Did you know about three-quarters of American adults experience hemorrhoids at some point? Hemorrhoids develop when a vein in the anal canal or on the anus swells.
You can develop internal or external hemorrhoids. While both may cause uncomfortable symptoms, external hemorrhoids are usually more uncomfortable than internal ones. Some of the signs you may have hemorrhoids include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Itching, burning, or irritation in the anal area
- Swelling around the anus
While some hemorrhoids may go away on their own and won’t require special treatment, others may necessitate surgical intervention. So how can you tell when it’s time to consider hemorrhoid surgery?
At the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, our triple board-certified gastroenterologist, John M. Rivas, MD, diagnoses and treats hemorrhoids of all kinds. Dr. Rivas wants patients struggling with hemorrhoids to understand that it’s best to schedule an exam with a specialist rather than decide on your own whether your hemorrhoids require medical intervention.
He’s also committed to patient education. That’s why Dr. Rivas and our team put together this helpful guide with information about hemorrhoids and the signs that may indicate it’s time to consider surgery.
Treating hemorrhoids without surgery
Whether or not your hemorrhoids require surgery depends on multiple factors, including the type of hemorrhoids you have. For example, external hemorrhoids, which develop around the anus, usually cause the most noticeable symptoms, but generally resolve on their own.
To ease any unpleasant symptoms, you can try at-home therapies, such as:
- Cold compresses (e.g., ice wrapped in a washcloth) applied for 15 minutes at a time
- Using over-the-counter (OTC) wipes or ointments (e.g., witch hazel)
- OTC pain medicines, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Sitting in a sitz bath of warm water (with or without Epsom salts)
- Using OTC hemorrhoid creams and topical medications
Most internal hemorrhoids aren’t painful, and you may not know you have one unless it causes bleeding when you have a bowel movement. In this case, your provider may suggest making some lifestyle changes, such as switching to a high-fiber diet, losing weight, exercising more, and drinking plenty of water.
Signs it’s time to consider hemorrhoid surgery
In some cases, hemorrhoids may require surgical intervention to either resolve uncomfortable symptoms or prevent complications. For example, sometimes a blood clot can develop in the vein feeding an external hemorrhoid.
When this happens, you develop what’s called a thrombosed hemorrhoid, which can be quite painful and require a surgical procedure to drain the clot or stop blood flow to the hemorrhoid.
In addition, internal hemorrhoids can sometimes prolapse, or bulge through your anus or rectum. In fewer than 10% of cases, these prolapsed hemorrhoids may require surgical treatment.
If you experience severe pain from your hemorrhoids, or if your hemorrhoid symptoms don’t improve after a week or so of caring for them at home, call Dr. Rivas for an evaluation. Other signs it may be time to consider hemorrhoid surgery include:
- Pain when walking or sitting
- Pain with bowel movements
- Bleeding with bowel movements
- Itching, swelling, or a lump around the anus
At the Rivas Digestive Center, Dr. Rivas carefully examines your hemorrhoids and evaluates your symptoms and medical history. He also talks to you about different lifestyle factors before recommending surgery.
For hemorrhoids that require surgical intervention, Dr. Rivas opts for minimally invasive therapies whenever possible to remove or destroy your problematic hemorrhoids. These may include:
- Rubber band ligation
- Infrared, laser, or bipolar coagulation
- External hemorrhoid thrombectomy
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy
For more information about surgical treatments for hemorrhoids or to learn if your hemorrhoids require surgery, schedule an evaluation online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida.