Swollen veins in the anal canal are called hemorrhoids (piles). Although hemorrhoids are common in adults, children may get hemorrhoids at any age. Constipation is usually the main cause of hemorrhoids, which are not life-threatening but can be extremely painful.
Read this post to know about the causes, symptoms, complications, treatment, and prevention of hemorrhoids in children.
Types Of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can be of the following types (1).
- Internal hemorrhoids occur when the veins inside the anal canal are swollen
- External hemorrhoids occur when the veins near the anus are swollen
It is possible to have both types of hemorrhoids simultaneously, and the symptoms and treatment options may vary depending on the type.
Causes Of Hemorrhoids
Increased pressure in the rectal and pelvic area can cause swelling and stretching of the veins, leading to hemorrhoids. The following situations may increase the risk of hemorrhoids in children (2).
- Straining during defecation due to constipation, diarrhea, or other digestive problems
- Sitting on hard surfaces, such as on wooden stools, for a long time
- Sitting on the toilet for a long time
- Low-fiber diet
- Children who practice weight lifting may have a higher risk of developing hemorrhoids
Straining due to constipation or diarrhea can be a common cause of hemorrhoids in many children. You may seek medical care for persistent bowel movement issues in your child.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hemorrhoids
Common signs and symptoms of external and internal hemorrhoids could include the following (3).
- Bleeding while passing stool. Bright red streaks of blood on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement may indicate bleeding.
- Persistent itching in the anal area.
- Rectal or anal pain. Children may complain that it is painful to clean after a bowel movement.
- Mucus and stool on toilet paper without bowel movement may indicate bulging internal hemorrhoids.
- Hard, painful lump and clot under the skin can be seen in external hemorrhoids.
Internal hemorrhoids can be small and located in the wall of the anal canal. Sometimes, large internal veins can sag and bulge out (prolapse) of the anus. This may cause continuous pain in the anal area since the anal muscle may squeeze the vein. The child may complain of increased pain if there is the cessation of blood supply to hemorrhoid.
Complications Of Hemorrhoids
Complications are rare in children. However, the following complications may arise if the hemorrhoids are left untreated for a long time (4).
- Anemia may occur due to blood loss.
- A thrombosed hemorrhoid is when a blood clot is formed in it. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, this can be extremely painful and require immediate drain or lance.
- Strangulated hemorrhoid is when the blood supply to the internal hemorrhoid is cut off, causing extreme pain.
Prevention Of Hemorrhoids
The following ways may help to prevent or reduce the symptoms of hemorrhoids in children (4).
- A high-fiber diet may help soften the stool and reduce straining during defecation. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are good sources of fiber.
- Stay hydrated since lack of water may harden the stool. You may ensure that the child is drinking enough water with a high-fiber diet. If not, it may worsen constipation.
- Exercise may help to ease constipation. This can also be beneficial for obese children.
- Avoid sitting on the toilet for a longer duration since this may increase pressure on anal veins.
- Do not sit on hard surfaces for a long time.
- Ask your child to defecate when they feel an urge. Stool may harden if the bowel movement is delayed.
- Tell your child not to strain and hold breath to empty the bowel.
Diagnosis Of Hemorrhoids
Health history and physical examination may help to diagnose hemorrhoids in children. Usually, the physical examination is enough for the diagnosis, and further tests may not be ordered. Some children with internal hemorrhoids may require proctoscopy or anoscopy to visualize the rectum.
If the initial examination is not precise, doctors may order sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to look for other causes of rectal bleeding. All these diagnostic procedures use a flexible tube with a camera and light to visualize the lumen of bowels.
How To Help Children With Hemorrhoids At Home?
Children with mild cases may receive homecare directions from the pediatrician. The following home treatments are often recommended for non-complicated cases (5).
- High-fiber diet and adequate hydration
- Use sitz bath or soak the anal area in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes two or three times daily
- Take oral pain relievers recommended by the pediatrician
- Use topical hemorrhoid creams and ointments recommended by the pediatrician
- Use pads with numbing agents and suppositories with hydrocortisone after consulting the pediatrician
- Over-the-counter stool softeners may help to relieve constipation
Hemorrhoid symptoms usually disappear within a week of home care. Seek pediatric visits if your child has severe pain, bleeding, or other symptoms that cause persistent discomfort.
Treatment For Hemorrhoids
Minimally invasive procedures are often done to manage persistently painful and bleeding hemorrhoids (5).
- Rubber band ligation: This involves putting tiny rubber bands at the base of internal hemorrhoids to stop the blood supply. Most hemorrhoids may fall off within a week after this procedure. Although rarely severe, banding may cause bleeding and other complications in some children after two to four days.
- Coagulation techniques: This method uses heat from infrared, bipolar, or laser sources to control internal bleeding hemorrhoids. This may help stop the bleeding from small hemorrhoids and often causes discomfort and side effects in some children.
- Sclerotherapy: This is done by injecting chemical solutions into the hemorrhoid tissue to make it shrink. Although it may cause less pain and discomfort, effectiveness is less than rubber band ligation procedures.
- External hemorrhoid thrombectomy: This is a surgical procedure to remove the thrombosed (blood clot) external hemorrhoid under local anesthesia to relieve pain. It is most effective to do this procedure within 72 hours of clot formation.
Children with larger and complicated hemorrhoids with unsuccessful minimally invasive procedures may require surgical procedures (5).
- Hemorrhoidectomy: This is the surgical removal of hemorrhoids. Recurrent and severe cases are treated with this procedure.
- Stapled hemorrhoidopexy: This is also called hemorrhoid stapling, and it is a procedure to block the blood supply to the internal hemorrhoids.
These procedures may cause bleeding and urinary tract infections in some children. However, life-threatening complications, such as sepsis (blood infection), are rare due to advancements in surgery.
Hemorrhoids may occur in children of any age, especially when experiencing conditions such as constipation. Always seek medical care for severe hemorrhoid symptoms. It is not recommended to continue home care for more than a week. Timely treatment with other procedures could help manage hemorrhoids and prevent complications.