They can be painful and embarrassing, but there is no point in ignoring hemorrhoids, as they can lead to thrombosis and septicemia, according to a leading colorectal expert.
Dr Ng Chin, a specialist in general surgery at Raffles Hospital in Singapore, was in Phnom Penh on Thursday to give a presentation to a group of Cambodian medical practitioners about the latest developments in the treatment of hemerroids.
Hemorrhoids, which are also known as piles, can be caused by a lack of fiber in the diet, chronic constipation, pregnancy and spending too much time sitting on the toilet.
“Piles can also be hereditary,” said Dr Chin. “Not in the genetic sense, but with regard to diet and habits that can be picked up from family members.”
He said the incidence of piles was likely higher in developed countries, where diets may consist of more processed foods.
Hemorrhoids can be classified as either internal or external, and they vary in degrees of severity: A first-degree pile is typically internal and bleeds, but does not prolapse; a fourth-degree pile presents as prolapsed and is not reducible. Third- and fourth-degree piles require surgery in order to be removed.
While outlining the various methods of surgical and non-surgical treatment, Dr Chin made one point very clear: “Hemorrhoids do not lead to colon cancer, but the symptoms, such as bleeding, can be similar.”
It is because of this, he said, that anyone concerned about symptoms consults a colorectal specialist. Bleeding, protrusions, itching and sensitive lumps around the anus are classic symptoms of piles.
Given the nature and site of the symptoms, however, Dr Chin understands why it takes people so long to seek proper treatment.
“By the time many patients come to the hospital, they have had the problem for about 6 months and have tried all the creams available. Depending on severity, they usually realize that those options aren’t the best way to treat their case,” he said, adding that people should seek treatment rather than avoid it.
“Treatment is evolving,” he said, “but simply eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoiding excessive straining when passing motion can help you keep clear of hemorrhoids from the start.”