What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids are so far inside your rectum that you can't usually see or feel them. External hemorrhoids are under the skin around your anus.

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

The blood vessels in your rectum and around your anus often stretch so thin due to surrounding pressure that the veins bulge and are prone to inflammation and irritation.  Increased pressure on the lower rectum that in turn produces hemorrhoids can be caused by:  

  • Obesity

  • Regular heavy lifting 

  • Straining during bowel movements

  • Pregnancy

  • Chronic constipation 

  • Sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time 

What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?

Symptoms of hemorrhoids are dependent on the type of hemorrhoid present. Internal hemorrhoid symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Painless bleeding, often presented with bright red spots of blood on tissue paper

  • A vein protruding through the anus and resulting in discomfort or pain

External hemorrhoid symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Itching or irritation around the anus

  • Swelling around the anus

  • Bleeding

  • Pain or discomfort, especially when passing a bowel movement 

It is important to note that in some instances, blood can pool in external hemorrhoids and form a clot. This is known as a thrombosed hemorrhoid and can cause the following symptoms:

  • Swelling

  • Inflammation

  • Intense pain

  • A solid lump around the anus 

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact your primary care physician for an appointment. 

How are Hemorrhoids Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your anus and rectum to determine the presence of hemorrhoids. External hemorrhoids can often be seen with a simple visual examination of the anus. Internal hemorrhoids, however, require digital examination in which your doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved, finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities. 

How are Hemorrhoids Treated?

More often than not, hemorrhoids clear up on their own within a week. When they do not, and they cause continual bleeding, pain, or discomfort then the following treatments may be applied:

  • Topical creams: These creams often contain steroids and numbing agents to reduce swelling/inflammation and help manage pain.

  • High fiber diet: Consuming more fiber (leafy greens, legumes, plenty of fruits, and vegetables) can help to reduce straining or pressure when passing bowel movements. 

  • Low-intensity exercise: Workouts such as yoga, swimming, or even basic stretching can aid in hemorrhoid relief due to encouraging more regular bowel movements with minimal straining.   

  • Warm water soaks: Doing this can aid in reducing pain and swelling.

  • Oral pain relievers: These medications aid in managing pain.

  • Surgical removal of varying degrees: This treatment option is often reserved for more extreme cases, clot removals, and persistent, recurring hemorrhoids. Surgery typically offers a permanent solution, but it can sometimes come back depending on diet and bowel habits.

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