What are Hemorrhoids?

The blood vessels that are positioned inside the smooth muscles of the anus and rectum are called hemorrhoids and they intersect where the small arteries join the veins.

Internal hemorrhoids are located in the upper portion of the anus and external hemorrhoids are situated in the lower region. When pressure builds up in these blood vessels, they fill with blood and become swollen. Common reasons for swollen hemorrhoids include straining during a bowel movement, pregnancy, diarrhea and obesity.

What are the Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?

Individuals who have swollen hemorrhoids often have pain or itching in the rectal area. Undergarments can rub against the hemorrhoids and cause the itching sensation to worsen. Sitting down will also irritate hemorrhoids and cause them to burn or throb. Individuals may also notice the presence of fresh blood after having a bowel movement. Swollen hemorrhoids frequently emerge from the anus and when this occurs, individuals may feel a bulge in the rectal area.

When a blood clot forms on the inside of an external hemorrhoid it will have a blue or purple hue. This condition is known as a thrombosis and it will cause severe pain in the hemorrhoid.

Hemorrhoids Causes

There are many causes behind hemorrhoids. Many different conditions can cause strain and/or excess pressure on the rectum, and this is what leads to this condition. One of the most common of these is pregnancy. The weight of a baby during pregnancy can place enormous pressure on the rectum, and this can cause this condition. Straining to pass hard stools is another way that hemorrhoids develop. Severe, prolonged coughing can do the same. Heavy lifting is another way to strain the rectum. Extra pressure can be put on the rectum by sitting for long periods. Having chronic constipation or diarrhea can further strain the rectum. Obesity can also put excess pressure on the area. Eating a diet too low in fiber as well as engaging in anal intercourse can both cause hemorrhoids. Getting older is a risk factor, as the tissues around the rectum can become stretched and weaken as you age.

How are Hemorrhoids Treated?

Various forms of self-treatment at home can help to relieve irritating hemorrhoid symptoms, such as itching, burning and soreness. These include soaking in a warm bath,  taking stool softening medications and using over the counter hemorrhoid cream. Some topical creams contain a numbing anesthetic that reduces the pain and burning.

Treatment for internal hemorrhoids that protrude from the anus includes an injection to harden the hemorrhoid or placing a rubber band around the hemorrhoid, which cuts off the supply of blood. If necessary, individuals can have their hemorrhoids surgically removed through laser surgery or a hemorrhoidectomy.

Hemorrhoids Prevention

To avoid developing hemorrhoids, begin with a diet that is high in fiber. This will help you to avoid constipation and to not have to strain when having a bowel movement. Adding a fiber supplement to your diet can help, as can eating more fruit and vegetables, as well as beans and bran cereals. Taking a stool softener to avoid constipation can also allow you to prevent straining. Drink more water to help keep your stools from being too hard. During pregnancy, it is not always possible to avoid developing hemorrhoids. However, taking regular walking breaks instead of sitting too often can help.

Another prevention method is to go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge for a bowel movement. Waiting too long can put extra pressure on the rectum. Get plenty of exercise to help prevent constipation. This can also help to keep your weight at a healthy range. Avoiding obesity can help you to prevent hemorrhoids.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 10, 2018