Acid reflux and hemorrhoids are conditions that affect different regions of the digestive system. They may have common risk factors but are not known to trigger each other’s manifestation.
Here is a breakdown of what acid reflux and hemorrhoids are, their causes, symptoms, common risk factors, treatments, and ways to prevent them.
What is Acid Reflux or Heartburn?
Acid reflux is a digestive disease that involves the abnormal (upward) movement of stomach acid content towards the esophagus. It is also known as acid regurgitation or gastroesophageal reflux.
The condition occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter opens too often or refuses to close when food substances get into the stomach. This allows the acid produced in the stomach to regurgitate towards the esophagus.
Other Risk Factors For Acid Reflux
Acid reflux occurs most times without any reason. However, it can be induced or made worse by:
- Hiatal hernia – a condition where the upper part of the stomach and lower esophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm. Since the needed barrier (diaphragm) has been displaced, this condition may lead to frequent heartburn or acid reflux disease.
- Overeating and lying down right after eating
- Excess weight
- Eating junks close to bedtime
- Foods like citrus, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
- Beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
- Consumption of numerous laxatives such as aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or cardiovascular medications.
Common Symptoms Of Acid Reflux
Any of these symptoms may be due to acid reflux:
- Regurgitation that leads to an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Bloating and belching
- Severe sore throat, dry cough, and wheezing
- Dark blood in stool
- Bloody vomit
- Dysphagia — difficulty swallowing
- Hiccups that don’t ease in time
- Weight loss
Treatment Options for Acid Reflux
Treatment for acid reflux disease depends on the prevalence and severity. Effective options include:
Dietary and lifestyle change: Stop eating heavily, quit smoking, avoid tight-fitting clothes, sleep 2 or 3 hours after your meal and lose some weight via exercise or diet modification.
Medication: The best medication for acid reflux is Antacids with magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. Abuse of these drugs especially Alka-Seltzer, Maalox and Mylanta may result in diarrhea or constipation, which are risk factors for hemorrhoids.
Fundoplication: A minimally invasive procedure where the upper part of the stomach near the lower esophageal sphincter tightens partially or completely to prevent reflux.
LINX device: Involves wrapping a ring of tiny magnetic beads around the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The magnetic attraction between the rings prevents acidic reflux.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus. They can be found inside or outside the anus and can result in serious discomfort or pain if left untreated.
Types Of Hemorrhoids
- Internal Hemorrhoids: Swollen veins inside the anus are known as internal hemorrhoids. They are not visible because they are located deep in the anus.
- External Hemorrhoids: These are swollen veins outside the anus. They appear as bumps that can be seen easily on or around the anus.
- Prolapsed Hemorrhoids: This is a condition where the swollen veins extend and leave the anus. Failure to quickly treat or manage internal hemorrhoids often leads to prolapsed hemorrhoids.
- Thrombosed Hemorrhoids: When the pooled blood in the swollen vessels starts to clot, it is termed a thrombosed hemorrhoid. Both internal and external hemorrhoids can be thrombosed.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Common causes and risk factors of hemorrhoids include:
- Constant straining during bowel movements
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Pregnancy or childbirth
- Use of numerous laxatives
- Lack of adequate fiber in your diet
Symptoms to Watch Out for
- Itchy anus
- Lumps around the anus that feel sore or tender
- Pain in the anus when you sit.
- Rectal bleeding.
- Presence of blood on the tissue after stooling.
Best Way To Treat Hemorrhoids
Less severe hemorrhoids can be treated using:
- Over-the-counter remedies such as hemorrhoid creams and pain medications to soothe the pain involved.
- Cold compress. A procedure that involves applying ice wrapped in soft clothing on the swollen area.
- Sitz bath or sitting in a bathtub filled with warm water. Do this for approximately 15 minutes regularly.
Severe hemorrhoids are usually be treated via surgical procedures like:
- Hemorrhoidectomy – the removal of internal or external hemorrhoids. It is regarded as the most effective treatment for severe hemorrhoids, however, it is very prone to complications.
- Hemorrhoidopexy – involves the removal of hemorrhoids via a stapling device.
- Rubber band ligation – Here, the base of the hemorrhoid is tied using a rubber band to stop its blood supply. The swollen veins will eventually coagulate and shrink.
- Sclerotherapy – involves the use of chemical solutions like zinc chloride and quinine in stopping the blood supply to the swollen veins.
- Infrared coagulation – in this case, infrared heat is used to halt the blood supply to hemorrhoids.
When to See A Doctor?
For acid reflux, the best time to see a doctor is when heartburn becomes very frequent, you experience difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, and weight loss.
For hemorrhoids, the best time to see a doctor is the moment you start experiencing an itching or burning sensation around your anus, difficulties sitting, or seeing lumps around your anus.
Remember: if your choice of home remedy or over-the-counter medication is not proving effective after 3 days, seek medical attention.
Acid reflux and hemorrhoids are conditions that occur naturally and most times, do not pose any threat to our health. However, if they occur frequently or present any of the severe symptoms, seek medical help.