Piles (hemorrhoids) are anal cushions which are three in number and located inside the anal canal. These soft, spongy pads contain a network of tiny blood vessels. When these soft pad or pads slip downwards due to various reasons the small blood vessels inside these pads become engorged with blood and the cushion swells up.
Types of Piles
Although piles develop from inside your anal canal, they can hang down out of your rectum. They are graded as follows.
- First degree piles are swellings on the inside lining of your anal canal. They may bleed but can't be seen from outside the anus.
- Second degree piles are larger and stick out (prolapse) from the anus when you have a bowel movement, but return on their own afterwards.
- Third degree piles are similar, but hang out from your anus and only return inside when pushed back in.
- Fourth degree piles permanently hang down from your anus and you can't push them back inside. They may become extremely swollen and painful if the blood in them clots.
- External piles are swellings that develop from below the anal cushions. They can be more painful than the other types of piles.
Signs & Symptoms
Internal or First-degree Piles:
Many people have these without even being aware of them. These are located just inside the anus, ocassionally causing some discomfort when a motion is passed. Rarely, slight bleeding may also occur during evacuation.
They usually appear as peasized swellings outside the anus after a bowel motion has been passed. They are usually retained inside the anus and may bleed and cause discomfort during passing stool with some degree of itching.
The swollen blood vessels are so enlarged that they remain outside the anus permanently. These are known as external piles, and are more troublesome. Soreness and persistent irritation are the common features.
Prevention of piles
You can reduce your risk of developing piles. If you have daily bowel movements that are solid but soft, and you don't need to strain, faeces will pass easily and won't put pressure on the blood vessels in your anal area.
To keep your bowel movements soft try to:
- Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals (for example, brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta)
- Drink plenty of fluids
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