If you have hemorrhoids, also called piles, you are not alone. Hemorrhoids are so common, in fact, by the age of 50 half of the adult population in the U.S. will have to contend with some common symptoms of the problem, including itching, irritation and bleeding. Hemorrhoids are also common in pregnant women. Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum, usually the result from straining during a bowel movement or from increased pressure of these veins during pregnancy. Aging, chronic constipation or diarrhea and anal intercourse can also cause the condition.

The good news is that hemorrhoids, which can be either inside the anus (internal) or protrude outside the anal opening (external), are almost never dangerous or life threatening and usually go away.


Although not every hemorrhoid sufferer will experience symptoms, here are some telltale signs of the condition:

  • Bright red blood on the stool, toilet paper or in the toilet bowl
  • Itchiness, pain or discomfort
  • Swelling around the anus

When to See Your Doctor

Although bleeding during a bowel movement is the most common sign of hemorrhoids, it can also be a symptom of a more serious problem such as colorectal cancer and anal cancer, so don't hesitate to talk to your doctor at the first sign of a problem. Call your doctor immediately if your bleeding coincides with marked changes in your bowel habits; or if you're passing black, tarry stools, blood clots or bloody stool; or if you experience heavy rectal bleeding, lightheadedness, dizziness or faintness. At your appointment, your doctor will give you a thorough exam and determine the best course of treatment for you.


Usually, treatment for hemorrhoids includes making some lifestyle changes, such as eating a diet high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and drinking six to eight glasses of fluid-water is best-a day to avoid the pressure and straining of constipation. Your doctor may also suggest taking a stool softener or a fiber supplement such as Metamucil or Citrucel. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to destroy the hemorrhoidal tissue.


Keeping your stools soft so they pass through your rectum easily is the best way to prevent hemorrhoids. In addition to eating high-fiber foods, drinking plenty of fluids and not straining during bowel movements, these other tips should help:

  • Maintain a regular exercise program. Staying physically active can reduce pressure on veins in the rectum and help prevent constipation.
  • Don't resist the urge to go to the bathroom. If you wait to pass a bowel movement, your stool could become dry and be harder to pass.