What Hemorrhoids Are, and What They Aren’t

Hemorrhoids are a very common problem: About half of adults over age 50 have them. Despite how frequently hemorrhoids occur, though, you might be surprised by how little you really know about them.

Because you may have hemorrhoids in your future — or perhaps you’re coping with them right now — Dr. Maria Palafox would like to help set the record straight about this common health problem. Read on to learn more about what hemorrhoids are, and what they are not.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins

Your anus and rectum contain veins that carry deoxygenated blood from your digestive system back to your heart. Usually these veins do their work without your ever noticing them. But sometimes they start to swell, causing a condition known as hemorrhoids.

Also known as piles, hemorrhoids are similar to varicose veins. They can cause pain, itching, and bleeding.

Hemorrhoids are not always painful

Although hemorrhoids can cause discomfort, they sometimes cause no symptoms at all.

Some people learn they have hemorrhoids when they see small amounts of bright red blood on the toilet paper they use for wiping. Bleeding may occur when you have internal hemorrhoids, which are located inside your body.

External hemorrhoids, which are located in the skin of your anal area, are more likely to cause itching, although they may also bleed.

Hemorrhoids may also cause swelling in your anal area or a lump near your anus.

Hemorrhoids have a variety of causes

Straining to pass bowel movements can lead to the development of hemorrhoids, but you can get them even if you don’t strain. Hemorrhoids may also appear in pregnant women as a result of extra pregnancy weight pressing down on the veins in the anus and rectum.

Hemorrhoids can be prevented

Taking a few simple steps can reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids. For example, eating a high-fiber diet can keep stools soft and help prevent constipation. Include fiber-rich food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals and snacks.  

Drinking plenty of water also helps you from becoming constipated.

Lifting heavy loads can cause hemorrhoids to form, so make sure to lift with care and use lifting tools as needed.

Hemorrhoids often respond to home remedies

You may have luck treating your hemorrhoids with home remedies, such as the following:

Avoid scented wipes or those made with alcohol, which can irritate hemorrhoids. Warm water on toilet paper usually does the job just fine, but be sure not to wipe too enthusiastically.

Other treatment options

Hemorrhoids that don’t respond to home remedies may require further treatment. Dr. Palafox, a general surgeon trained in the latest endoscopic and laparoscopic techniques, can treat stubborn hemorrhoids using surgical or laser procedures that shrink or remove hemorrhoids.

When to call the doctor

For most people, hemorrhoids are little more than an irritating inconvenience. But if you experience any kind of bleeding in your rectal area, you should receive a medical evaluation, because other conditions more serious than hemorrhoids can cause bleeding.

If you have questions about hemorrhoids or bleeding, schedule an appointment with Dr. Palafox.

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