Find out how to treat hemorrhoids—and keep them from coming back
Also known as piles—swollen veins near the anus and inside the rectum—hemorrhoids are so common they’re a problem for more than 75 per cent of people aged 45 and older. The most commonly noticed symptom is blood in the stool, but hemorrhoids can also cause itching, discomfort, swelling or a hard, hurting lump. The problem is caused by pressure on the rectal veins because of constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy or excessive straining during bowel movements. (Here are 11 surprising home remedies for constipation.)
To lower your risk, go to the toilet soon after you feel the urge. Waiting too long lets the stool harden, which could make it tougher to pass. Once you start a bowel movement, don’t rush to complete it. Finally, take in plenty of fibre and fluids, both of which make the process go more smoothly. Fibre is best gained from fruits, vegetables, whole grains. If necessary, you can take a supplement, but make sure to drink plenty of water when choosing this option.
If you do develop hemorrhoids, know that they’re usually not dangerous. That said, ask a doctor to rule out colorectal cancer if the bleeding is heavy or long-lasting. You should also consult if you notice other changes to the colour or consistency of your stool, if you develop a lump that doesn’t go away or if you experience dizziness or faintness. A GP could use a digital exam or a scope to distinguish between colorectal cancer and internal hemorrhoids.
Usually, the hemorrhoids subside within a week or two. While waiting, you may find relief in over-the-counter ointments or suppositories, which should reduce the pain and itching. It could also help to take painkillers, soak in warm baths or use wet towelettes instead of toilet paper. To avoid aggravating the veins with any extra straining during this time, eat a high-fibre diet or take stool softeners. (Don’t miss these 30 painless ways to increase dietary fibre.)
Dr. Donato Altomare, a colorectal surgeon teaching at the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy, suggests taking off even more pressure by defecating in a squatting position. (A small footstool in front of the toilet could help you do so.)
If the intensity or duration of the pain is too much, seek professional help. A doctor could tackle hemorrhoids with quick procedures such as heating them with a laser or cutting off their circulation by tying a rubber band around their base. Stubborn or large hemorrhoids may require surgery, but this is rarely necessary. “If you look after your bowel, your hemorrhoids will usually look after themselves,” Altomare says.
Want to be sure to avoid surgery? Check out these eight habits you didn’t know could cause hemorrhoids.