Doctors Explain What Causes Hemorrhoids (and Share Treatment Options)

Diet

Hemorrhoids are a very common problem that most people are too embarrassed to discuss publically. They usually afflict people who are older, and are usually associated with bathroom dysfunction, hence the taboo. The truth is, they are extremely easy to treat and prevent right from the comfort of your own home.

What Is A Hemorrhoid?

At their core, hemorrhoids are nothing more than inflamed veins in your anus and rectum, and they manifest themselves in swollen lumps that become more prominent when you have to defecate.

Also known as “piles”, these unpleasant occurrences are also responsible for a lot of rectal bleeding. Although not dangerous, they can be unsightly and cause major embarrassment for the person suffering from them. The bleeding associated with them can be alarming, so if your swollen veins are painful or get worse over time, consult your doctor for a hemorrhoid treatment.

Internal Hemorrhoids

As the name suggests, these develop within your body and are often not distinguishable to the human eye. You might not even know that you have them. These types rarely require hemorrhoid treatment, and usually, they only make themselves known if they bleed slightly while you’re straining to go to the bathroom. They are also generally painless and do not require any serious type of intervention or surgery.

External Hemorrhoids

These are the types that you can see and feel when you are wiping yourself after using the toilet. They tend to flare up a little bit more and can often hurt if they get enlarged enough. These types also will bleed, sometimes copiously, when you wipe. Most hemorrhoid treatments are for those that form outside of the body, as they are most likely to prolapse and cause discomfort. Although this type of hemorrhoid is generally not dangerous, they are unattractive and usually disposed of with surgery or home remedies.

What Causes This Condition?

There are plenty of things that cause inflammation of your anus and rectum, including your genes and diet. Those that are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from flareups and occurrences of this condition.

Pregnancy

Pregnant women are also at greater risk of getting a hemorrhoid or two over the course of their lifetime. This is because irritation in the anus and rectum is caused by straining. Women who give vaginal birth must push and strain, and an unintended side effect of delivery could be an inflamed vein or two.

Diet

Similarly, those with less than ideal diets are also at greater risk for needing a hemorrhoid treatment at some point in their lives. Bad diets lead to more straining on the toilet, which puts greater pressure on the veins inside the anus and rectum and can cause them to get inflamed.

Chronic Illness

The chronically ill are also at greater risk for developing this condition. Bathroom troubles, like diarrhea and constipation, can cause this medical ailment, as can constant sneezing or coughing. Those who use the bathroom as a second reading room are also at greater risk of developing hemorrhoids. The constant pushing creates plenty of irritation in the bowels and can lead to inflammation and problems down the road.

Essentially, these enlarged veins are caused by straining or pushing. They are a delicate region of the body that is easily irritated by normal activities, like going to the bathroom, which is why so many people develop them over the course of their lives.

How Do Doctors Treat Hemorrhoids?

A hemorrhoid is diagnosed and treated by a doctor through a series of exams. Essentially, the doctor will insert a finger in the rectum and feel around for any kind of abnormalities. If the hemorrhoid in question is on the surface, your doctor might be able to see it, but internal ones will always need to be diagnosed with a through, and unfortunately, invasive exam.

Depending on what they feel, your doctor might schedule additional exams to make sure that you’re completely healthy. Colonoscopies are a common follow-up procedure if you have severe hemorrhoids, especially if you are over fifty. Keep in mind that mostly these procedures are prescribed to make one-hundred percent sure that there’s nothing wrong, not because the doctor is diagnosing you with cancer or any other serious illness.

Treating A Hemorrhoid At Home

Most people opt for a home-based hemorrhoid treatment, and since there are plenty of over-the-counter medications to help ease your discomfort, this is a good way to go!

OTC medications

OTC creams can stop a hemorrhoid in its tracks and shrink down the larger, external ones so they are less noticeable. They work by tightening up your veins and compressing the hemorrhoid. Witch hazel is also a common way to alleviate pain and shrink the size of the bulging vein.

Add fiber

You can also soothe the area by taking warm baths, and taking pain medication if the discomfort persists or it hurts to sit down. Eating a kinder diet of fiber-rich foods is also an excellent way to rid your life of these unpleasant swollen veins.

