For anyone experiencing either of these conditions for the first time, it can be rather confusing to tell them apart. While one involves swollen veins and blood vessels, the other refers to abnormal growths that usually happen in the colon.
They share common symptoms like rectal bleeding but are distinct medical conditions that require different diagnoses and treatments.
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between the two conditions, here’s all you need to know!
What are hemorrhoids, and what are polyps?
Hemorrhoids and polyps are both conditions that may appear in the rectal area. But they’re both distinct medical conditions.
Hemorrhoids are a health condition where your blood vessels in the rectal and anal area swell up and cause discomfort, pain, itching, or even bleeding. It’s an unpleasant condition but does not lead to severe or serious conditions normally.
There’s no direct cure for the condition, but a comprehensive treatment strategy that includes medication, correct diet, and lifestyle changes can help you manage and keep it in check.
Polyps are irregular and unusual tissue growths that appear in specific parts of your body, including the throat, bladder, uterus, or cervix. However, the type that’s confused with hemorrhoids is colon polyps. These polyps are wayward growths of tissue that take place in your colon.
They share symptoms similar to hemorrhoids but require different methods of diagnosis and treatment. Some polyps may develop into cancerous tissue if left unchecked and untreated.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids and polyps?
The primary cause of confusion between hemorrhoids and polyps is the type of symptoms both conditions exhibit.
- Itchiness in and around the anal area remains one of the typical symptoms of hemorrhoids.
- Hemorrhoids also cause rectal bleeding that you may notice during or after your trips to the toilet. Patches of bright red blood on the toilet paper are indications of rectal bleeding.
- External hemorrhoids cause a lot of discomfort to patients. Internal hemorrhoids may also cause pain or discomfort if you sit for long periods.
- Swollen tissue may squeeze and make its way out of the anus and appear as a lump in the area.
- You can also expect bowel movements to become irregular with hemorrhoids. Constipation or diarrhea are common symptoms.
- Rectal bleeding is a symptom that polyps shares with hemorrhoids. The bleeding can happen even if there’s no bowel movement.
- Polyps that obstruct passage in your intestines can also lead to constipation or other changes in your bowel movement.
- Cramping and pain in the abdominal area are recurring symptoms in most cases of polyps.
- With continued bleeding, polyps can also lead to excessive blood loss and anemia. This deficiency may cause other side effects like fatigue and poor health.
What are the causes of hemorrhoids and polyps?
Primary Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids appear when your body experiences undue strain and stress on the lower abdomen, especially the rectal area.
- Excessive straining when on the loo can lead to swollen veins and other hemorrhoidal symptoms.
- Poor hydration can also lead to harder stools resulting in the buildup of hemorrhoids.
- Constipation that prevents stool from passing normally is another leading cause of hemorrhoids.
- Being overweight puts additional pressure on your back and bottom, which can increase the risk of developing hemorrhoids.
- Sedentary lifestyles that include extended periods of sitting and lack of physical activity can also lead to hemorrhoids.
Primary Causes of Polyps
Genes and lifestyle choices play an influential part in the development of polyps. However, many other factors also have a hand in increasing its risk.
- Genetic history is a good indicator of the risks associated with developing polyps. People with a family history of polyps or colorectal conditions have a higher chance of developing the condition.
- Medical conditions like Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) will increase the likelihood of polyps because of the colon inflammation that happens regularly.
- The use of alcohol and regular smoking also leads to polyps developing not just in the colon but in the throat or nasal passage.
- Poor diet choices that include high volumes of carbs, fats, and calories also heighten the dangers of polyps developing into cancerous growths later.
How are hemorrhoids and polyps diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Hemorrhoids
Detecting and identifying hemorrhoids is a straightforward affair. You can identify its presence through the uncomfortable symptoms at home. Alternatively, medical diagnosis of hemorrhoids may involve the following:
- A physical examination involves inspecting the anal area for symptoms of bleeding or signs of inflammation.
- Digital Rectal Exams (DREs) probe the inside of the anus to detect the presence of internal hemorrhoids.
- Proctoscopy involves the insertion of a rectoscope into the anus and probing deeper for symptoms in the rectum or colon.
Diagnosis of Polyps
Identifying the presence of polyps involves screening exams and testing samples to confirm the symptoms.
- Colonoscopy is the process of inserting a tubular camera into the rectum to find visual evidence of polyps along the colon.
- CT colonography is a virtual inspection of the colon without the use of invasive tools.
- Samples of your stool may be sent for testing to detect the presence of blood, abnormal tissue, or other generic material that show the presence of polyps.
- Sigmoidoscopy allows doctors to inspect the rectum but does not go too deep into the colon.
What are the treatment options for hemorrhoids and polyps?
Treatment for Hemorrhoids
- Topical treatments, OTC creams, suppositories, and ointments may help with reducing the swelling and relieving the pain.
- Home remedies like sitz baths, Epsom salt baths, and ice-pack cold compresses also offer convenient cures.
- Switching to a high-fiber diet and timely hydration also helps better bowel movement and alleviates hemorrhoidal symptoms.
- Medical intervention includes simple measures like rubber band ligation or major surgeries like hemorrhoidectomy.
Treatment for Polyps
- A polypectomy is a process where abnormal growths are identified and removed during a colonoscopy or other probing measures.
- Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) is a more invasive procedure where bigger polyp growths get removed along with some attached tissues.
- Surgical procedures like colectomy may be recommended when the polyps show signs of malignancy and the entire affected part of the colon has to be removed.
Considering the difference between hemorrhoids and polyps can lead to confusion because they share some common symptoms, and both conditions affect the colon and rectal area.
However, a close examination of the causes, specific symptoms, diagnosing methods, and treatment plans reveals that they are distinct and separate medical conditions.
Always consult and talk to a medical doctor before jumping to conclusions about any of the symptoms or measures described here.