What Are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. They form when increased pressure in the lower rectum causes veins to swell. This can occur due to straining during a bowel movement, pregnancy, or any other time increased pressure is placed on these veins. Hemorrhoids can be both internal and external.

Common Symptoms of Hemorrhoids

The most common symptom of hemorrhoids is rectal bleeding. When internal hemorrhoids become enlarged, they can protrude outside the anus, resulting in an uncomfortable bulge. This can cause bright red streaks on toilet paper. Other symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • Pain and irritation in and around the anus
  • Itching
  • Leakage of mucus or feces
  • Anal swelling
  • Difficulty sitting

Causes of Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are often caused by an increase in pressure in the lower rectum. This pressure can be a result of constipation, pregnancy, childbirth, straining to pass a stool, sitting on the toilet for too long, heavy lifting, or even excessive coughing. Anything that puts pressure on the veins in the rectum can cause them to swell and become inflamed.

Risk Factors for Hemorrhoids

Certain factors can increase your chances of developing hemorrhoids. These risk factors include:

  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • A diet low in fiber
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Family history of hemorrhoids
  • Pregnancy
  • Aging

Treatment for Hemorrhoids

Treatment for hemorrhoids will depend on the severity of the condition. Often, dietary and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms and prevent further complications. For example, eating more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help reduce constipation and increase bowel movement regularity, relieving pressure on the veins in the anal area. In addition, drinking more water can help prevent dehydration, which can lead to constipation.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms and decrease inflammation. These medications may include topical creams and/or ointments, oral medications, and suppositories. Surgery may also be necessary for severe cases of hemorrhoids. This usually involves removing the enlarged veins from the rectum.