Toilet habits

Alternating the way that you use the toilet is a great way to keep pressure off your anus and allow you to relieve yourself without further irritating your hemorrhoid. This is easy enough to accomplish by getting a small step stool and putting your feet up on it when you go to the bathroom. You might find that when you sit this way and use the toilet that your hemorrhoid goes away all on its own.

bonus tip hemorrhoids epsom salt bath

Seeking Medical Treatment

If you feel like your condition requires medical intervention, there are many different types of minimally invasive procedures that can rid you of your hemorrhoids.

Ligation

The most common type is called “rubber band ligation”, and you don’t even need to go under anesthesia to have it done. The doctor simply secures the hemorrhoid with a rubber band and cuts off the blood flow to it. With no source of sustenance, the hemorrhoid dies and falls off in a matter of seven to ten days.

Injections

Your doctor could also inject your hemorrhoid with a solution designed to shrink it. This is the more medically advanced version of those topical creams that you can apply on your own at home, and is not painful, although somewhat less successful than rubber band ligation.

Laser treatment

Another hemorrhoid treatment employed by doctors is freezing or lasering the offending lump off. This is a fairly new procedure and has had decent results so far. Most people don’t even need anesthesia for lasering or freezing, and they find themselves back to normal right away.

Surgical option

If you require more serious care, your doctor could opt for a hemorrhoidectomy; an invasive surgery where your doctor removes the skin around your hemorrhoid to make sure that you are rid of it completely. You can also opt for hemorrhoid stapling, which is similar to rubber band ligation, but exclusively for internal hemorrhoids.

Most people will not need to go under the knife. There are only a few rare occurrences where hemorrhoids are anything other than a nuisance and occasionally painful when they go to the bathroom.

Prevention Tips

The best way to avoid having to deal with a hemorrhoid is to avoid getting one in the first place. How do you do this? Know what causes irritation in the veins of the anus and rectum and take steps to avoid compromising the area.

Go To The Toilet When You Need To

Do not try to hold it, especially when it comes to “number two”. Our bodies know when it’s time to go to the bathroom, and delaying that inevitable release will only cause feces to back up in our intestines and bowels and become dry and tough. These stools can actually tear the tissue on their way out, causing bleeding and irritation and setting the stage for you to get some seriously bad hemorrhoids.

Don’t Go To The Toilet When You Don’t Need To

The inverse is also true! Many people treat the bathroom like a refuge or a secondary reading room. They sit on the toilet and strain, causing damage to the sensitive veins around their rectum and anus. Only use the toilet when you have to go and avoid sitting there for any longer than you need to. This way, you won’t be putting any undue strain on your bowels, rectum or anus.

Drink A Lot Of Water

Staying hydrated can prevent hemorrhoids. How? When your body is full of water your stools are softer and can pass through your body easier. Water can do so many good things for your body anyway, so it’s a good idea to get your eight-ounces of water every single day. Your overall health and anus and rectum will definitely thank you in the long run.

Get Enough Exercise

Like water, exercise helps just about every area of our bodies function better. One of the primary places that cardio exercise targets is digestive issues. If you have fewer digestive issues, you will strain less when you have to go to the bathroom, and your stools will pass more easily through your body.

Some fantastic exercises that you might want to try are yoga and light cardio, like walking, biking or swimming. These exercises increase your flexibility and overall health. Avoid very heavy exercises like weightlifting, which can actually cause hemorrhoids to become worse. When you do a lot of weightlifting, you’re straining yourself and putting a lot of pressure on sensitive nerve endings in your anus and rectum. Even if you don’t already suffer from the condition, you could actually develop it through a weightlifting routine.

Keep your cardio consistent but kind to your body. The other really great thing about incorporating exercise into your routine is that it can inspire you to actually eat better, another way that you can avoid getting or worsening your hemorrhoids.

Foods High In Fiber

Fiber helps us clean out our insides and can do wonders for our overall health. These days, plenty of foods are fortified with fiber, but you can also find plenty of fiber in naturally occurring ways.

Let’s talk about some foods that are fantastically full of fiber and can help you fight constipation like a total champ!

Fiber-filled dietary options:

  • Leafy green vegetables are superstars in the fiber department. These antioxidant powerhouses are also potently high in fiber and can definitely ease your bowel movements. Add some leafy green vegetables to salads or stews, or combine them with citrus fruits and bananas for a superfood smoothie.
  • Most fruits are really high in sugar, so if you want to keep a hemorrhoid attack at bay simply slice up some mangos, apples, bananas, oranges, and strawberries for a tasty fruit salad. Alternately, you could sprinkle some of these fruits on a green salad or make them into a delicious smoothie.
  • Beans and lentils are full of fiber and can pop right into any meal. Lentil soup with carrots and kale is one of the best ways to get your daily dose of fiber, as well as other nutrients.
  • Whole grains are high in fiber. If you eat a lot of white rice or bread, simply make the smart swap to whole grains and you’ll definitely experience a whole new sense of health and vitality.

