What is a Hemorrhoid?

By Paul Schneider Jr

What is a hemorrhoid? Hemorrhoids (also called piles) are specialized blood vessels located in 2 places.

  1. In the last section of the rectum
  2. Surrounding the anus

At the end of the colon you will find the rectum 
which attaches to the anus, the opening where
the contents of the bowel exit the body

Unlike arteries or veins, hemorrhoids contain no nerve endings, and can give no sensation of pain.

However, there is a skin covering over external hemorrhoids that is filled with nerve endings. This is why external hemorrhoids can be so painful.

Hemorrhoids are your Friend

Hemorrhoid blood vessels provide three essential functions.

  1. They are cushions that serve as padding for muscles in the rectum and anus. Their job is to keep the muscles that close the rectum and anus from being damaged during defecation.

  2. When the anus is at rest, hemorrhoids swell with blood to help seal the anus from leakage. This helps to prevent soiled underwear in between potty stops.

  3. When a person tightens their anus and rectum muscles to suppress the urge to go or to force stool that won’t come out back into their colon, hemorrhoids help out. The bearing down pressure causes them to swell, helping to close the opening.

What is a hemorrhoid's purpose?
To protect you from rips and leaks.

What is a Hemorrhoid problem?

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.

On the right side of this image, the purple are non-inflamed internal hemorrhoid blood vessels. Note that their proper location is above the Pectinate Line.

The blue
are non-inflamed external blood vessels. Once again, these aid muscles in closing the anus and rectum.

On the left side of the image, you can see these same internal and external hemorrhoids in a swollen, inflamed state. You can see how this swelling can hinder them from their job of stopping seepage from the colon.

There are a number of things that can cause
hemorrhoids to become swollen and inflamed

The first four can be avoided

1. Straining

Constipation means straining to defecate. The longer and harder one has to strain to go, the more strained hemorrhoids become.

2. Large stools

Large stools are difficult to pass and require straining to get them out. As these large stools are forced over swollen hemorrhoids, they become raw, and sometimes even bleed.

Internal hemorrhoids become prolapsed and can protrude from the rectum. With minor inflammation they retract after the bowel movement.

With more advanced hemorrhoid inflammation, a finger can be used to push them back inside. With the 4th stage of inflammation hemorrhoids can’t be physically forced back inside.

Severely prolapsed hemorrhoids may protrude permanently and require medical treatment.

3. Overeating

When we overeat, it creates a back up in the colon, which means extra downward pressure.

As we have already learned, more pressure means more swelling of hemorrhoids.

4. Sitting too long on the toilet

When we sit in a chair, our anal area is supported. When we sit for prolonged periods on a toilet, it puts extra weight on the rectum and anus to hold up the bowels.

This extra weight causes hemorrhoids to swell.

5. Diarrhea

When diarrhea is a problem, it results in extra straining of our anal muscles. Also, diarrhea is an irritant.

Frequent wiping with toilet paper can make external hemorrhoids raw and very sore. Wetting your TP a bit can make it less harsh.

6. Pregnancy

According to Wikipedia, the farther one goes into pregnancy, the more pressure is exerted on the abdomen.

This, along with hormonal changes cause the hemorrhoid blood vessels to enlarge. Fortunately, when the baby is born, most hemorrhoid problems go away.

Constipation or diarrhea only add to this pressure, and should be avoided.

7. Aging

According to the U.S. Government, another cause of hemorrhoids is the weakening of the connective tissue in the rectum and anus that occurs with age. 

How Common are Hemorrhoids

The National Institutes of Health estimates that half of the population in the USA have hemorrhoids at sometime in their lives. Others estimate that 75% of us will experience them.

In his book, “Gastroenterology Clinics in North America”, Dr. Bartolo Chong states that hemorrhoids are more prevalent for those over 45 years old.

Fortunately, when there is a way to end constipation (hint: magnesium), hemorrhoids can quickly become a thing of the past. Magnesium also has numerous health benefits.

What is a hemorrhoid solution? Click here.

Hemmorrhoid Symptoms

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.

Internal hemorrhoids

There are three things that can alert you when you have an internal hemorrhoid.

  1. A difficult bowel movement can produce bright red blood on stool, on toilet paper, or in the toilet bowl

  2. The hemorrhoid prolapses and feels like something is hanging out

  3. Some incontinence and leaking of fecal matter

Since internal hemorrhoids have no nerve endings, you will not feel any pain even if they are bleeding.

In the images on the right, the internal hemorrhoids on the right side of each image are in their normal state. On the left side you can see the 4 stages of inflammation.

My experience with a prolapsed internal hemorrhoid is that it felt like part of my rectum was hanging out.

After wiping I have tried pushing it back inside. With grade 3 this is possible, with grade 4 it won't stay up inside. A prolapsed hemorrhoid is not a pleasant sensation.

Once they prolapse, internal hemorrhoids can irritate the surrounding skin, making it itch.

This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Commons is a freely licensed media file repository.

External hemorrhoids

Since these are covered with skin which does have nerve endings, external hemorrhoids, when inflamed, can cause a lot of itching, discomfort, and bright red blood in the toilet bowl and on toilet paper.

They feel like hard lumps surrounding the anus.

People turn to products like Preparation H to help make external hemorrhoids more tolerable.

Even when the external hemorrhoid withdraws, extra skin can be left behind, which can become irritated and itch.

Toilet paper is abrasive and especially brutal to external hemorrhoids, causing additional irritation and itching. I found it more soothing to moisten toilet paper before use.

Hemorrhoids are rarely dangerous

Though the bright red blood from a hemorrhoid can cause alarm, hemorrhoids are more an inconvenience that a threat.

It is almost unheard of that they bleed so much as to lose any significant amount of blood.

When what caused the hemorrhoid disappears, symptoms generally go away in a few days.

Other conditions that might be mistaken for a hemorrhoid

Although uncommon, other conditions, like polyps, warts and abscesses can mimic a hemorrhoidYour doctor can usually determine what is a hemorrhoid by performing a physical exam.

By viewing the pictures above, you may be able to know what is a hemorrhoid for yourself.

(Return from What is a Hemorrhoid to Signs of Constipation)

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