We’ll chat for minutes about allergies, gab for hours about muscle aches, but when we’re suffering from hemorrhoids, we have trouble even broaching the topic with our doctors. Hemorrhoids are a common ailment, and they can range from inconvenient to unbearably uncomfortable — at which point it is advisable to see a health care professional and get direct medical help. However, if you can scarcely think about your condition without blushing, perhaps it’s appropriate to practice discussing hemorrhoids before you head to the doctor’s office.
It’s usually useful to know a little bit about a condition before you approach a physician about it. Hemorrhoids is an exceedingly common ailment among Americans, with more than 50 percent of the over-60 population experiencing discomfort from hemorrhoids at some point in their lives, and there are plenty of risk factors that cause young people to suffer from hemorrhoids as well. Workers with an occupation that requires them to be seated for a long period of time, like pilots, drivers, or even accountants, often feel the discomfort of hemorrhoids, as do workers who often lift heavy objects, like movers or weightlifters. Additionally, pregnant women can become afflicted in the later trimesters and even after the baby is born.
All of these risk factors are completely understandable when you realize what causes hemorrhoid irritation. Hemorrhoids are actually small veins in the rectal and anal regions. When pressure is increased in the area — due to prolonged sitting, extreme exertion, or other causes — the veins swell up like balloons and cause problems. Mild and regular symptoms from hemorrhoids include itching and bleeding, as the more you writhe in attempts to resolve your discomfort, the more you agitate and disrupt the inflamed veins.
While it is tempting to self-diagnose hemorrhoids and seek over-the-counter remedies without a physician’s approval, whenever you see any type of bleeding in the anal region, it is imperative to seek medical aid. While blood in that area is truly most likely to be from hemorrhoids, especially if it is bright red, blood in the toilet bowl could also signal a wealth of more dangerous health problems, like anal fistulas, a prolapsed rectum, and even anal or colon cancers.
The doctor’s office is perhaps the only location in the world where it is encouraged to discuss your anal symptoms at length. You need only consult with your regular physician; however, if your symptoms are irregular or particularly intense, he or she may refer you to a specialist, so it is wise to steel yourself for this possibility beforehand.
If you get particularly squeamish when talking about your hemorrhoids, consider writing down your history — including approximate start date, symptoms, and severity — so you won’t forget any important details. It is also helpful to let your doctor know about your regular habits, including diet, exercise, and bowel movements, so he or she can get a more holistic view of your health.
Once you receive diagnosis, there are a few courses of action. Your physician may simply inform you that over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream will be sufficient to relieve discomfort while your hemorrhoids heal. However, there are also prescription medications for particularly irritating symptoms. Most hemorrhoid creams contain cortisol to cease itching, but prescriptions may include stool softeners or fiber supplements to ease tension in your colorectal region.
If your hemorrhoids have been inflamed for some time — stubborn hemorrhoids can last for years if improperly treated — you may be a candidate for more drastic measures. Hemorrhoid surgery is a common practice that completely removes hemorrhoids. Some hemorrhoids, called thrombosed hemorrhoids, are filled with a clot which must be removed before the situation can be resolved. Other large or persistent hemorrhoids can be diminished by cutting off blood to the region with small rubber bands; the hemorrhoid effectively dies, and the discomfort goes away.
If your family or coworkers ask why you’ve been away due to hemorrhoid treatment, remember that they aren’t your physicians and you don’t need to tell them any specifics if it makes you or them uncomfortable. You can avoid the questions entirely or fudge your responses with ailments like “back pain” so you won’t exactly be lying. Alternatively, you can try to dispel the taboo surrounding hemorrhoid discussion by speaking plainly about your condition.
Hemorrhoids certainly aren’t a life sentence, but once you experience them, you probably know you don’t want them to come back. Talk with your doctor about your everyday activities; he or she will be able to pinpoint choices that encourage hemorrhoid agitation and provide solutions for activities that will put you right back in your uncomfortable state. Healthy habits in general tend to lower one’s chances for hemorrhoids. Drink plenty of water throughout the day stay sufficiently hydrated, and become active with at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Additionally, good colon health practices are encouraged, like eating enough fiber (at least 30 grams per day) and avoiding spending long periods on the toilet.
Hemorrhoids continue to be taboo, but sufferers need to banish their embarrassment to receive appropriate medical help. If you can’t be open and honest with your doctor, it’s possible you’ll be in anal distress for years of your life. It is definitely worth some candid talk to get the medical care you need.