Hemorrhoids are extremely common in adults, but what causes them? Can they be prevented? When should you seek care if you’re experiencing symptoms of hemorrhoids? These are all common questions you may have when dealing with the itching, bleeding or pain associated with hemorrhoids.
While about 50 percent of adults have reported they’ve experienced hemorrhoids by age 50, hemorrhoids are rarely discussed, so the answers to these questions are not common knowledge.
What are they?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum that cause itching, bleeding and pain, or no symptoms at all. In some cases, you can see or feel hemorrhoids around the outside of the rectum, and in other cases, you cannot see them because they are hidden inside the rectum.
The severity of symptoms varies. If you experience itching, it will typically occur on the skin around the anus. Bleeding caused by hemorrhoids is often painless, appearing as a small amount of bright red blood on bath tissue or in the toilet. A lump or pain may result if a blood clot forms inside a hemorrhoid.
There are many causes of hemorrhoids, but they are often a result of pressure placed on the veins around the anus which may result in bulging or swelling of the veins. Increased pressure on the lower rectum can occur from straining during bowel movements, sitting for long periods while using the bathroom, a low-fiber diet, pregnancy, obesity, chronic diarrhea, regular heavy lifting or constipation.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with hemorrhoids, there are a couple of different treatment options. Your provider may suggest including over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, or a simple procedure – Topical remedies include OTC hemorrhoid cream or suppositories containing hydrocortisone, a sitz bath or applying witch hazel to the area with a washcloth or cotton pad. OTC pain-relievers containing acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin may also help to alleviate discomfort.
If OTC remedies fail to control hemorrhoids, a procedure your provider may recommend is called “rubber band ligation.” For this treatment, your provider ties tiny rubber bands around the hemorrhoids. A few days later the hemorrhoids shrink and fall off. Providers can also use lasers, heat or chemicals to destroy hemorrhoids. If none of these options works, your provider might suggest surgery to remove them.
To avoid getting hemorrhoids, focus on your diet and exercise. Soft stools can be achieved by eating fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods alongside regular exercise. Aim for 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day to keep your bowel movements regular. If you do not get enough fiber from your diet, you can take fiber supplements. These come in the form of powders, wafers or pills. The best supplements will include psyllium seed, methylcellulose, polycarbophil and wheat dextrin. If you take a fiber supplement, be sure to read the label so you know how much to take. If you’re not sure, ask your provider. Medicines labeled as “stool softeners” may also help to safely increase your number of bowel movements.
If you’re experiencing discomfort and symptoms that may be related to hemorrhoids, schedule an appointment online with a Portneuf Primary Care provider today or call 208-239-3815.