As many as two-thirds of adults will have problems with hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. The problem is well documented, with mentions going back to Egypt in 1700 BC. If you have problems with persistent or painful hemorrhoids, we can help.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins near your lower rectum or your anus. In some cases, the walls of these veins get irritated and bulge, especially during defecation.

Typically, they are not serious and resolve within a few weeks. However, sometimes they can be especially large, painful and persistent. When this happens, they often need to be removed.

Types of hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are typically broken down into two types: internal and external hemorrhoids.

Internal hemorrhoids are typically far enough inside your rectum that you cannot see or feel them. They do not typically cause pain because there are few nerve endings in the area that sense pain. The only sign of internal hemorrhoids is typically bleeding.

External hemorrhoids can be more painful. They are located under the skin around your anus. This area has far more nerve endings that can sense pain, so hemorrhoids in this area are more likely to hurt.

In some cases, hemorrhoids prolapse. This happens when they get larger and bulge outside the sphincter of your anus. You may see them as pink moist bumps in the area.

Causes of hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids can have a number of causes. In some cases, they are caused by straining during bowel movements. In others, they are caused by excess weight from either obesity or pregnancy. They can also occur after constipation or a long bout of diarrhea that irritates the area.

Some people have a hereditary predisposition to developing hemorrhoids. If a family member has them, your chances of developing them are higher.

Symptoms of hemorrhoids

Symptoms of hemorrhoids can vary. Some people experience mild symptoms for a day or two while others experience more severe symptoms over a longer duration. These symptoms can include:

  • bright red blood in your stool. This may show up as blood on toilet paper or in the toilet bowl.
  • moist, pink bumps around the edge of your anus. You may also see them bulging out.
  • discomfort, pain or itching around your anus.

Some people do not experience hemorrhoids at all and may never notice that they have them.

Diagnosing hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids may be diagnosed during a physical exam. If you have internal hemorrhoids, you may have diagnostic tests done to rule out other conditions that may cause anal bleeding. A barium enema and X-ray can help your doctor get a look inside the entirety of your colon.

Hemorrhoids treatment

In some cases, hemorrhoids clear up on their own without treatment.

Sitz baths, which are warm baths about three inches deep, can help sooth the area. The water should be warm but not hot and the bath should be about 15 minutes in duration. This can reduce swelling in the area and relax muscles.

Cold packs can be held against tender tissue to relieve swelling and numb pain.

A hydrocortisone cream can stop itching and relieve swelling.

Incorporating more high fiber foods in your diet can make bowel movements easier and help hemorrhoids heal.

In some cases, hemorrhoids will not clear up without help. If they are large or persistent, surgical removal can provide relief. Rubber band ligation, for instance, cuts off a hemorrhoid's blood supply and causes it to shrink and fall off. Cauterization can remove the tissue and painlessly seal the end of a hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink and heal.

Many symptoms of hemorrhoids are also symptoms of more serious ailments. Talk to your doctor if painful symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks.