Rectal hernias are rare and often confused with hemorrhoids. Pain, swelling and discomfort are typical of both conditions, so knowing the difference between the two is an important step in treatment. As with any medical condition, it is important that you speak to a medical professional about your symptoms.
Hernias are a protrusion of soft tissues through a hole in a muscle. Hemorrhoids are itchy or painful areas on the anus near the rectum. Both can be very painful, but only hemorrhoids cause bleeding and itching. Rectal prolapse is also sometimes confused with a rectal hernia. With a prolapse, symptoms are closer to those of hemorrhoids, but include pain when defecating, mucus or blood in the stool, and the detection of something protruding when wiping after a stool.
If there is a lump or protrusion at or near the rectum, there is a good chance it is a hernia, though other conditions can also produce similar lumps (such as cancer). Hernias can also be painful when touched and move as digestion takes place.
Strain, lifting heavy objects and obesity can cause hernias. Other causes include a family history of hernias or a build-up of fluids that puts pressure on the abdomen.
The best way to prevent rectal hernias is to lose weight, visit a physician regularly, not strain during defecation and use proper form when lifting heavy objects. If a hernia occurs, surgical procedures can push the protruding tissues back into the cavity and close the rip or hole in the muscle wall.
Leaving a hernia untreated, especially a rectal hernia, can lead to serious medical problems, including tissue death, infection and gangrene (a life-threatening infection that spreads quickly). Hernias cannot be treated at home. Attempting to push the tissue back into place on your own can cause more damage.