Hemorrhoids: A Real Pain in the Rear
If you've ever experienced the itching and burning sensation of hemorrhoids, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some time will have hemorrhoids, a condition in which the veins around the rectum or anus become swollen and inflamed. Hemorrhoids are either inside the rectum (internal) or under the skin around the anus (external) and may result from straining during a bowel movement, pregnancy, aging, and obesity.
What You Need to Know About Internal Hemorrhoids
Although internal hemorrhoids are usually painless, one of their most common symptoms is bright red bloody stools or blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. They can also occasionally protrude outside the rectum, becoming irritated and painful.
While hemorrhoids are usually not dangerous or life threatening and will usually go way on their own within a few days, if you notice any bleeding or changes in your bowels, see your doctor to rule out more serious conditions such as cancer.
Relieving Hemorrhoidal Pain
In most cases, the symptoms of internal hemorrhoids can be alleviated by:
- Taking warm, ten-minute baths several times a day
- Applying a cream containing witch hazel around the area for pain; creams containing hydrocortisone can also help relieve itching.
- Using ice packs to reduce swelling
- Cleaning the rectum after each bowel movement with moist toilet paper or baby wipes
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin
A word of caution: Before taking any hemorrhoid medications, be sure to check with your doctor first.
Usually, painful internal hemorrhoids will stop hurting on their own within one to two weeks, however, in some instances, medical intervention may be necessary, including:
- Rubber band ligation in which a rubber band is placed around the base of the internal hemorrhoid. The band cuts off blood circulation to the area and the hemorrhoid withers away.
- Sclerotherapy in which a chemical solution is injected around the blood vessel, shrinking the hemorrhoid.
- Hemorrhoidectomy surgically removes the hemorrhoid and is usually used on internal hemorrhoids that are prolapsed (protruding outside the rectum) or are very large.
Eliminating constipation and having softer, bulkier stools that pass easily will often result in the prevention of a recurrence of hemorrhoids. To have softer stools,
- Increase your fiber intake, including eating more fresh fruits, leafy vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals
- Drink plenty of fluids, eight glasses of water a day is best.
- Avoid alcohol
- Exercise regularly
- Go to the bathroom as soon as you have an urge for a bowel movement
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