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They aren't something that's fun to talk about but it's important that you are aware of them, since half the population will get hemorrhoids by the time they are 50, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Yes, half - they are that common.
They've been called the varicose veins (Read about "Varicose Veins") of the anus and the rectum. They are blood veins that are swollen. They can be inside the anus (internal) or outside (external). When they are inside they tend not to be painful but they will bleed. External ones can be painful and itchy. There are also internal ones that protrude from the anus; those are called prolapsed.
Anyone can get hemorrhoids. The exact cause is unknown, but the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) says the following contribute:
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that being very overweight (Read about "Obesity") or standing or lifting too much can make hemorrhoids worse.
Some sort of bleeding is usually one of the first signs of hemorrhoids, but if you're noticing blood, you should not make any assumptions. Bleeding could also be a sign of other diseases such as colorectal cancer, (Read about "Gastrointestinal Bleeding" "Colorectal Cancer") so it's imperative that you see a doctor if you experience rectal bleeding.
Others signs of hemorrhoids, according to ASCR:
Diagnosis can be made by a doctor during a physical exam. Other medical conditions, such as fissures, fistulae, abscesses or just irritation of the anus can have some of the same symptoms but are treated differently.
Hemorrhoids aren't very serious and symptoms often go away on their own. If they are being aggravated by constipation, AAFP recommends increasing the amount of fiber in your diet. (Read about "Fiber and Health") Some other ideas from NDDIC are:
Some external hemorrhoids result from a hard blood clot. Your doctor may advise having that removed surgically. It is usually done on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia. A rubber band treatment is often used to treat internal ones. The band is wrapped around the hemorrhoid and the blood supply cut off. Other surgery is sometimes required in severe cases.
Since a major cause of hemorrhoids is constipation and the resulting straining during bowel movements that occurs, it's important to try to stay regular. AAFP offers these suggestions:
Hemorrhoids aren't something that people enjoy talking about but they should take comfort in the fact that they are not in the minority. Your doctor discusses the issue all the time with people and can help you get relief. Also, what you think is just a hemorrhoid could be something much more serious. Delaying discussing it could be dangerous.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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