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Hemorrhoids: A Pain In the Backside

Photo by Bev Sykes via Flickr

Photo by Bev Sykes via Flickr

Gary had been constipated for the past few weeks, always straining during his bowel movements. He was so frustrated and uncomfortable. Then a few days ago he noticed bright red blood on his stool. Concerned, Gary rushed to his doctor who told him that he had hemorrhoids.

Gary can take some comfort in knowing that hemorrhoids are actually very common. Almost half of people will have had hemorrhoids at some point by age 50.

What is a hemorrhoid?
Some people think that a hemorrhoid is a growth, but it is actually an inflammation of veins and enlargement of the natural tissue in the area of the anus. Hemorrhoids can exist either outside or inside the rectum. Those outside the rectum usually cause more pain.

Hemorrhoids are usually caused by excessive pressure on the veins in the anal or pelvic area with constipation and straining during bowel movements being the most common cause. However, pregnant females can develop hemorrhoids as well due to the increased pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic area. Also, genetics and obesity may also play a role in hemorrhoids.

While hemorrhoids can be painful, they aren’t something to be afraid of. They usually are not dangerous or life threatening and most will go away within a few days.

How do I know if I have one?
One of the most common symptoms of a hemorrhoid is a small amount of bright red blood on the stool or toilet paper. Itching, discomfort, painful swelling, a hard lump around the anus or leakage of feces are other potential symptoms.

How can I prevent hemorrhoids?
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent hemorrhoids. The key is to keep stools soft, so that they pass easily without straining. Here are 7 suggestions to help with that:

  1. Increase your fiber: Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains to increase fecal bulk and soften stools. That will help reduce constipation and straining.
  2. Increase your fluids: Drink at least 6-8 glasses of fluid to help keep your stools soft and easy to pass.
  3. Exercise regularly: Being active can reduce the pressure on your veins that can occur with prolonged sitting and standing.
  4. Avoid prolonged sitting: Change positions on a regular basis to relieve excess pressure on the veins of the anus.  If you have a sedentary job, stand up periodically and move around.
  5. Avoid rough toilet paper: If you are prone to hemorrhoids or have them, gently clean yourself and maybe use wet paper or premoistened wipes.
  6. Don’t ignore the urge: If you don’t act on the urge, it may go away and the stools might become dry and hard making you strain when you try to pass them later.
  7. Keep clean: Personal hygiene can reduce skin irritation. So, make sure to bathe or shower often to keep the area clean.

What if I get a hemorrhoid?
If you do develop a hemorrhoid, there are many treatments you can try. First off, if you’re sure it is a hemorrhoid, keep up with the steps above. You can also try a warm sitz bath. They are available at your local drug store. They fit over the toilet and hold warm water that you can sit in for 10-20 minutes to ease the pain.

If those steps don’t help after a few days, seek medical advice. Especially, if you notice blood in your stools. You can’t assume bleeding is merely due to hemorrhoids. In some cases, bleeding may be a symptom of a more serious medical issue.

The bottom line:
If you get a hemorrhoid, you are not alone. While they can be painful, they are not dangerous and most will disappear in a few days with proper home treatment. And luckily with a few simple lifestyle changes you should be able to prevent them from recurring. Isn’t that a relief?

Comments (4)

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David van Sunder, Jeanette Marsh. Jeanette Marsh said: RT @vansunder New blog post: "Hemorrhoids: A Pain In the Backside" is now up courtesy of @tallivansunder http://bit.ly/7xeeOs […]

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    I didn’t know about the Sitz bath to relieve hemorrhoids.This is good information.

  3. SingaporeDoc says:

    Great article.

    Sitz baths are useful in the management of External Haemorrhoids, not the internal ones.
    The key thing with hemorrhoids is that you have to make sure you are not constipated! All forms of straining worsen hemorrhoids.
    An interesting study recently also showed that squatting commodes are less likely to worsen haemorroids than sitting ones.

    Visit http://www.singaporedoc.com for more health info.

  4. It is recommended to use this Sitz bath hemorrhoids treatment several times a week to promote the thorough cleansing of the rectal area, by allowing the heat to increase blood circulation and promote the healing of the delicate tissues involved.

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