Internal hemorrhoids? External hemorrhoids? Bleeding? Pain? Hemorrhoids are the source of many questions (with some embarrassment) for those who suffer from them. Here’s what you need to know about hemorrhoids.
We all have them! Did you know that everyone has hemorrhoids? In fact, hemorrhoids are pockets full of blood vessels located in the anus. As long as they’re healthy, they’re not a problem. It’s quite the opposite in fact because they play an essential role in controlling bowel movements. However, too much abdominal pressure, causing blood to pool in the anus, can create swelling in this region (a bit like varicose veins) thus causing hemorrhoidal flare-ups. It’s not that rare either. In fact, close to 80% of Canadians suffer from hemorrhoidal disease at least once in their lifetime, and no fewer than 42% have recurrent symptoms (every 1-3 months).
Two types of hemorrhoids There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids are protrusions found inside the anus or rectum. Hemorrhoid flare-ups occur when there is too much pressure on the veins in the rectal area, causing these protrusions to swell. When this happens, the most common symptoms include bleeding, anal leakage, discomfort and a constant urge to go to the toilet. External hemorrhoids are generally easier to see, because they present as small visible swellings around the anus and can be detected by touch. Generally more sensitive than internal hemorrhoids, and when swollen they often itch and burn. In both cases, additional symptoms can be inflammation, redness and pain during bowel movements.
What are the most common causes? Hemorrhoidal flare-ups can be triggered by several factors. Some lifestyle habits can be the source of the problem: obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption or a diet containing insufficient fibre (which can cause constipation) are all important risk factors. Family medical history and age are also risk factors. For women, pregnancy and natural child birth can often trigger hemorrhoidal flare-ups.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure Fortunately, you can incorporate simple habits into your daily life to help prevent hemorrhoid flare-ups . A balanced diet containing sufficient fibre and physical exercise will help you achieve a healthy weight, reducing the risk of a flare-up and help with healthy bowel movements. Good hydration also helps in avoiding constipation, which is a major cause of hemorrhoids. Finally, try to reduce the amount of time you spend on the toilet (you can read the morning news after you have finished).