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Inflamed condition of the veins, inside or just outside the rectum; also known as haemorrhoids or hemorrhoids.
Persons most commonly affected: Adults in middle and older age of both sexes.
Organ or part of body involved: Veins at the lower end of the bowel (called the haemorrhoidal veins) in the wall of the anus.
Symptoms and indications: Internal or first-degree piles, which many people have without even being aware of them, are located just inside the anus. These may occasionally cause some discomfort when a bowel motion is passed, and may also bleed occasionally. A smear of bright red blood on the toilet paper or drips in the toilet pan is likely to be the only evidence of this. Second-degree piles usually appear as pea-sized swellings outside the anus after a bowel motion has been passed. They usually return inside the anus of their own accord. They may bleed and cause discomfort when a motion is passed. They my also itch. With third-degree piles, the swollen blood vessels are so enlarged that they remain outside the anus permanently. Known as external piles, these are more troublesome. They may cause soreness and persistent irritation.
Causes and risk factors: Piles are commonly caused by constipation and straining when passing stools, especially in middle-aged and elderly persons. Straining puts increased pressure on veins and slows the flow of blood, thereby contributing to swelling and inflammation of veins. If bowel movements are postponed, the stools retained in the bowels may loose moisture. When feces become dry and hard, the added strain of constipation favours the development of piles. They are also common in pregnancy because the enlarged uterus increases pressure on the veins disappearing again after the baby is born. However, piles may be a symptom of other disorders affecting the bowel or blood circulation. They often occur in persons with liver disease, such as cirrhosis, heart and congestive disorder. A diet lacking in fibre and digestive irritants (such as spicy food) can also be contributary.
Prevention: Prevent constipation, avoid alcohol, tea, coffee, spicy and fried food. Avoid sitting for a long duration on hard surface, eating dry and stale food, smoking, putting pressure during defecation and consumption of canned food. Consume green leafy vegetables and fruits which add roughage. Sleep well in nights and reduce weight. Bathe or shower daily to cleanse the skin around the anus gently with warm water. Soap is not necessary and may aggravate the problem. Eat a high fibre diet such as wheat bran cereal and whole wheat bread, and drink plenty of water (at least 8 to 10 glasses each day). Stay active and excercise daily.