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Hemmorrhoids Q&A

by Staff Writer
When I sit at my desk for too long, my rectum hurts sometimes. Is this a sign that I may be developing hemorrhoids? Is there a way to prevent them from happening?

It could be a sign that you're developing hemorrhoids, but it could also be a sign of other things. Other conditions that can cause rectal pain include muscle spasms in the pelvic area or a fissure or tear in your rectal area. Rectal tears come from straining too hard during a bowel movement. Pain from a fissure is usually right around the opening where the stool comes through and you may have bleeding as well. Another problem that can cause rectal pain and tenderness is an abscess. An abscess is a ball of bacteria and pus. When you put pressure on it by straining or sitting, it causes pain. These all cause pain when you have a bowel movement too. As far as preventing hemorrhoids, make sure you're getting enough fiber in your diet or take a fiber supplement that contains psyllium every day. Drink lots of fluids to soften your stool so it passes more easily. Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time, and add more exercise to your day. Exercise reduces pressure on the veins and helps to prevent constipation. Constipation and straining when you have a bowel movement puts you at a greater risk for hemorrhoids.

Sometimes I notice blood in my stool. Is this a sign of something major, or can hemorrhoids cause this?

Hemorrhoids can cause blood in the stool but a number of other conditions can too. Never assume blood in your stool is "just hemorrhoids." You need to see your doctor and rule out other causes of bleeding. Occasionally, bleeding can be a sign of polyps in your rectum or colon or even a cancer. It can also be a sign of inflammation due to inflammatory bowel disease, an infection or a condition called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is where small pockets form on the walls of your colon. These pockets can bleed or become infected. Bleeding can also be a sign of a fissure or tear in your rectal area. Bleeding can manifest in two ways - bright red blood on the toilet tissue or in your stool or dark, tarry stools. Both of these need to be checked out by your doctor.

I have hemorrhoids and sometimes my rectum becomes very itchy. Are there ways to alleviate the discomfort?

Itching is a common, and very frustrating, symptom of hemorrhoids. There are a number of hemorrhoid treatments that help relieve itching. These products usually contain hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone reduces inflammation and soothes the itch. Other hemorrhoid treatment products are formulated with a local anesthetic, usually pramoxine hydrochloride. These treatments numb the area to help relieve both pain and itching. Sitz baths may also offer some relief. Avoid sitting too long. This puts added pressure on hemorrhoids. Wear cotton underwear whenever possible. Avoid using soaps, creams or toilet paper that has added perfume or scent. These can irritate the area and make the itching worse.

My mom told me that people can get hemorrhoids from pushing too hard when they use the bathroom. Is this true?

When you're constipated and have to strain to have a bowel movement, it puts pressure on the veins in your rectum and anus. This pressure can cause the veins to dilate. When the veins dilate and swell you have a hemorrhoid. So, yes, straining and constipation put you at risk for hemorrhoids. The best way to lower your risk is to add more fiber to your diet or take a fiber supplement to help prevent constipation. You can buy fiber supplements without a prescription. It's also important to drink lots of water to soften your stool so you can pass them more easily. It’s also helpful to exercise. Get up and move around more during the day. Sitting too long puts added pressure on the veins and increases your risk for constipation. Neither is good for hemorrhoids.

I never had hemorrhoids until I became pregnant...and now I still have them. What are some treatments I can consider?

Pregnancy is a risk factor for hemorrhoids and sometimes they continue to be a problem even after you've delivered. There are a number of non-prescription treatments for hemorrhoids that help to relieve pain, swelling and itching. Some contain hydrocortisone to reduce inflammation. This is especially helpful for "itchy" hemorrhoids. Avoid using them long-term since they can cause skin damage if used for long periods of time. Other hemorrhoid treatments contain ingredients that help to ease the pain and reduce swelling. There are also hemorrhoid wipes formulated with an ingredient called witch hazel. Witch hazel helps to relieve itching and burning and to shrink swollen tissues. These treatments come in a number of forms - wipes, sprays, creams, ointments, gels, suppositories and cooling pads. They can be quite effective at easing the discomfort of hemorrhoids. Sitz baths may also provide relief. Consider taking a fiber supplement or using a stool softener to make your stool easier to pass. This will reduce pain and ease the pressure on the veins and inflamed tissues.

Even though I clean thoroughly and even use wipes after I go to the bathroom, I still have marks in my underwear. I am thinking I have a hemorrhoid but I've never had pain or itchiness. Are there hemorrhoids that don't have any typical symptoms?

Not all hemorrhoids cause burning or itching. In fact, you can have hemorrhoids and not even know it. There are two types of hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids and external ones. Internal hemorrhoids occur higher up in the anal canal in the rectal area, while external ones are found lower in the anal canal, closer towards the outside. Internal hemorrhoids can cause bleeding, but they don't often cause pain unless they prolapse (grow and protrude outwards) into the anal canal. Internal hemorrhoids are often silent because there aren't a lot of nerves higher up in the anal canal. You may only discover you have them after getting a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy to look at your colon for some other reason. External hemorrhoids are more likely to cause pain and discomfort since there are more nerves lower in the anal canal to sense pain. If you have unexplained symptoms, see your doctor to be safe.

This summary is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should read product labels. In addition, if you are taking medications, herbs, or other supplements you should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication as they may interact with other medications, herbs, and nutritional products. If you have a medical condition, including if you are pregnant or nursing, you should speak to your physician before using these products. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.