The human body can be host to plenty of unpleasant conditions, many of which people just don't like to talk about. One of the most common unspoken problems is hemorrhoids, which affect about 75 percent of people at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because of this condition's embarrassing nature, many people are hesitant to seek treatment or look into some fairly simple preventive measures. Well, it's time to break the ice. It may be a little awkward, but we need to talk about hemorrhoids.
So, What Exactly Are They?
Technically speaking, everyone has hemorrhoids. They're simply cushions made of tiny blood vessels that line the rectum and anus. The condition that most people are referring to, however, occurs when these clusters become irritated, inflamed, and/or distended.
There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. The internal variety is more common and often goes unnoticed, typically forming inside the body without causing pain. They may produce small amounts of bright-red blood in your stool, which warrants seeing your doctor.
External hemorrhoids are a more serious matter. These can be extremely painful because they form under the skin around the anus. The surrounding area becomes irritated as a result, and the skin may even begin to wear away. Clots may also form, adding to the pain and discomfort.
Both internal and external hemorrhoids can become prolapsed, meaning they protrude outward. If this happens, the condition can become even more painful and may lead to other complications.
Simple Prevention Methods
Getting a hemorrhoid is unpleasant, but the bright side? Prevention is fairly straightforward. It should be noted, however, that experts are divided on exactly what causes this condition. It seems anything that interferes with blood flow to or from the area can contribute to hemorrhoid development, including such causes as pregnancy, chronic constipation, and diarrhea.
Prevention must treat your overall digestive health, and the best place to start is with your fiber intake. Dietary fiber, which passes through your system undigested, softens stool and reduces stress on the rectum and anus. For similar reasons, it's important to make sure that you are properly hydrated. Moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise has also been shown to stimulate bowel function.
Finally, it must be said: Do not wait to go to the restroom when you feel the urge. Holding off for too long will increase stress and pressure on the rectum, which could irritate the blood vessels to the point of inflammation.
If you're dealing with a hemorrhoid, the exact course of treatment will vary based on its severity. Your doctor may recommend the above-mentioned prevention methods, because they can also relieve the symptoms of an existing hemorrhoid. Warm baths help reduce pain and swelling, and you can also use topical creams to temporarily soothe pain.
Typically, minor and moderate cases will clear up on their own. If this isn't true for you, however, your doctor may intervene using a rubber band ligation. This procedure cuts off blood flow to the hemorrhoid. Surgery is also possible in extreme instances.
Odds are, you'll deal with the discomfort of a hemorrhoid at some point. It doesn't have to be an embarrassing condition to discuss with your doctor, however, now that you understand how common it is. Even if you aren't excited about sharing your situation with others, it's better to be educated on prevention tactics — and willing to bring it up if you need help. The pain isn't worth the secrecy.