Stay away from processed foods that can lead to dehydration, constipation or diarrhea, all of which could contribute to irritation on the anus and rectum. A healthy diet is one of the best ways that you can prevent inflammation in this region of your body.

Fighting The Hemorrhoid Stigma

Unfortunately, this common condition is often viewed with a sense of shame. It’s likely the fact that it’s a bathroom-related problem that causes discomfort and embarrassment. Despite the stigma, many people have had at least one hemorrhoid in their lifetime.

Fortunately, some light is being shed on this subject and people are becoming less and less embarrassed to talk about their conditions. This is a great thing because it means that there is more information out there and people can swap stories about what has worked from them and what hasn’t. The other good thing about shedding a light on the hemorrhoid epidemic and how many people it affects is that people who suffer from this condition are less likely to feel alone.

Get support!

There are now hemorroid support groups where you can ask questions and get answers about your condition. You can also go on social media and ask questions in safe spaces where others understand what you are going through. It’s very heartening that people are looking at this normal inflammation of the veins in the anus and rectum as being something that people just live with, not a horrible medical condition.

Living With Chronic Hemorrhoids

Even if you find that you can’t treat your hemorrhoid outbreak either medically or with at-home remedies, you can still live a full life with a chronic hemorrhoid, or several of them.

Keep Creams Or Witch Hazel On Hand

If you know that you are prone to suffering from flare-ups in your rectum or anus, keep a tube of Preparation-H, or some witch hazel in your medicine cupboard. These treatments rarely, if ever, expire and will do you a world of good if you find yourself in a situation where you have a surprise hemorrhoid. Knowing that you’re prone to getting them means that you should take steps to deal with them when they arrive.

Always Go To The Bathroom With A Step Stool

Even if you’re not experiencing a flare-up, you should still poop optimally by propping your feet up on a stool and putting less pressure on your anus and rectum. This will allow the veins there to relax and you can relieve yourself without straining as much. Practice going to the bathroom like this all of the time, not only when you are experiencing a hemorrhoid-related issue. In public toilets try to adjust your seating position so it more closely matches the one that you use at home. Once your body gets used to relieving itself in this fashion, it should be easier to remember to keep the pressure off those sensitive veins inside your anus and rectum.

Be An Advocate For Others

Fight against the hemorrhoid stigma by being a great advocate for other people who are suffering from the same condition. Volunteer your time in digital spaces, like online messaging boards, and give fellow suffers insight into how to best deal with their conditions. You can also offer advice in a mentor/mentee type of setup and assure them that it does get better over time.

Try To Make Health A Lifestyle

It’s easy to remember to eat your fiber when you’re having a hemorrhoid flare-up, but to ensure that you are staving off more inflammation, you need to consume a good amount of fiber every single day. Keep your diet primarily to whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, and remember to get a lot of water in your system. All of this will help to keep your stools soft and let them pass through your body without irritating your bowels any further.

In addition to eating properly, you need to remember to incorporate moderate exercise into your daily life. Join a gym, running club, or a yoga studio to keep your body active and your digestive system happy. This will help keep any future hemorrhoid at bay, and also give you the fringe benefit of having a healthier and happier lifestyle overall.

hemorrhoids

Know When You Should Seek Serious Hemorrhoid Treatment

Those who have had a hemorrhoid or two in the past are more likely to get them in the future. It’s important to know what type can be treated at home, and which ones you’ll want to seek medical help for. Understanding the difference is one of the keys to being healthy while suffering from this chronic condition. If you experience an inflammation that causes severe pain or is bleeding copiously, go to your doctor.

It’s possible that it’s just a normal occurrence and will go away on its own, but just in case it is always good to seek medical treatment whenever you are unsure. Catching a problem earlier is always preferable to finding it later on down the road when it might be more difficult to treat effectively.

If you are suffering from this kind of rectal and anal inflammation, it doesn’t need to be the end of the world or drastically change your life. Hemorrhoids are very common and easy to treat and prevent with the right medication and lifestyle choices.

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