Johns Hopkins Health Alert
How to Soothe the Pain of Hemorrhoids
Common and often very painful, hemorrhoids are clusters of swollen veins in and around the anus and rectum. More than half of all Americans develop hemorrhoids by age 50, and men and women are at equal risk. In fact, the condition is so ubiquitous that hemorrhoid sufferers have their own patron saint, St. Fiacre.
Although the exact cause of hemorrhoids is not fully understood, they are thought to result from increased pressure on the veins in the anus or rectum. Hemorrhoids usually can be managed with lifestyle and self-care measures, but surgical removal is required in some cases.
There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external.
- Internal hemorrhoids are located in the lower portion of the rectum and cannot be seen from outside the rectum.
- External hemorrhoids are visible beneath the skin around the anus.
A number of factors increase the risk of hemorrhoids or can make them worse.
- Hemorrhoids are more common with age, peaking at around age 65.
- Hemorrhoids are also associated with obesity, pregnancy and childbirth, liver disease, prostate enlargement, chronic cough and diarrhea -- all of which can increase pressure on veins in the anus and rectum.
- Contrary to popular belief, heavy lifting, long periods of sitting and chronic constipation do not lead to hemorrhoids, although these factors can irritate existing hemorrhoids.
- Excessive rubbing or cleaning of the anal area also can irritate an existing condition.
If you have mild hemorrhoid symptoms, lifestyle and self-care measures are frequently effective. To treat constipation that can exacerbate symptoms, you should increase your fiber and fluid intake to make stools bulkier, softer and easier to pass. Also, you should not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement and should try not to strain when passing stool. Regular physical activity also may be helpful.
Although research has not shown that over-the-counter suppositories, ointments or hydrocortisone creams are effective in the treatment of hemorrhoids, many people report that they are beneficial. You may also get relief from pads containing witch hazel or a numbing agent.
Posted in Digestive Health on May 28, 2012
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