Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum. Several factors can cause hemorrhoids, including straining during bowel movements or increased pressure on the veins during pregnancy. Hemorrhoids can occur inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids) or under the skin around the anus (external hemorrhoids).
Hemorrhoids are a common condition. Half of the adults have had symptoms of hemorrhoids by the age of 50.
There are many effective treatments for hemorrhoids including medications to relieve symptoms and lifestyle changes.
Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- Painless bleeding during bowel movements
- Itching and irritation in the anal region
- Pain or discomfort
- Swelling around the anus
- A lump near the anus that may be sensitive or painful
- Leakage of feces
Internal hemorrhoids cannot be felt and usually they do not cause discomfort. However, sometimes straining can push an internal hemorrhoid through the anal opening. This is called a protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoid and it can cause pain and irritation.
External hemorrhoids can itch or bleed when irritated. Blood may pool in an external hemorrhoid and form a clot (thrombus) that causes severe pain, swelling and inflammation.
The veins around the anus stretch under pressure, which may cause swelling. Swollen veins (hemorrhoids) can develop from an increase in pressure in the lower rectum.
Factors that increase pressure include:
- Straining during bowel movements
- Sitting for long periods of time on the toilet
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- Anal intercourse
- Low-fiber diet
Hemorrhoids are more likely to develop with increasing age because the tissues that support the veins in the rectum and anus can weaken and stretch with aging.
Hemorrhoids complications are rare but may include:
- Anemia due to chronic blood loss from hemorrhoids
- Strangulated hemorrhoid occurs when the blood supply to an internal hemorrhoid is cut off, which can result in extreme pain and tissue death (gangrene).
The following tips can help prevent and reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids:
- High-fiber foods (fruits, vegetables and whole grains)
- Plenty of fluids, especially water
- Fiber supplements
- Avoid straining during bowel movements
- Don’t wait to pass bowel movements
- Avoid long period of sitting