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Last updated: March 23, 2021

Treating Hemorrhoids

Treating Hemorrhoids

If you have ever experienced itching, bleeding, or pain during bowel movements, you may have hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are common in both men and women. While they affect about 1 in 20 Americans, more than half of adults older than 50 years old experience this condition. This article will cover the types of hemorrhoids, what causes them, and how to treat them.

Types of hemorrhoids

Everyone has the pillow-like clusters of vein in the lower rectum, anus, and externally. Did you know that hemorrhoids are merely varicose veins? Those vessels, also known as piles, become swollen and distended, thus becoming what we know as hemorrhoids.

Symptoms

Some may not even notice they have hemorrhoids, while for others, the symptoms of hemorrhoids are quite obvious. Many hemorrhoids present without pain or itching. However, here are some of the typical signs and symptoms.

Causes

By knowing the cause, you may be able to prevent these irritations. Some things may cause hemorrhoids to occur or worsen, such as:

The angle matters when you are trying to have a bowel movement — squatting decreases straining and excessive time in the restroom. A stool that puts you into the squatting position will minimize the likelihood of getting hemorrhoids.

Exam

Your healthcare provider may inspect your anus. If evaluating internal hemorrhoids, they may perform a digital rectal exam to check for tenderness, blood, lumps, or masses.

There are rare times when symptoms are severe and they need to rule out other things like anal fissures, polyps, or tumors. If necessary, they may refer you for a procedure to diagnose the hemorrhoids. For both cases, they can be performed outpatient and without anesthesia.

Treatment

Treating hemorrhoids includes dietary adjustments, over-the-counter (OTC) creams and suppositories, and in the worst case scenario, surgery. There are many options other than medications to alleviate the pain, burning, and itching symptoms. Comfort measures include:

Diet

Keep stools soft by staying hydrated and eating high-fiber foods like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Fiber gummies or psyllium husk will help, too. Start slowly and increase dietary fiber to about 25 grams daily. Both fiber and fluid soften the stool and make it easier to pass.

Supplements

Beyond a fiber supplement, you may consider adding other supplements to prevent hemorrhoids from becoming a problem.

OTC medications

These drugs do not require a prescription, but can bring welcome relief from troublesome hemorrhoids. You can take analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen with any creams, toners, or suppositories. With any of the below topical agents, make sure to wash hands before applying.

Surgery

Removing the hemorrhoids can be done in many different surgical methods.

Warning Signs

The brighter red the stool, the closer the bleed is to the exit! For those having bright red bleeding, it’s usually due to hemorrhoids. However, stool that is black and looks like coffee grounds is typically higher up in the GI tract. Notify the primary care provider because coffee ground stools are a worrisome side effect.

The Bottom Line

For some, hemorrhoids are a mild nuisance, while for others hemorrhoids can cause significant distress. There are many factors that put you at an increased risk for hemorrhoids. Luckily, there are a number of ways to treat them and prevent them from reoccurring.

Written by on Feb 9, 2021

Caitlin Goodwin MSN, CNM is a board-certified Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with more than 12 years of experience as a nurse. She currently works as a Certified Nurse-Midwife for the Cleveland Clinic.

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