What exactly are hemorrhoids?

Swollen veins located in or around the anal canal are known as hemorrhoids. If you have hemorrhoids avoid foods that are fatty or low in fiber; don't pick at hemorrhoids; avoid lifting heavy objects; avoid stress and anxiety; and avoid overusing laxatives.
Swollen veins located in or around the anal canal are known as hemorrhoids. If you have hemorrhoids avoid foods that are fatty or low in fiber; don't pick at hemorrhoids; avoid lifting heavy objects; avoid stress and anxiety; and avoid overusing laxatives.

Swollen veins located in or around the anal canal are known as hemorrhoids. About three out of four adults will develop hemorrhoids in their lifetime.

Hemorrhoids are often related to bowel movements and the types of food you eat. If you develop hemorrhoids, there are many things you should and shouldn't do to increase your comfort.

Hemorrhoids form when blood pools in the veins of the anus. This causes the associated veins and connective tissue to enlarge, and the lining of the rectal wall to pouch outward.

There are two types of hemorrhoids — internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids occur in the lower rectum and are usually painless. You may not even know you have them until you wipe and see a little blood. External hemorrhoids occur in the skin surrounding the anus. External hemorrhoids cause discomfort because the skin is irritated and breaks down.

How do you get hemorrhoids?

Most of the time, hemorrhoids are linked to repeated episodes of constipation. Straining with bowel movements interferes with blood flow and causes pooling. The pressure to the anal canal causes the vessels to enlarge. This takes place in the already tight, smooth muscle of the anal canal.   

Other causes of hemorrhoids include:

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

The symptoms of hemorrhoids vary depending on if they are internal, external, or thrombosed (clotted).  In general, symptoms are:

  • Anal itching and irritation 
  • Discomfort 
  • Anal swelling 
  • Bleeding while using the bathroom 
  • Hard lump near the anus 
  • Pain 

What should I avoid if I have hemorrhoids?

Your food and liquid intake is the causative factor in the nature of your stools. Constant constipation or frequent episodes of diarrhea inflame and irritate veins —causing hemorrhoids. There are many hemorrhoid don'ts you should consider.

If you have hemorrhoids, you should avoid foods that are fatty or low in fiber: These foods encourage constipation, which can cause more pain and bleeding. Foods to avoid include dairy, meat, and processed foods. Doctors recommend a high-fiber diet. Soluble fiber makes well-formed, soft stools that are easy to pass. The recommended daily fiber intake is 25-30 grams. High-fiber foods include oatmeal, beans, nuts, and whole-grain bread.

Don't constantly wipe hemorrhoids for relief: Internal hemorrhoids sometimes stick out beyond the anus. They can collect mucus and particles that lead to irritation and itching. You should avoid constantly wiping the area to relieve the pain because it causes further irritation. 

Do not "pick at" external hemorrhoids: If a clot forms inside an external hemorrhoid, it can be excruciating. The clot can cause a lump near the anus. Do not attempt to "pop" or pull the lump. It can cause further bleeding or severe pain. 

Avoid a sedentary lifestyle — don't remain seated for long periods: Inactivity puts more pressure on the blood vessels around the anal area, especially if you are overweight.

Avoid lifting heavy objects: This can put extra pressure on the clots in external hemorrhoids.

Practice good hygiene: Keep the anal area clean and dry. Poor hygiene can worsen itching and irritation.

Avoid overusing laxatives: Use of laxatives for more than a week may mask other problems that are causing constipation.

Avoid activities that increase stress or anxietyAnxiety and depression can cause flare-ups of your hemorrhoids.

What is the proper way to treat hemorrhoids?

Proper ways to treat hemorrhoids include:

More advanced hemorrhoids may need a doctor's intervention in the office. In an external hemorrhoid thrombectomy, your doctor will remove the clot in the external hemorrhoid under local anesthesia. 

Another in-office procedure includes rubber band ligation. A probe is used to grab the hemorrhoid, which the doctor then ties off with a rubber band. The hemorrhoid loses blood flow and shrivels up. The underlying mucosa heals, thus alleviating hemorrhoid pain. 

If your hemorrhoids persist, there are several surgical options. If you think you have hemorrhoids, a visit to your medical professional may be warranted. They will help to determine which treatment option is best for you.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/30/2021
References
SOURCES:

American Family Physician: "Hemorrhoids: Diagnosis and Treatment Options."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Hemorrhoids and what to do about them."

Mayo Clinic: "Hemorrhoids."

Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center: "Best and Worst Foods for Hemorrhoids."

Prokupek, Dr. Dale: "13 common mistakes that can aggravate your piles or hemorrhoids."