Need relief for painful, itching hemorrhoids? Better yet, how would you like
to prevent flare-ups in the first place?
About 10 million Americans suffer from hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins
in the rectum or around the anus. External hemorrhoids more commonly cause
symptoms of pain and itching when irritated. Internal hemorrhoids generally are
painless but can cause bleeding. "They can cause bright red rectal
bleeding, but if you have bleeding, don't assume it's hemorrhoids," says
Patricia Raymond, MD, of Chesapeake, Va. Colorectal cancer can also cause
rectal bleeding, so you need to see your doctor to rule out cancer or other
serious causes of rectal bleeding.
WebMD talked to experts about the best ways to prevent and treat
Veins can swell inside the anal canal to
form internal hemorrhoids. Or they can swell near the opening of the anus to
form external hemorrhoids. You can have both types at the same time. The
symptoms and treatment depend on which type you have.
Too much pressure on the
veins in the pelvic and rectal area causes hemorrhoids.
tissue inside the anus fills with blood to help control bowel movements. If you
strain to move stool, the increased pressure causes the veins in this tissue to
swell and stretch. This can cause hemorrhoids.
constipation also may lead to straining and can increase pressure on veins in
the anal canal.
Pregnant women can get hemorrhoids during the
last 6 months of pregnancy. This is because of increased pressure on the blood
vessels in the pelvic area. Straining to push the baby out during labor can
make hemorrhoids worse.
Rectal pain. It may be
painful to clean the anal area.
With internal hemorrhoids, you may see bright red streaks of blood on toilet
paper or bright red blood in the toilet bowl after you have a normal bowel
movement. You may see blood on the surface of the stool.
hemorrhoids often are small, swollen veins in the wall of the anal canal. But
they can be large, sagging veins that bulge out of the anus all the time. They
can be painful if they bulge out and are squeezed by the anal muscles. They may
be very painful if the blood supply to the hemorrhoid is cut off. If
hemorrhoids bulge out, you also may see mucus on the toilet paper or
External hemorrhoids can get irritated and clot under the skin, causing a hard
painful lump. This is called a thrombosed, or clotted, hemorrhoid.
How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?
Your doctor can
tell if you have hemorrhoids by asking about your past health and doing a
You may not need many tests at first, especially
if you are younger than 50 and your doctor thinks that your rectal bleeding is
caused by hemorrhoids. Your doctor may just
examine your rectum with a gloved finger. Or your doctor may use a short,
lighted scope to look inside the rectum.