The back passage is a pretty humble neighbourhood, but when things go awry there you notice it quickly enough. Piles occur when the network of veins just inside the anus becomes inflamed. It happens because the anal area is pretty specialised. The blood vessels form a soft, resilient pad that enables faeces to pass out easily (The lining of the gut is slimy there, to help things along), while keeping the anus sealed to stop faeces or slime from leaking out.
It’s when this little pad gets pushed out of the anus that it becomes uncomfortable. It may slip out during a bowel movement, then pop back in again, or it may stay outside. It’s a common ailment that nearly everyone will be afflicted with at some stage. Piles are not caused by sitting on hot or cold surfaces. That’s just an old wives’ tale.
Symptoms include soiled underpants, itching, pain and bleeding, as well as a lump on the anus, which may be sensitive to the touch.
What can you do?
- Don’t scratch;
- Keep the area clean with soft toilet paper and a warm, soapy water;
- Eat plenty of fibre and fresh produce and drink lots of fluids. Constipation aggravates the symptoms;
- Don’t put off going to the toilet;
- Don’t linger on the toilet. Prolonged straining can push the pile out, so don’t keep a copy of War & Peace in the loo. It’ll just aggravate the problem and other people might need to use the toilet;
- See your doctor or pharmacist about medication. It’s very effective. If the symptoms continue you definitely see your doctor as well.
(William Smook, Health24, updated January 2009)