Hemorrhoids are swollen veins at the very end of the large intestine. This common problem is almost never serious, but it can be painful. Hemorrhoids may form either internally or externally, or it is possible to have both types at the same time.
Hemorrhoids are caused by too much pressure on the veins in the pelvic and rectal area, causing tissues in the lower colon to swell, stretch and bulge.
Common causes include:
- Straining to have bowel movements
- Pregnancy and childbirth
Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:
- Bleeding during bowel movements
Internal hemorrhoids are usually small, swollen veins, but they can be large enough to bulge out externally. If the blood supply to the hemorrhoid is cut off by muscle pressure, they can be quite painful and may bleed during bowel movements.
External hemorrhoids are bulges which cause hard painful lumps and may also bleed during bowel movements.
Your doctor can tell if you have hemorrhoids by asking you questions and doing an examination. You may not need further tests, especially if you are younger than 50 and your doctor can confirm that your bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids.
Home treatment is all you need for most cases of hemorrhoids. A healthy, active lifestyle can help you prevent hemorrhoids or keep them from getting worse.
Home treatments include:
- Getting plenty of exercise
- Adding fiber to your meals
- Drinking more water
- Using over-the-counter ointments and stool softeners
Surgery to remove hemorrhoids may be recommended if the above treatments are not successful. Surgical removal of hemorrhoids (hemorrhoidectomy) can provide long-term results, but surgery requires longer recovery times and has a greater risk of complications.