Hemorrhoid Fact Sheet

1. What is hemorrhoid?

Hemorrhoid is the swelling and inflammation of veins in the rectum and the anus.

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2. What are its symptoms?

The symptoms of external hemorrhoids, or hemorrhoids that occur outside of the anal opening include pain, burning sensation, itching, and swelling.

Internal hemorrhoids, or hemorrhoids that occur inside the rectum is usually not painful. Indeed, most people don't even know that they have them. However, when irritated, these hemorrhoids may cause rectal bleeding, seen as drops of blood on the stool, in the toilet bowl, on the toilet paper, or even on the undergarments.

Left untreated, an internal hemorrhoid can be pushed out of the anal opening in a condition called prolapsed hemorrhoid. The anal sphincter muscle can also go into spasm and trap the prolapsed hemorrhoid outside. This cuts off the supply of blood and create a strangulated hemorrhoid.

3. How can I tell if I have it?

Only your doctor can tell you for certain. There are a number of diseases and medical conditions that have similar symptoms, and can be mistaken for hemorrhoids.

If you notice bleeding of any amount, see your doctor as soon as possible - this may be an indication of colorectal cancer.

4. How prevalent is it?

Hemorrhoid is a very common condition. It's been estimated that approximately half of all Americans have hemorrhoids by the age of 50. However, only a small fraction of hemorrhoids sufferers seek medical attention - only about 525,000 people are treated annually. About 10 to 20% of these people have severe hemorrhoid conditions that require surgeries.

5. What causes it?

One of the most frequent causes of hemorrhoids is straining during bowel movement. Other factors include genetic predisposition, constipation, pregnancy, bad bathroom habits, Western diet, and bouts of diarrhea.

6. How do I prevent it?

Some things you can do to prevent hemorrhoid (or to prevent flare-ups of existing ones) include eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, avoiding laxatives, changing bad bathroom habits of reading on the toilet and straining, and exercising.

7. What are its treatment?

Fortunately, for many people, hemorrhoids heal by themselves. For these cases, temporary relief such as a warm sitz bath, cold compress, or topical analgesic creams may be sufficient.

For people with chronic hemorrhoids, natural supplements that strengthen vein walls may help in shrinking the hemorrhoids and providing lasting relief from the symptoms. Medical treatment of hemorrhoids include rubber band ligation, cryosurgery, sclerotherapy, infrared coagulation, and hemorrhoidectomy.

For those with severe cases, such as prolapsed and strangulated hemorrhoids, hemorrhoidectomy may be the only option.


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