They are embarrassing to discuss - but very common and easily treatable: hemorrhoids. If the older adult you care for is experiencing bleeding from his or her rectum or if you have found bright red blood in in his or her stool, chances are your loved one might be experiencing a hemorrhoid. While hemorrhoids are a bother and somewhat painful, they are not life-threatening. Approximately seventy-five percent of Americans will have symptoms of hemorrhoids during their lives.
A hemorrhoid is a swollen or inflamed vein around the anus or lower rectum. These veins can become swollen by blood clots, which dissolve and can leave irritated sections of skin that form around the hemorrhoid. Hemorrhoids are common for older people due to weakening of the sphincter muscle and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Other causes include chronic constipation, diarrhea, straining during bowel movements or sitting on the toilet for too long.
If you suspect that your loved one has a hemorrhoid, the first thing to do is to have it properly diagnosed by his or her physician. It is important to have this physical examination, because you need to be able to rule out colorectal cancer, for example, as the cause of the bleeding. Usually a simple digital examination or use of an anuscope will be enough to determine whether your loved one has hemorrhoids. In some cases, a colonoscopy is necessary.
Treatment can be done mainly at home through simple lifestyle changes. A high fiber diet can help to alleviate the need to bear down while going to the bathroom. Plus you’ll improve your loved one’s digestion and avoid constipation. Exercise, tub soaks and drinking glasses of water are also good preventative means for avoiding constipation and alleviating pressure. Your loved one can use an anti-inflammatory cream to stop the itching hemorrhoids cause; however, it is only for temporary usage.
There are some outpatient and surgical options available, should home therapy not work. Check with your loved one’s physician about the effectiveness of rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, or surgical removal.
Resource: National Institute of Health