Hemorrhoidal cushions are skin, vascular and soft tissues that line the anal canal, playing a small role in defecation and continence. Everyone has them, although with our daily travails of straining and movement, they do change over time, becoming more lax or loose as we age.
Hemorrhoidal disease occurs when these changes result in bothersome symptoms such as bleeding, prolapsed, or pain. Almost everyone may develop symptoms at some point in their life, but these are not life-threatening, and may be safely observed. Treatment is usually required for those whose hemorrhoidal symptoms impact on quality of life and daily living.
Bleeding from hemorrhoids is usually bright red, often dripping into the toilet bowl, or noticed when wiping. The stools themselves are normal looking, indicating that the bleeding is originating only from the anorectal area. Sludge of dark blood and stool mixed thoroughly together is usually from a source within the small and large intestines and not hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoidal bleeding is painless, and this differentiates it from anal fissures, which is also a very common anal condition that presents with similar bright red bleeding during defecation, but with anal pain.
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