Hemorrhoids are veins under the rectum or around the anus that are dilated or swollen. They are caused by repeated pressure in the rectal or anal veins. This pressure usually results from repeated straining to pass bowel movements. Rarely, they result from benign or malignant tumors of the abdomen or rectum. The risk for getting hemorrhoids increases with:
- Low dietary fiber intake
- Pregnancy and delivery
Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Rectal tenderness and/or itching
- Uncomfortable, painful bowel movements, especially with straining
- A lump that can be felt in the anus
- A mucous discharge after a bowel movement
Hemorrhoids are common, and most people have some bleeding from them once in a while. Though annoying and uncomfortable, hemorrhoids are seldom a serious health problem. Reasons to seek medical treatment for hemorrhoids include:
- The presence of a painful blood clot in the hemorrhoid
- Excessive blood loss
- The need to rule out cancer of the rectum or colon
If symptoms of hemorrhoids are not relieved with Self-Care Tips on the next page or with time, medical treatment may be necessary. This includes:
- Cryosurgery, which freezes the affected tissue
- A chemical injection into an internal hemorrhoid to shrink it
- Electrical or laser heat or infrared light to destroy the hemorrhoids
- Surgery called hemorrhoidectomy. One type, which requires general anesthesia, cuts out the hemorrhoids. Another, called ligation, uses rubber bands that are placed tightly over the base of each hemorrhoid, causing it to wither away.
Questions to Ask
Do you have severe rectal bleeding that is continuous or associated with weakness or dizziness?
Do you have rectal bleeding:
Do you have a hard lump where a hemorrhoid used to be?
Does the pain you feel with the hemorrhoid last longer than a
week or is it severe?
- Take daily measures to produce soft, easily passed bowel movements such as:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids: at least 11/2Ð2 quarts a day.
- Eat foods with good sources of dietary fiber such as whole grain or bran cereals and breads, fresh vegetables, and fruits.
- Eat prunes and/or drink prune juice.
- If necessary add bran to your foods: about 3 to 4 tablespoons per day.
- Exercise regularly.
- Pass a bowel movement as soon as you feel the urge. If you wait and the urge goes away, your stool could become dry and be harder to pass.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Don’t strain to have a bowel movement.
- Don’t hold your breath when trying to pass stool.
- Keep the anal area clean.
- Take warm baths.
- Use a sitz bath with hot water. A sitz bath device fits over the toilet. You can get one at a medical supply store or at some pharmacies.
- Use moist towelettes or wet (not dry) toilet paper after a bowel movement.
- Check with your doctor about using over-the-counter products such as:
- Stool softeners
- Zinc oxide preparations. (Examples: Preparation H and Hemorid)
- Medicated wipes such as Tucks
- Medicated suppositories
- Don’t sit too much because it can restrict blood flow around the anal area.
- Don’t sit too long on the toilet.
- Don’t read while on the toilet.
- For itching or pain, put a cold compress on the anus for 10 minutes up to 4 times a day.
Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism
© American Institute for Preventive Medicine