If you are experiencing pain or itching around your rectum or seeing blood in your stool you may be dealing with an anal fissure or hemorrhoids. While the two problems are different they do have something in common – neither is any fun. But understanding the difference between the two can help you treat them more effectively and get some relief.
What Are Anal Fissures?
Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus which can cause pain, bleeding and itching. If the fissure spreads downward it can result in a swollen lump. They can be caused by hard, dry bowel movements, diarrhea or inflammation of the anorectal area. Fissures can cause pain during bowel movements that can sometimes last for hours.
Treating Anal Fissures
At least 50 percent of fissures heal by themselves and can be treated with home remedies including application of special medicated cream, use of stool softeners, avoidance of constipation, or sitz baths (soaking the area in plain warm water for 10-20 minutes, several times a day).
Fissures that don’t respond to treatment at home should be examined by a physician to determine the reason for lack of healing. Reasons can include scarring or muscle spasm of the internal anal sphincter muscle. Fissures that continue to cause pain and/or bleeding can also be corrected by surgery.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels in the anus and lower rectum and are very common. More than half the population will develop hemorrhoids at some point in their life, usually after age 30.
Symptoms usually include bleeding during bowel movements, pain or itching in the anal area and sensitive lumps. There are two types of hemorrhoids, external and internal, which refer to their location.
External, or outside, hemorrhoids develop near the anus, are covered by very sensitive skin and feel like a hard, sensitive lump sometimes accompanied by painful swelling. External hemorrhoids bleed only if they are ruptured.
Internal, or inside, hemorrhoids develop within the anus beneath the lining. Painless bleeding and protrusion during bowel movements are the most common symptoms. However, an internal hemorrhoid can cause severe pain if it is completely prolapsed, or protrudes, from the anal opening.
A number of common factors contribute to hemorrhoids including chronic constipation or diarrhea, pregnancy, straining during bowel movements or simply spending too much time sitting on the toilet reading your favorite magazine. Whatever the cause, the tissues supporting the veins stretch, the veins dilate and their walls become thin and bleed. If the stretching and pressure continue, the weakened veins protrude.
Mild symptoms can often be relieved by increasing the amount of fiber from foods including fruits, vegetables, bread, and cereals, and drinking more fluids. Eliminating excessive straining during bowel movements reduces the pressure on hemorrhoids and helps prevent them from protruding. A sitz bath can also provide some relief.
Following at home treatments, the pain and swelling of most hemorrhoids should decrease in two to seven days, and the firm lump should recede within four to six weeks.
In cases of severe, persistent pain, your physician may choose to remove the hemorrhoid through a simple outpatient procedure.
Learn More about Anal Fissure & Hemorroid Treatment
If you are suffering from either fissures or hemorrhoids and not getting relief at home we can help. Contact us for an appointment to discuss your treatment options.