Hemorrhoids develop when the veins that carry blood away from the anus and rectum swell and widen. Many women experience hemorrhoids during pregnancy. In midlife, they’re an ongoing complaint. By age 50, about half the population has suffered one or more classic hemorrhoid symptoms including rectal pain, itching, and bleeding. Although hemorrhoids are rarely dangerous, they can cause recurrent pain, embarrassment, and inconvenience. According toHarvard Medical School, simple at-home measures can help most hemorrhoid symptoms improve dramatically while avoiding further flare-ups.
Recurring Hemorrhoids – Understanding This Painful Condition
Internal hemorrhoids occur in the lower rectum, and external ones develop under the skin around the anus. The inner type is painless typically, even when bleeding occurs. You might notice bright red blood on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. Internal hemorrhoids also may prolapse. Swollen blood vessels that protrude through the anal canal can cause several potential problems. They can collect small amounts of mucus and microscopic stool particles that may cause a pruritus ani irritation. Wiping constantly to relieve the itching can worsen the situation.
External hemorrhoids are the most uncomfortable because the irritated overlying skin erodes. A blood clot forming inside an external hemorrhoid can cause sudden and severe pain. You might feel a lump around your anus. The clot dissolves usually, leaving excess skin. You may experience itching or irritation.
Traditionally, experts associate hemorrhoids with chronic constipation, passing large hard stools, straining during bowel movements, and prolonged sitting on the toilet. These events interfere with blood flow to and from the area, causing it to pool and enlarge your vessels. That’s why hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, when the enlarging uterus presses on the veins.
More recent studies show that patients with hemorrhoids tend to have higher resting anal canal tones. The canal’s smooth muscle tends to be tighter than average — even when not straining. Constipation adds to these troubles because straining during a bowel movement increases pressure in the anal canal and pushes the hemorrhoids against the sphincter muscle. The connective tissues that support and hold hemorrhoids in place can weaken with age, causing hemorrhoids to bulge and prolapse.
Finding Relief with Topical and Suppository Treatments
Over-the-counter and prescription Hemorrhoid Treatments can ease pain and discomfort while your swollen veins heal. Use creams containing local anesthetics to soothe pain temporarily. Creams and suppositories containing Hydrocortisone also are effective, but don’t use them for more than a week at a time because they can cause the skin to atrophy. Place a small ice pack against the anal area for a few minutes to help reduce pain and swelling. Sitting on a cushion rather than a hard surface can help reduce the swelling of existing hemorrhoids and prevents the formation of new ones.
Adding More Fiber to Your Diet Can Help with Hemorrhoids
The road to less painful bowel movements starts with the foods you eat. Add more fiber to your diet. Start slowly, increasing your intake to 20-30 grams of fiber per day gradually. When you also drink at least eight glasses of water/fluids per day, fiber softens stools and makes them easier to pass, reducing pressure on hemorrhoids. High-fiber foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, wheat and oat bran, and whole-grain foods. Fiber helps decrease Hemorrhoidal enlargement, inflammation, bleeding, and irritation.
Being Physically Active Every Day
Engage in daily moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking briskly for 20-30 minutes. This will help relieve constipation, decrease pressure on Hemorrhoidal veins, and stimulate more regular bowel function.
Establishing Beneficial Bathroom Habits
When you feel the urge to defecate, go to the bathroom immediately. Don’t wait until a more convenient time. Stool can back up, leading to increased constipation, pressure, and straining. Also schedule a set time each day, such as after a meal, to sit on the toilet for a few minutes. This can help you establish a regular bowel habit. Elevating your feet a bit on a step stool while you sit on the toilet will change the position of your rectum, allowing for easier passage of bowel movements. Avoid using toilet tissue with perfumes or colors that can be irritating. Wear cotton undergarments.
Soaking in Sitz Baths
Take warm water sitz baths for the buttocks and hips. The name comes from the German sitzen, which means to sit. Warm water immersion can relieve itching, irritation, and sphincter muscle spasms. Use a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat or sit in a regular bathtub with a few inches of warm water. Soak the inflamed area for 10-15 minutes after each bowel movement or two to three times per day. Pat the anal area dry gently afterward instead of rubbing or wiping hard. Or use a hair dryer to avoid direct contact.
Considering Medical and Surgical Procedures
Consult your doctor if bleeding, pain, or interference with bowel movements is problematic. External hemorrhoids are apparent generally during a physical exam, especially if a blood clot has formed. Your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam or examine your anal canal with an illuminated Anoscope. Fortunately, a number of minimally invasive treatments are available that are less painful than traditional hemorrhoid removal (Hemorrhoidectomy) and allow for quicker recovery. A surgeon can perform these procedures usually in the office or on an outpatient basis in a hospital. Generally, hemorrhoids with blood clots require surgical removal.