What's the Deal with Hemorrhoids?
Inflamed veins in your anus, bleeding during bowel movements… yep, we’re talking about hemorrhoids. If you’ve ever had a hemorrhoid in the past (or are suffering from one right now), then you know there’s nothing fun or pleasant about this painful and downright embarrassing ailment. Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. By age 50, nearly half of all adults will have experienced hemorrhoids. The itching, discomfort and bleeding associated with a hemorrhoid can be down right terrible. The good news is most folks can find relieve from these painful symptoms with home treatments. And by simply making a few lifestyle adjustments, you can help prevent hemorrhoids in the future.
So, what exactly is a hemorrhoid?
Hemorrhoids are a pillow-like cluster of veins that lie just beneath the mucous membranes that line the lower part of the rectum and anus. There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. As the name suggests, internal hemorrhoids lie inside the rectum. Since you don’t usually see them, you may not even realize they are there until you experience straining or irritation when passing a stool. This strain can damage the hemorrhoid’s delicate surface and cause it to bleed. Worse, straining might even push a hemorrhoid through the delicate anal opening, causing pain and irritation.
External hemorrhoids lie around the anus. Any irritation can cause these guys to bleed, as well as cause severe pain, swelling and inflammation – ouch! While bleeding during bowel movements is the most common sign of rectal hemorrhoids, other health problems could also cause bleeding, including colorectal cancer and anal cancer. Consequently, even if you’re confident hemorrhoids are the cause for any bleeding or discomfort, it’s still important to consult a doctor.
How can I treat my hemorrhoids?
As anyone suffering from hemorrhoids knows, the most important part of at-home hemorrhoid treatment is immediately, effective pain relief! If your hemorrhoid is only producing mild to moderate pain, an over-the-counter cream or ointment should do the trick. Soaking in warm water is an effective option for relieving mild pain, swelling and inflammation. If you don’t have a bathtub in your home, try soaking your anal area in a sitz bath, which fits over most toilets. Be sure to keep the anal area clean. Bathe and shower daily, cleanse the skin gently around your anus with warm water, and avoid using any harsh soaps that could irritate your skin and worsen the problem.
One of the most important things you can do to relieve hemorrhoid pain (and prevent their recurrence) is to avoid using dry or cheap toilet paper. Inexpensive toilet paper is more likely to cause chafing and damage to the anal area. Instead, use moist prepackaged wipes, flushable wipes or add a small dollop of a hygienic cleansing lotion like Soothe ‘n Wipe to your toilet paper. Watch out for aggressive wiping! You may wish to avoid wiping altogether and instead simply pat the area down with a damp towel.
If you’re still in pain after several days and have tried taking oral, over-the-counter painkillers like Advil, aspirin or Tylenol, talk to your doc about your different treatment options. You may benefit from a minimally invasive procedure to treat and remove the hemorrhoid clot.