What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen, but normally present blood vessels, inside (internal) or around and outside (external) the anus and lower rectum that stretch under pressure. Hemorrhoids are usually not very painful or critical, but can be bothersome and develop at any age. About half of the population has hemorrhoids by age 50. Hemorrhoids usually are not dangerous or life threatening. In most cases symptoms will go away within a few days. A thorough workup by the doctor is important any time bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool lasts more than a few days.
What causes Hemorrhoids?
A common cause is simply the standing position, in which all the blood above the rectum puts pressure onto the rectal and anal areas. Another common cause is straining to have a bowel movement. Other conditions which contribute are: poor bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea, obesity, and pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Although many people have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms. They may remain inside the rectum and cannot be felt or seen. The most common symptom is bright red blood covering your stool, on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. Much straining, rubbing, or cleaning around the anus may cause irritation with bleeding, pain, and/or itching. Some may feel a painful lump or swelling outside the anus meaning a blood clot has formed in the blood vessel (a thrombosed external hemorrhoid).
How do you treat hemorrhoids?
To reduce the pain and itching you feel try several of these ideas:
- Do not strain or force stool during a bowel movement.
- Keep your anal area clean, using a mild soap and gentle dabbing after a bowel movement. Avoid vigorous rubbing of the area.
- Keep your anus as dry as possible using a pad of soft tissue to absorb moisture.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time and heavy lifting.
- Empty your bowels as soon as the urge occurs.
- Increase the amount of fiber in your diet with whole grains, fruit and vegetables
- Increase the amount of fluid in your diet. Six to eight glasses of fluid per day make softer stools and easier bowel movements.
- Try soaking them- sit in a shallow bath of plain, warm water several times a day for about 10 minutes. Do not add soaps/lotions/etc. to the water.
- Apply ice packs to your rectal area to help reduce swelling.
- Exercise regularly, including walking.
- Use over the counter creams or suppositories like Tucks, Anusol, Analpram,Witch Hazel, Preperation H.
- Your doctor may suggest taking fiber supplements or bulking stool softener like psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel).
- In some cases, hemorrhoids must be treated to shrink and destroy the tissue if major symptoms persist by a banding procedure or surgery.
Can I prevent hemorrhoids?
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft so they pass easily without straining or pressure. Try some of the ideas from treatment above.