Health & Wellbeing

#TabooTuesday: The Lowdown On Piles and Periods

Piles are enlarged blood vessels that form in and around the anus, and anyone who's suffered with them, will agree they're a right pain in the bum.

Today our resident Pink Parcel GP, Dr. Khaled Sadek of The Smart Clinics, gives us the lowdown on piles and what causes them...

Are piles the same as hemorrhoids? What exactly are they?

"Haemorrhoids (commonly known as piles) are vessels which normally make up the vascular structure of the lower rectum. Ideally, this group of vessels helps with the smooth passage of stools. However, once inflamed they give rise to symptoms such as pain, bleeding and discomfort.

What causes them?

"Blood vessels of the lower rectum are part of a complex and unique network which help maintain smooth and comfortable defecation.

"Unlike regular veins or arteries, they lack muscle within their walls and can become engorged and swollen with excessive straining or increased intra-abdominal pressure. This increased pressure causes them to ‘blow-out’, in the same way you would expect the inner tube of a tyre to do if you pumped it with too much air. This results in rupture and ulcerate.

Do they hurt?

“The two commonest complaints is first bleeding, and then pain. The pain results from either ulceration on the vessels following a bleed or, worse still, from thrombosis within the vessel. Thrombosis is the formation of a clot following a bleed, as Mother Nature tries to plug the hole.

How can you get rid of them?

“Although there are over-the-counter treatments available from the pharmacy, there is no easy fix once they develop, so your best strategy is prevention. Simple steps include maintaining soft stools, through increased dietary fiber, and avoiding straining to pass stools. In more severe cases, surgeons can treat using a range of options including laser, freezing, banding or cauterization.

Why do piles flare up when you get your period?

“Occasionally women complain piles flare-up during periods. There is some research, mainly around pregnancies, which highlights the presence of oestrogen and progesterone receptors, similar to those seen in normal breast tissue, are also found in haemorrhoids. These findings could account for these symptoms, but the jury is still out.”

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