Despite being a common complaint, many people are embarrassed by having hemorrhoids, and some patients are reluctant to seek medical treatment. At GastroIntestinal Specialists, we see many patients with hemorrhoids. You don’t have to be ashamed of having hemorrhoids, and more importantly, you do not have to live with the discomfort of hemorrhoids. To help start the conversation about hemorrhoids, we’re answering some of the most frequently asked questions.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum or anus. These inflamed and often painful veins have many causes, including straining during bowel movements, a low-fiber diet, constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy, age, lifting heavy objects or sitting for too long, especially on the toilet.
There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids are located inside the rectum and anus, while external hemorrhoids form under the skin around the anus. It is possible to have both types at the same time.
How common are hemorrhoids?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, hemorrhoids affect 1 in 20 Americans. Hemorrhoids are more common in older adults, with half of adults over age 50 having hemorrhoids.
What are the symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Symptoms depend on the type of hemorrhoids you have. External hemorrhoids can cause anal itching, rectal pain, aching, burning and painful lumps near the anus. Internal hemorrhoids cause rectal bleeding, along with pain and discomfort if you experience a prolapse.
How do I know if I have hemorrhoids or something else?
There are other conditions that cause similar symptoms to hemorrhoids, particularly rectal bleeding which can be a sign of an anal fissure, inflammatory bowel disease or bowel cancer. It is best to see a doctor for correct diagnosis and treatment.
How long do hemorrhoids last?
Small hemorrhoids may resolve with or without treatment within a few days, but large hemorrhoids may take significantly longer, and cause pain and discomfort. If you are uncomfortable or if the hemorrhoid does not clear up quickly, schedule an appointment to see a doctor.
When should I seek medical treatment for hemorrhoids?
You should schedule an appointment with a doctor if you have bleeding from your rectum or if symptoms have not improved after one week of at-home treatment. Patients experiencing severe bleeding or anal pain, especially with abdominal pain, diarrhea or fever, should seek immediate medical attention.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
At GastroIntestinal Specialists, we offer several effective treatments for hemorrhoids at our specialized clinic, the Hemorrhoid Center of Louisiana. One of the fastest and most effective procedures is hemorrhoid banding with the CRH O’Regan System®. This procedure is 99% effective and completely painless. It takes less than a minute to perform, and there is no post-procedure pain or recovery time. Unlike home remedies that only provide relief, it fully treats hemorrhoids.
Other minimally invasive procedures offered at the Hemorrhoid Center include sclerotherapy, infrared coagulation and Ultroid® non-surgical hemorrhoid treatment. A very small percentage of patients who do not respond to treatment may require surgery. A hemorrhoidectomy or hemorrhoid stapling may be recommended in these cases.
What OTC or at-home treatments can provide relief from hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids can be treated at home with a number of lifestyle and over-the-counter remedies, or they can be used alongside medical treatment.
- Stool softeners or fiber supplements
- Drinking more water
- Increasing dietary fiber
- OTC pain relievers
- Hemorrhoid creams or ointments
- Soaking in the bath (called a sitz bath)
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
Can hemorrhoids be prevented?
Healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent hemorrhoids, and they include:
- Eating high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Exercising regularly.
- Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting.
- Not straining during bowel movements.
- Addressing constipation.
Do hemorrhoids increase the risk of bowel cancer?
No, hemorrhoids do not increase your risk for developing bowel cancer. However, rectal bleeding can be a symptom of bowel cancer, so patients with this symptom should make an appointment with their doctor. The American Cancer Society also recommends bowel cancer screening for all people beginning at age 45.
GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., treat multiple conditions and diseases of the GI tract, and we offer specialized treatment for hemorrhoids at our Hemorrhoid Center of Louisiana. To schedule an appointment, call (318) 631-9121 or click here.