Piles or haemorrhoids is a condition known and described for centuries. Though it is a very prevalent disease, people do consider it as a shameful disease. Vast majority of patients are reluctant to openly discuss this condition and therefore, this disease tends to stay untreated for most for long, until complications set in. In my years of practice, I have come to notice that any disease around the anal region is termed as piles by the patients themselves. It is disappointing that so many misconceptions are prevalent regarding this disease. To make matters worse, patients very often seek refuge in Over-The-Counter products or misleading advertised products in newspapers or social media. And if at all they decide to seek treatment, they are misdirected and reach quacks or non qualified practitioners who cause all sorts of complications from there on. So, it is the need of the hour to clear misconceptions regarding this disease and guide the people suffering from this disease properly.

So, what is piles?

It is nothing but collection of inflamed tissue in the anal canal. Swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus that cause discomfort and bleeding.  They are medically known as haemorrhoids. It is classified as internal or external haemorrhoids.

What are the causes of piles?

It is said that piles are a natural consequence of adoption of erect posture by mankind. Chronic constipation, obesity, improper dietary habits and liver diseases are some of the contributory factors for piles. Factors such as family history, climate, age, gender, medications, pregnancy and suppression of haemorrhage in other areas have also been held responsible. Other factors include irritation of the anal canal, lack of normal line in anal sphincters, cancer of the rectum and the continuous use of pessaries and suppositories.

What are the symptoms of piles?

The main symptoms of piles are swelling and irritations in or around the rectum. Pain, itching and bleeding also occurs while passing stools. Bleeding from the anus is a common symptom in severe piles. The blood is bright red and not mixed with stools. It occurs from local injury to the dilated blood vessels of the rectum. Some patients may complain of rectal fullness, mucous discharge and prolapse of the pile mass.

How common is the disease?

Piles is commonly seen in both sexes. Those exposed to improper dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle etc. have a greater incidence of piles. According to a recent health survey, over 40% of the people worldwide suffer from piles and as many as 40% of the population have experienced symptoms of this disease in life. In India, approximately 80% of sufferers are in the age group of 21 to 50 years. Piles are also seen in pregnant women.

How to prevent piles?

Piles can be prevented by simply adopting a healthier lifestyle. Ensure that high fibre foods like green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grain cereals are included in diet regularly. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water every day. Establish regular bowel habits and avoid constipation. Avoid spicy food, alcohol, coffee and tea which irritate and aggravate piles.

Try to reduce weight if you are obese, with regular exercise and diet control. Avoid prolonged sitting or standing positions as it puts pressure on the ano-rectal region. Wear loose fitting clothing and undergarments made from natural materials such as cotton.

Now that you are informed about piles and how to overcome them, it is essential to realize that piles is a medical concern. You can consult your Ayurvedic doctor for the best management.

About author

Dr. K. P. Vinod Babu

Md (Ay), DRB, Rtd. DMO, ISM Department, Kerala; Chief Physician, Kannur Ayurvedic Centre, Wayanad

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