Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum. They may result from straining during bowel movements or from increased pressure on these veins during pregnancy, among other causes. Hemorrhoids may be located inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids), or they may develop under the skin around the anus (external hemorrhoids). Symptoms include itching, discomfort, and bleeding.
Hemorrhoids are common ailments, affecting about half of adults by age 50. Fortunately, many effective options are available to treat hemorrhoids.
How is hemorrhoids diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for visible hemorrhoids. Additional exams, including a colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, may be done to rule out other causes of bleeding, especially in people age 40 or older.
How is hemorrhoids treated?
Simple 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.
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
Over-the-counter creams and suppositories may temporarily relieve the pain and itching of hemorrhoids. These treatments should only be used for a short time because long-term use can damage the skin.
If at-home treatments do not relieve symptoms, medical treatments may be needed.
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