Hemorrhoids can be either internal or external. Hemorrhoids are enlarged, painful veins in your rectum. They are like the varicose veins you might see on a person’s legs. More than half of all Americans over age thirty will develop hemorrhoids at some time in their lives.
Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can develop from any increase in pressure in the veins in the lower rectum. Common sources of pressure are constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy, obesity, and especially frequent straining with bowel movements. Eating a poor diet leads to constipation, which can cause straining on the toilet.
Increase your fiber intake—especially whole ground flax seeds. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help prevent painful hemorrhoids. If you aren’t willing to make dietary changes, or dietary changes don’t appear to be helping, then consider adding psyllium seed husks to your diet. They are available in a variety of forms in drugstores and health-food stores.
Some people have success with an herbal mixture called triphala for constipation. From the Ayurvedic tradition, it can be purchased in capsules in health food stores. With any of these methods, follow the dosage on the label. Also drink plenty of water and get regular exercise.
Many women experience hemorrhoids for the first time during pregnancy. The pressure of the fetus in the woman’s abdomen, coupled with changes in hormone levels, cause the hemorrhoid vessels to enlarge, and during actual childbirth, the pressure on these vessels keeps increasing. These are usually temporary, and over-the-counter treatment is safe to use.
The swelling and pain of hemorrhoids can make life miserable. Over-the-counter lotions and ointments work for some people. Old-fashioned witch hazel is soothing and is fairly inexpensive. Another inexpensive treatment option is to sit in a sitz bath of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. You can sit in the bathtub or in a special basin you place on top of the toilet. Make sure that the bath water is warm but not too hot, or it will irritate your skin even more. Adding ingredients like soap, Epsom salt, bath oil, or anything else may irritate the hemorrhoids.
Medical Treatment for Hemorrhoids
In some cases, hemorrhoids are very painful or they bleed excessively. When this occurs, medical treatment is necessary. Your treatment options vary, but include: sclerotherapy (where chemicals are injected into the hemorrhoids), infrared coagulation (a special device used to destroy internal hemorrhoids), banding (a rubber band is placed around and strangles the hemorrhoid), and hemorrhoidectomy (surgical removal).