You probably know when you have hemorrhoids, but do you know that you can prevent some common causes of hemorrhoids and save yourself a little trouble? Doing what you can to take a little pressure off the easily swollen veins in your rectal area can bring you a lot of relief from hemorrhoid symptoms.
Types of Hemorrhoids
Internal hemorrhoids are small, swollen veins located inside the anal cavity. They are hard to detect at first because they are not painful; however, they will cause discomfort or irritation if passing stool becomes difficult. Too much straining causes internal hemorrhoids to bleed and protrude out of the anal canal. Protruding or prolapsed hemorrhoids are extremely painful and make sitting uncomfortable because sitting cuts off the hemorrhoid’s blood supply. You may have internal hemorrhoids if you experience itching around the anus, see mucus in stool or on the toilet paper, experience fecal leakage, or notice streaks of blood on your tissue after having a bowel movement.
External hemorrhoids are more common, and develop underneath the skin around the anal cavity. They are visible, and they look and feel like swollen, hardened lumps around the anus. When irritated, they swell, itch, or bleed; severe stress to the rectal veins may form a thrombus (blood clot), which results in intense pain and acute inflammation. External hemorrhoid symptoms include itching around the rectal area, pain in the anus, blood in the fecal matter, and searing pain when passing stool or sitting on the toilet for an extended period of time.
Five Common Causes of Hemorrhoids
If you notice that your stool is hard and desiccated, you may be constipated. Constipation causes you to sit on the toilet longer than normal and strain to make a bowel movement. The straining increases the pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus and leads to inflammation. Not drinking enough water, a lack of physical activity, and a low-fiber diet cause constipation.
Overweight people tend to sit for long periods of time; they may not get enough exercise or eat enough fiber. The lack of physical activity and limited fiber intake promotes constipation and expands the waistline, which increases pressure on the veins located in the rectum and anus and causes hemorrhoids.
Expectant mothers typically develop hemorrhoids around their third trimester; the growing fetus increases pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvic and anal areas, causing them to swell. Also, pregnant women experience an increase in progesterone, a hormone that slows the intestinal tract and induces constipation. Expectant mothers should treat their hemorrhoids before they go into labor – pushing the baby out worsens the swelling in the rectal area.
A low-fiber diet produces harder stool and places more pressure on the digestive organs in the abdomen to digest food. A lack of fiber makes bowel movements more difficult to pass, and the increased build up and pressure in the abdomen causes the veins to become obstructed and weak, making them more prone to develop hemorrhoids.
Health conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease increase the risk of developing swollen veins in the rectum and anus, which causes hemorrhoids. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that is not serious, but it is very uncomfortable because of the abdominal bloating and cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and diarrhea.
Additional factors that increase the risk of stress to the rectal veins include diarrhea, prolonged sitting, anal intercourse, food allergies, and aging. Developing hemorrhoids is common, but they are usually not life-threatening. If you suspect you have hemorrhoids, a doctor can conduct a digital rectum exam to confirm your suspicions. Minor hemorrhoids can be treated at home, while severe hemorrhoids should be treated by a doctor. We’ll discuss treatment methods in another post.