Although hemorrhoidal symptoms and complaints are common and typically not a serious concern, all patients should be examined for signs of possible cancer and other associated diseases. There are four cardinal symptoms of hemorrhoids, including rectal pain, bleeding, anal itching, and rectal mass or lump.
Anal itching is the most common complaint in the hemorrhoid patients. It often comes and goes. The initial relief of the itching does not necessarily mean the problem goes away. Continuous scratching or excessive cleaning of the anal area may further harm the sensitive tissues and worsen symptoms. In addition, the area can be highly sensitive to perfumes, soaps, fabrics, dietary intake and superficial trauma. When chronic itching occurs, the perianal area becomes white with fine fissures.
Treatments for anal itching include taking antihistamine as a sedative prior to sleeping to prevent the patient from unconsciously scratching, or using a topical corticosteroid to alleviate the itching. Underlying hemorrhoids and other rectal diseases must be considered and treated when diagnosing and treating anal itching.
Anal pain is a common sign of hemorrhoids. The patients with hemorrhodis often complain the aching pain, irritating pain, and spasmodic pain. If the hemorrhoid patient also has anal fissure, sharp pain may occur during intense, forced bowel movements that are often accompanied by rectal bleeding. Immediate onsets of intense pain accompanied by a palpable mass are usually a result of an external thrombosed hemorrhoid, which may last a few days to a couple of weeks. Internal hemorrhoids, however, are not very painful due to being located above the dentate line of the rectum.
Proctalgia fugax is a more serious anal pain condition that involves short spasms of intense pain at night. Hemorrhoids could be its trigger or cause.
A palpable anal lumps can be caused by a variety of conditions including anal warts, hemorrhoids, polyps, fissures, or cancer.
Hemorrhoids are probably the most common reason for having a rectal lump. It can be caused by internal hemorrhoids, but more commonly by external hemorrhoids. If a rectal lump is related to internal hemorrhoids, it usually gets bigger and more prolapsed right after the bowel movement; it could be spontaneously reduced in the early stage of internal hemorrhoids. But it could be non-reducible in the late stage of hemorrhoids.
The thrombosed external hemorrhoids often cause very painful, bluish anal lumps when the hemorrhoidal veins rupture and the blood clots develop.
Rectal bleeding can be caused by hemorrhoids and other conditions, but even the slightest amount of bleeding should be taken seriously. Common causes of bleeding are internal hemorrhoids, ruptured thrombosed external hemorrhoids, fissures, diverticulosis, colon cancer, colitis, polyps and angiodysplasias. Patients of older age or with significant family history of bowel disease or cancer should consider further examination. In addition, patients who were previously treated for rectal bleeding but continued to experience bleeding must be further examined.
The source of rectal bleeding is determined by history, physical examination and blood tests, assisted with anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, radionuclide scans, and angiograms.