Even if you don’t know what hemorrhoids are, you almost certainly know that you don’t want them. After reading this article, you will know what hemorrhoids are, and you will still not want them. Alright, let’s get to it.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are actually perfectly normal. In fact, you need them. A hemorrhoid is a collection of blood vessels that acts as a cushion to control your stool. The problem is not the hemorrhoids themselves, it is when they became inflamed and swollen. This condition – swollen and inflamed hemorrhoids – has come to be associated with the term itself. It is for this reason that nearly everyone who talks about “hemorrhoids” is actually talking about the disease.
Hemorrhoids come in two forms:
- Internal hemorrhoids – internal hemorrhoids are not visible, and they are not painful, either (they occur in areas with limited nerve endings). However, internal hemorrhoids can produce rectal bleeding.
- External hemorrhoids – external hemorrhoids are visible to varying extents, depending on the size of the swelling. They will be painful, and they can certainly have a negative impact on your bowel movements.
Neither of these sound particularly good, so exactly how can you get them, or more importantly, avoid them?
How do you get hemorrhoids?
Diagnosing hemorrhoids is relatively easy. Finding the cause of them is difficult. Constipation, low-fiber diets, abdominal pressure (like that caused during pregnancy) can all be contributing factors. Genetics and aging (the older you are, the more likely you are to get hemorrhoids) can also be involved. Prolonged sitting and excessive straining during bowel movements will certainly not help matters either.
In order to avoid hemorrhoids, your best bet is to stay relatively active and eat a diet high in fiber, which will in turn help keep your bowel movements regular. The link between prolonged sitting and hemorrhoids is a bit murky, but it wouldn’t hurt to try and get up and move around during long sessions in a chair. For you travelers, stretching your legs on a trains and planes is relatively straightforward. If you are traveling by bus, try to get out at rest stops and just have a brief walk-around.
What do you do if you have hemorrhoids?
The good news it that most cases of hemorrhoids resolve on their own. To speed up the process, you can add some fiber-rich foods to your diet and plan to exercise more.
Also, try to avoid doing anything that will aggravate the condition. This would include: straining during bowel movements, bathing or showering in exceptionally hot water, using anything abrasive to wash the area, and using soaps that are irritating to the skin.
While there are a number of products on the shelves of any pharmacy that advertise their ability to treat hemorrhoids, scientific proof is lacking. Simply put, there is not strong evidence to suggest that these products will have a noticeable impact. Topical agents may put you at ease, but their overall positive effect may be negligible. Finally, we advise you to be careful if you plan on using any product that contains steroids. Prolong steroid use can have lasting, negative effects on the skin.
In some cases, you may need more extensive treatment for hemorrhoids. This could include relatively straightforward procedures that can be done directly in the doctor’s office. However, in some rare cases, surgery may be required.
How do you know if your hemorrhoids require medical attention? If you are experiencing pain and/or you are having rectal bleeding, you need to see a doctor to have a proper diagnosis. As is the case with most medical issues, it’s better to err on the side of caution and have a thorough check-up from a medical professional.
If you have any experience dealing with hemorrhoids, please share your thoughts in the comments below.