What are hemorrhoids, and what can be done about them?
I spend my days listening to my patients’ deepest, darkest secrets. People tell me about marital problems, terrible pain, frustration, depression, and fears. Yet for some reason, it’s hard for them to talk about their hemorrhoids. Why that is, I can only guess; but it’s pretty much universal among my patients. Let me reassure you: neither your doctor nor I think any less of you because you have hemorrhoids, and I don’t go home to my wife saying: “Do you know who came into the office with hemorrhoids?”
The rules are different in the exam room with the doctor. Your neighbors, coworkers, and even family members probably don’t want to hear about your hemorrhoids, but your doctor is there precisely for that reason. Don’t be ashamed of your problems; if you can’t talk to your doctor about them, who can you talk to? At the bottom of this article I'll have some links to other topics patients have a difficult time addressing.
3 Tips for Preventing Hemorrhoids
- Don't get old
- Eat lots of fiber
- Don't hold it
Now, let's break this down a little.
What Are Hemorrhoids?
So what exactly are hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are veins in the anal area that are swollen and stretched out like a balloon. There are two sets of veins in the rectum that can get swollen, resulting in hemorrhoids: one set on the outside anal area, and one on the inside. The location of the hemorrhoids determines whether they are internal or external hemorrhoids. Neither is much fun to have, and both give pretty much the same symptoms.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are brought on by a number of things, including:
Sitting a lot
Having constipation or diarrhea
All of these things increase the pressure in the rectum, causing the blood vessels to enlarge.
What Are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
The two main symptoms of hemorrhoids are itching and bleeding. Sometimes the amount of blood can be scary, making the toilet water turn red. When people come to my office with hemorrhoids, bleeding is usually the thing that got them worried. They are concerned that they have colon cancer or something else terrible because of the amount of blood. The reason hemorrhoids bleed so much is obvious: they are blood vessels.
The good news is that whenever the blood is bright red and comes in large quantities, it is almost always hemorrhoids. The bad news, of course, is that serious problems like colon cancer usually don’t give much at all in the way of symptoms.
Now, the itching that accompanies hemorrhoids is a real nuisance. It’s usually a fairly bad itch, and it’s one that you can’t scratch in public and keep your dignity. The medications prescribed usually deal with this symptom, as demonstrated by the people squirming in their chair on the commercials for hemorrhoid cream. These creams usually contain some cortisone, and often other anti-itch ingredients.