Hemorrhoids are a very common occurrence in adults worldwide. In the US, over 1 million new cases are diagnosed each year and it is believed that half of adults over age 50 have had a hemorrhoid.
Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen veins located in and around the anus or lower rectum. Internal hemorrhoids develop within the anus and are usually not painful unless they become prolapsed, or sag and protrude from the anal opening. External hemorrhoids develop near the anus and are also typically painless except if a blood clot develops within the hemorrhoid. This can cause the hemorrhoid to harden and become quite painful. It is possible to have both types of hemorrhoids simultaneously, but both are considered very treatable.
Symptoms can vary depending on the type of hemorrhoid. The most common symptoms include bleeding during bowel movements, itching, pain or discomfort in the anal area and lumps near the anus. Blood from hemorrhoids is bright red in color and may be seen on toilet paper, in the toilet bowl or on the surface of the stool after a bowel movement. Bleeding during bowel movements is also a symptom of other digestive diseases like colon cancer, making it very important to speak with your doctor to rule out any more serious conditions.
The causes of hemorrhoids most commonly are pressure and straining; typically from bowel movements or pregnancy. Other contributing factors include aging, heredity, chronic constipation or diarrhea and faulty bowel function.
In most cases with mild symptoms, increasing fluids and fiber in the diet, soaking the hemorrhoid in plain warm water for 10 minutes at a time and topical medications can relieve some of the pain and swelling. Hemorrhoids that do not respond to these treatments may need to be removed. There are several ways your physician can remove a troublesome hemorrhoid.
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