Finding red patches of blood on your used tissue roll would be a cause of distress to many of us. While diarrhoea or constipation can often happen because of the types of food we eat, finding blood in our stools can be relatively less common and, thus, more alarming. But, fret not, the release of blood is typically traced to a common condition of piles or haemorrhoids.
What are piles?
Piles are swollen and enlarged veins that are located at the anus and lower rectum. These swollen veins stretch the patient’s blood vessel walls, causing irritation during bowel movement. Apart from causing discomfort when passing motion, piles can also induce pain when walking, sitting – making these simple activities more challenging than usual.
What are the different types of piles?
Medically, there are three types of piles or haemorrhoids, namely external haemorrhoids, internal haemorrhoids and thrombosed haemorrhoids. External haemorrhoids are usually the easiest to identify because they are present under the skin and on the outside of the anus, which has many pain-sensing nerves. This makes external haemorrhoids more apparent – you might experience itchiness or a burning sensation during bowel movement. In some cases, you might also observe a lump or swollen tissue outside the anus.
On the other hand, internal haemorrhoids are more challenging to ascertain because the swollen veins are located inside the anus or within your rectum. That’s because the pain-sensing nerves here are fewer; these piles may not be felt or noticed. Possibly, the only tell-tale sign is the presence of blood in your stools.
Finally, the third type of piles are thrombosed haemorrhoids – these arise when a blood clot forms in either an external or internal haemorrhoid. When ‘thrombosis’ occurs, which refers to clotting, the swollen veins can appear blue or purple, leading to similar symptoms of severe pain, itchiness and bleeding.
Will piles go away on their own?
Rest assured that most instances of piles are minor and harmless. They can reduce on their own with dietary changes such as eating more whole grains and foods rich in fibre – these foods will ease the swelling. Be sure also to drink more water to keep your stools soft. Should your haemorrhoids not improve after approximately a week and you experience bleeding during bowel movement, it’s vital to seek a specialist for help.
How are haemorrhoids medically diagnosed?
If you have been experiencing persistent bleeding for over a week, it’s best to seek a gastroenterologist for an accurate diagnosis. Typically, the gastroenterologist will conduct a digital rectal examination and perform a bedside procedure called proctoscopy (insertion a tube-like instrument to look inside the anus and rectum). The specialist will also walk you through types of haemorrhoids treatment and haemorrhoids treatment costs in Singapore, should they find it necessary.
While piles are common, traces of blood in stools might not be due to haemorrhoids alone. Instead, other serious illnesses such as colorectal cancer can be a cause for the bleeding. If the situation calls for it, the doctor will recommend you to undergo a colonoscopy – offering a thorough examination of your abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, as well as other symptoms. As persistent blood in stools is closely linked to colorectal cancer, if you have a family history of colon cancer, it’s best to opt for the colonoscopy.