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What Are Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?

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Hemorrhoids are known to be painful and can be a little embarrassing to talk about, given their nature. The good thing is hemorrhoids are not life-threatening and can often be treated at home. They are more common than you think, affecting both men and women. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about hemorrhoids, mainly because 1 in 20 Americans experience them.

Hemorrhoids are sometimes referred to as piles and occur when the veins around the lower rectum or anus are swollen and inflamed. There are two types of hemorrhoids – internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids occur in the anus and lower rectum lining, while external hemorrhoids form under the skin around the anus. External hemorrhoids are the most common and often the most troublesome.

Symptoms of internal hemorrhoids are different than symptoms of external hemorrhoids. Signs of internal hemorrhoids include blood on your toilet paper following a bowel movement, skin sticking out the anus during a bowel movement and prolapse — when the skin sticking out does not retract into the anus.

With external hemorrhoids, patients experience severe anal itching, lumps or swelling near the anus and pain or aches around the area. External hemorrhoids can cause a blood clot on the skin. When this happens, they are referred to as thrombosed hemorrhoids.

If you experience any of these symptoms, bleeding or black bowel movements, it is important to contact your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist or a proctologist.

To diagnose hemorrhoids, doctors consider your medical history and conduct a physical exam. A physician will look for lumps, small tears, irritated skin and prolapsed internal hemorrhoids during the physical exam. A doctor may opt for a digital rectal exam to look inside the rectum or anus to diagnose abnormalities. Digital exam options are an anoscopy, a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.

What causes hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids develop for several reasons. Common risk factors include:

  • Toilet habits, specifically straining during bowel movements or sitting on the toilet for long periods
  • Chronic constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Being older than 50
  • Pregnancy
  • Lifting heaving objects
  • Family history of hemorrhoids
  • Obesity

How to treat hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids often can be treated at home with medication or by making simple adjustments to your daily diet. Over the counter or prescription medications can treat symptoms such as pain, swelling, burning and itching. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, hydrocortisone cream, hemorrhoid cream, witch hazel pads, fiber supplements, Zinc Oxide and Lidocaine are used for treatment.

Soaking in a warm tub for 10 minutes daily can help relieve pain. It is also recommended to clean the area with warm water daily. It is best to not use soap. Another remedy is to apply cold compresses on the anus to reduce swelling. Use soft toilet paper after a bowel movement. Avoid rough toilet paper when possible.

In some cases, hemorrhoids may call for a medical procedure performed by a physician in an outpatient setting. During a rubber band ligation, a doctor severs the hemorrhoid’s circulation by placing a rubber band around it. Injection therapy, referred to as sclerotherapy, is a procedure used for treatment, and an injection in the blood vessels causes hemorrhoids to reduce in size.

The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to drink more water, exercise regularly to avoid constipation and incorporate food high in fiber into your diet. Consider eating whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, pears, carrots, buckwheat and bran. Increasing fiber and water in your diet can help stools soften, making them easier to pass during a bowel movement.

Another way to prevent hemorrhoid development is to try not to wait to use the restroom when you feel a bowel movement coming on. Waiting can cause hemorrhoids to form. Also, avoid sitting for an extended period on the toilet, concrete or titles.

Hemorrhoids can be challenging or embarrassing to talk about. It is important to seek medical attention if you are in pain or experiencing symptoms. Knowing you are not alone can make talking about something difficult easy.

Schedule an appointment and learn more about Dr. Sarah Champagne.

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