JOURNAL ARTICLE

Hemorrhoids: Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Timothy Mott, Kelly Latimer, Chad Edwards
American Family Physician 2018 February 1, 97 (3): 172-179
29431977
Many Americans between 45 and 65 years of age experience hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoidal size, thrombosis, and location (i.e., proximal or distal to the dentate line) determine the extent of pain or discomfort. The history and physical examination must assess for risk factors and clinical signs indicating more concerning disease processes. Internal hemorrhoids are traditionally graded from I to IV based on the extent of prolapse. Other factors such as degree of discomfort, bleeding, comorbidities, and patient preference should help determine the order in which treatments are pursued. Medical management (e.g., stool softeners, topical over-the-counter preparations, topical nitroglycerine), dietary modifications (e.g., increased fiber and water intake), and behavioral therapies (sitz baths) are the mainstays of initial therapy. If these are unsuccessful, office-based treatment of grades I to III internal hemorrhoids with rubber band ligation is the preferred next step because it has a lower failure rate than infrared photocoagulation. Open or closed (conventional) excisional hemorrhoidectomy leads to greater surgical success rates but also incurs more pain and a prolonged recovery than office-based procedures; therefore, hemorrhoidectomy should be reserved for recurrent or higher-grade disease. Closed hemorrhoidectomy with diathermic or ultrasonic cutting devices may decrease bleeding and pain. Stapled hemorrhoidopexy elevates grade III or IV hemorrhoids to their normal anatomic position by removing a band of proximal mucosal tissue; however, this procedure has several potential postoperative complications. Hemorrhoidal artery ligation may be useful in grade II or III hemorrhoids because patients may experience less pain and recover more quickly. Excision of thrombosed external hemorrhoids can greatly reduce pain if performed within the first two to three days of symptoms.

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