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What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are inflamed veins in the lower rectum or anus. The condition typically occurs when the vein walls in the rectum or anus become so thin that the veins bulge or protrude. Hemorrhoids can occur internally (within the rectum) or externally (on the anus).

Hemorrhoids are not uncommon. In fact, almost three out of four adults will have hemorrhoids from time to time. In some instances, a blood clot will develop within a hemorrhoid (referred to as a thrombosed hemorrhoid) and may cause pain or discomfort. The board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Alliance specialize in treating hemorrhoids and other gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. To find care for this common concern, please contact a GI Alliance location in your area.

What causes hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids may be caused by a number of factors. Reasons a hemorrhoid might occur include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history of hemorrhoids
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Straining too hard to perform a physical activity (like lifting weights)
  • Chronic constipation
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Aging

What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?

Symptoms of hemorrhoids vary depending on the location of the hemorrhoids, but commonly include:

  • Pain during bowel movements
  • Itching around the anus
  • Bright red blood in the stool
  • Pain and/or swelling around the anus
  • Pink, blue, or purple bumps that protrude around the anus
  • Pain around the anus while performing physical activities

How are hemorrhoids treated?

In some cases, smaller hemorrhoids may resolve on their own after a few days. Your GI Alliance gastroenterologist may prescribe medications or suggest home remedies to relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids. When larger hemorrhoids occur, however, medical intervention may be needed to remove or treat the hemorrhoid. Common hemorrhoid treatments include:

  • A high fiber diet
  • Maintaining a clean anal region
  • Avoiding the use of dry toilet paper
  • Ice packs to reduce anal swelling
  • Topical cream
  • Draining a clotted hemorrhoid (thrombosis)
  • Rubber band ligation
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Coagulation
  • Surgery
  • Hemorrhoid stapling
  • Tub baths several times a day in warm water
  • Treating constipation or the cause of the hemorrhoids
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Prompt treatment for hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids typically do not lead to serious health concerns, but they can be bothersome and interfere with your quality of life. If you are in need of treatment for hemorrhoids, the specialists at GI Alliance are here to help. Please contact a GI Alliance location near you to connect with a gastroenterology specialist.

Is it possible to prevent the development of hemorrhoids?

There are certain factors that can reduce the risk of hemorrhoids — or at minimum, decrease their effects. This may involve lifestyle modifications like:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Consume a high-fiber diet (fresh veggies and fruits, a variety of whole grains, and more, as well as a fiber dietary supplement if you struggle to get enough fiber)
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time
  • Drink adequate amounts of water
  • Use the restroom when you feel the urge, as opposed to waiting for another time
Can a nonprescription cream address hemorrhoids?

Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams can be a great method to decrease common hemorrhoid symptoms such as inflammation and itching. In some cases, they might even help address small hemorrhoids. However, they usually do not provide the most effective treatment option. Because over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams don't treat the root cause of hemorrhoids, the condition will likely return without professional medical care.

Are there specific foods you should avoid eating if you have a hemorrhoid?

Hemorrhoids are often caused by issues like ongoing constipation, so implementing specific dietary changes may be ideal if you have this GI concern. Our gastrointestinal physicians might suggest that you avoid food items containing little to no fiber. This includes foods like potato chips, cheese, ice cream, fast food, and processed foods. During your appointment, we can provide additional details on food items to avoid when you have hemorrhoids.

How long does it take for a hemorrhoid to go away?

The type and severity of hemorrhoid that is present will generally determine the length of time it might last. With respect to internal hemorrohoids, mild cases often resolve within a few days to one week. Bigger hemorrhoids, on the contrary, may take a few weeks to resolve or require professional medical treatment. External hemorrhoids usually need to be treated by a physician. Such treatment options could include dietary and lifestyle modifications, using over-the-counter medications, a procedure like hemorrhoid banding (rubber band ligation), a surgical procedure, or another form of care.

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