Hemorrhoids overview

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Overview

Historical Perspective

Classification

Pathophysiology

Causes

Differentiating Hemorrhoids from other Diseases

Epidemiology and Demographics

Risk Factors

Screening

Natural History, Complications and Prognosis

Diagnosis

History and Symptoms

Physical Examination

Laboratory Findings

X Ray

CT

MRI

Ultrasound

Other Imaging Findings

Other Diagnostic Studies

Treatment

Medical Therapy

Surgery

Primary Prevention

Secondary Prevention

Cost-Effectiveness of Therapy

Future or Investigational Therapies

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Overview

Hemorrhoids are varicosities or swelling and inflammation of veins in the rectum and anus. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine leading to the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body. External hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus. Internal hemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum. Internal hemorrhoids may protrude, or prolapse, through the anus. Most prolapsed hemorrhoids shrink back inside the rectum on their own. Severely prolapsed hemorrhoids may protrude permanently and require treatment.

Historical Perspective

Hemorrhoids were first discovered by ancient Egyptians more than 3,700 years ago.

Classification

Hemorrhoids can be classified according to their location as external or internal hemorrhoids. Furthermore, internal hemorrhoids can be graded according to severity into 4 grades.

Pathophysiology

Hemorrhoids develop due to a combination of genetic predisposition (weak rectal veins) and certain diet and defecation habits.

Causes

Hemorrhoids may be caused by factors that increase the pressure in the rectal veins such as chronic cough, chronic constipation, and straining.

Differentiating Hemorrhoids from other Diseases

Hemorrhoids should be differentiated from other diseases that cause anal discomfort and pain with defecation such as rectal cancer, anal fissure, anal abscess, and anal fistula.

Epidemiology and Demographics

In the USA, the prevalence of hemorrhoids is about 4.4%. Only about 500,000 patients in the U.S. are medically treated for massive hemorrhage, with 10 to 20% requiring surgery.[1]

Risk Factors

Common risk factors in the development of hemorrhoids are excessive straining, sitting or standing for long periods of time, pregnancy, and chronic constipation.

Screening

According to the USPSTF, screening for hemorrhoids is not recommended.

Natural History, Complications, and Prognosis

If left untreated, hemorrhoids may lead to strangulation, anemia, or fecal incontinence. Common complications of hemorrhoids include secondary infection, thrombosis, or strangulation. Prognosis is generally excellent and most cases respond to non surgical treatment. However, surgery gives the best prognosis with the least recurrence rate.

Diagnosis

History and Symptoms

Symptoms of hemorrhoids include pain with defecation, hematochezia, and anal discharge.

Physical Examination

Patients with acute prolapsed or thrombosed hemorrhoids usually appear ill and in pain. Physical examination of patients with hemorrhoids is usually remarkable for protruding mass from the anus or palpable mass on digital rectal exam.

Laboratory Findings

There are no specific diagnostic lab findings associated with hemorrhoids. However, complete blood count may show anemia in the case of chronic bleeding.

Imaging Findings

There are no X-ray, MRI or ultrasound findings associated with hemorrhoids.

Other Imaging Finidings

There are no other diagnostic imaging studies of significance for hemorrhoids.

Other Diagnostic Studies

Anoscopy is mandatory to visualize internal hemorrhoids as they are not visible on inspection of the anal verge or palapable on performing digital rectal exam.

Treatment

Medical Therapy

There is no medical treatment for hemorrhoids. Medical therapy aims to provide symptomatic relief from constipation. Local treatments such as warm sitz baths, cold compress, and topical analgesic (such as nupercainal) can provide temporary relief.

Surgery

Surgery is not the first-line treatment option for patients with hemorrhoids. Surgical intervention is usually reserved for patients with either complicated or large hemorrhoids (beyond grade III).

Primary Prevention

Primary prevention of hemorrhoids may include drinking excessive fluids, regular exercise, practicing better posture, and reduction of bowel movement straining and time. Eating a high-fiber diet can make stools softer and easier to pass, reducing the pressure on hemorrhoids caused by straining.

Secondary Prevention

The secondary preventive measures for hemorrhoids are similar to primary preventive measures.

References

  1. Johanson JF, Sonnenberg A (1990). "The prevalence of hemorrhoids and chronic constipation. An epidemiologic study". Gastroenterology. 98 (2): 380–6. PMID 2295392. 

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