What are Hemorroids?
Hemorrhoids are typically caused by repeated or constant pressure to the anal or rectal veins. As pressure increases, blood begins to pool, causing veins to swell. The swollen vein(s) begins to stretch the surrounding tissues, creating a hemorrhoid. Although hemorrhoids can be painful, they are not serious and are quite common. Between 60 and 70 per cent of Canadians will develop hemorrhoids at some point in their lifetime. At least 50% of people over the age of 50 will experience hemorrhoids and there is an increased likelihood for pregnant women to develop hemorrhoids.
There are two types of hemorrhoids, internal (found in the lower rectum) and external (found under the skin around the anus). It is possible to experience external and internal hemorrhoids at the same time.
Internal hemorrhoids are found inside the lining of the rectum. You cannot feel them unless they are unusually large. Typically small and painless, internal hemorrhoids can produce streaks of bright red blood, which you will see on toilet paper or on stool after a bowel movement. Some people may experience larger internal hemorrhoids, which sag and bulge from the anus, these are called prolapsed hemorrhoids. These larger hemorrhoids can cause some irritation, but often tend to recede into the rectum and resolve without treatment.
External hemorrhoids are found beneath the skin of the anus and can be painful. External hemorrhoids looks and feel like a hard lump in which occurs when the blood clots and within a protruding external hemorrhoid. This can result in a painful thrombosed external hemorrhoid which looks bluish-purple and can bleed, but again tends to clear up on its own within a week or two.
How can I prevent hemorrhoids?
To help protect you against developing hemorrhoids, try incorporating the following lifestyle changes:
Don’t hold it: Use the washroom when you have the urge to go, avoid straining, prolonged sitting or reading on the toilet, and don’t rush; all these will help avoid the build-up of pressure.
Inactivity: Avoid sitting or standing still for long periods of time, inappropriately lifting heavy items or holding your breath while lifting. This increases pressure on the anus causing local blood vessels to swell. If pregnant, sleeping on your side can reduce pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis, preventing hemorrhoids from increasing.