Napoleon had them at Waterloo. George Brett had them during the 1985 World Series. And more than 75 percent of all Americans will develop them at some point during their lives. They are hemorrhoids, a painful and embarrassing condition that makes sitting uncomfortable.
Hemorrhoids (or piles) are an abnormal swelling in the blood vessels in the anal canal. Although they may bleed, itch or cause pain, hemorrhoids are treatable.
You can reduce your risk of hemorrhoids by making a few healthy lifestyle changes:
- Eat more fiber and drink plenty of fluids. This will help soften stools and promote regular elimination, which reduces straining.
- Go when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. Delaying now can mean straining later.
- Don’t read on the toilet. Sitting and straining too long encourages swelling.
Types of Hemorrhoids:
Internal Hemorrhoids – These usually remain inside the anal canal. You usually can’t feel or see them, unless they protrude through the anus. This is known as a prolapsed hemorrhoid. Symptoms may include pain, bleeding, itching and a feeling of fullness after a bowel movement.
External Hemorrhoids – These small, soft pads around the anal opening, are the same color as your skin and rarely cause pain. However, a thrombosed hemorrhoid is an external hemorrhoid that has formed a blood clot, or thrombose . Thrombed hemorrhoids may turn blue or cause sudden, severe pain, itching and inflammation.
Causes of Hemorrhoids:
One of the most common causes of hemorrhoids is straining to pass hard, dry stools during bouts of constipation. Other factors that can lead to hemorrhoids include:
- Straining to lift heavy objects
- Sitting for long periods
- Low fiber diet
- Strenuous exercise
When to See a Doctor:
Generally, hemorrhoids are not serious and symptoms go away in a few days. However, sometimes hemorrhoids may signal a more serious problem. See your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Rectal Bleeding: Although this is a common symptom of hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding could be a symptom of a more serious disease.
Persistent Pain: In some cases, hemorrhoids must be removed surgically. Your doctor will perform an exam and decide on the best course of treatment.