A: Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the anus or lower part of the rectum. This is a common condition and can be painful. They can also itch and bleed. Internal hemorrhoids appear just inside the anus, at the start of the rectum. External hemorrhoids occur at the anal opening and may hang outside the anus. It’s possible to experience both internal and external hemorrhoids at the same time.
Q: What causes hemorrhoids?
A: Hemorrhoids happen when there is increased pressure in the veins of the anus, which causes them to bulge and expand. The most common cause is straining during bowel movements, pregnancy, obesity and childbirth. They may result from constipation, sitting for long periods of time or an anal infection. In some cases they may be caused by other diseases, such as liver cirrhosis.
Q: What is a sitz bath?
A: Regular sitz baths, or “sits baths” as some people say, are often recommended to ease the discomfort caused by hemorrhoids. A sitz bath is one where you sit in warm water covering your buttocks and hips – about three to four inches deep. You can use either a bathtub, bucket or a plastic sitz. Plastic sitz baths, which fit over a toilet, run about $10 to $15 at most drug stores.The water should be warm, but not warm enough to burn your skin. Only add salts or bath products if recommended by your doctor.
Q: What other precautions can I take to reduce my risk for hemorrhoids in the future?
A: A high fiber diet and increasing water consumption is recommended to reduce the risk of hemorrhoids. Adding exercise to your daily routine, walking regularly, as well as increasing dietary fiber intake and drinking plenty of water are all ways to help produce soft and easy-to-pass stools. Making changes to daily bathroom habits can also help prevent hemorrhoids. Be sure to empty bowels as soon as possible after the urge occurs, and don’t strain or sit too long on the toilet during a bowel movement. Losing weight can also help, since obesity can lead to the development of hemorrhoids.
Q: How long is the recovery time if I get surgery?
A: Recovery times vary depending on the procedure or treatment. Visit the Treatments and Procedures section for more information.
Q: Are procedures to remove hemorrhoids painful?
A: Since some procedures are performed with general anesthesia, the areas of concern are typically numbed. Afterwards, there is some pain as the anus tightens and relaxes, and when the hemorrhoid actually falls off there may be some pain as well. Patients may be given medication to relieve any pain.
Q: Are there any risks associated with surgery?
A: Post-procedure, patients may experience trouble urinating and any remaining hemorrhoids may become more inflamed. Infection and bleeding are rare, but possible. Patients should call their doctor if they develop a fever, if pain worsens, if they experience excessive bleeding, or if they are unable to urinate or have a bowel movement.
Q: How common are hemorrhoids?
A: Hemorrhoids are very common in both men and women, and, in fact, about half of all people have had hemorrhoids by age 50.
Q: If I have hemorrhoids, do I need to have them removed or can I treat them at home?
A: Patients may be able to relieve the itching and burning of hemorrhoids at home by sitting in a lukewarm bath, and for further relief, alternating moist heat with ice several times a day. Limit extended periods of time standing and use over-the-counter creams and medicines as recommended by your doctor. Use scent and dye-free toilet paper and avoid scratching the irritated area.However, when at home treatments aren’t enough, your health care provider may recommend a minimally invasive treatment. No matter the severity of your hemorrhoid symptoms, it’s important to consult a doctor to rule out anything more serious.
Q: Do hemorrhoids indicate something more serious?
A: If you suspect that you have hemorrhoids, it is important to see a doctor to rule out anything more serious because the symptoms of colorectal cancer and other digestive disorders can be similar to those of hemorrhoids. However, developing hemorrhoids in no way indicates an increased risk for cancer.