Hemorrhoids can be extremely painful and chronic for many people. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services:
- Prevalence: 75 percent of people older than 45 (2006)17
- Ambulatory care visits: 1.1 million (2009)6
- Hospitalizations: 266,000 (2010)5
- Mortality: 20 deaths (2010)10
- Prescriptions: 2 million (2004)8
What are hemorrhoids?Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine leading to the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the digestive tract where bowel contents leave the body.
External hemorrhoids are located under the skin around the anus. Internal hemorrhoids develop in the lower rectum. Internal hemorrhoids may protrude, or prolapse, through the anus. Most prolapsed hemorrhoids shrink back inside the rectum on their own. Severely prolapsed hemorrhoids may protrude permanently and require treatment.
What causes hemorrhoids?Swelling in the anal or rectal veins causes hemorrhoids. Several factors may cause this swelling, including
- chronic constipation or diarrhea
- straining during bowel movements
- sitting on the toilet for long periods of time
- a lack of fiber in the diet
Pregnancy can cause hemorrhoids by increasing pressure in the abdomen, which may enlarge the veins in the lower rectum and anus. For most women, hemorrhoids caused by pregnancy disappear after childbirth.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
At-home TreatmentsSimple diet and lifestyle changes often reduce the swelling of hemorrhoids and relieve hemorrhoid symptoms. Eating a high-fiber diet can make stools softer and easier to pass, reducing the pressure on hemorrhoids caused by straining.
Fiber is a substance found in plants. The human body cannot digest fiber, but fiber helps improve digestion and prevent constipation. Good sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. On average, Americans eat about 15 grams of fiber each day.3 The American Dietetic Association recommends 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men.3
Doctors may also suggest taking a bulk stool softener or a fiber supplement such as psyllium (Springreen Intestinal Cleanser) or methylcellulose (MSM Capsules).
Other changes that may help relieve hemorrhoid symptoms include
- drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water or other nonalcoholic fluids each day
- sitting in a tub of warm water for 10 minutes several times a day
- exercising to prevent constipation
- not straining during bowel movements
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