid stapling: Your doctor uses this technique to cut off a hemorrhoid's blood supply. This is usually done on internal hemorrhoids.
All surgery comes with a risk of complications, such as bleeding and infection. Also, some hemorrhoid treatments may provide faster relief than others, but they may increase the odds that you will have another hemorrhoid in the future.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of each treatment so you can choose the treatment that's best for you.