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Hemorrhoid Help: 7 Things You Should Know

No one likes talking about hemorrhoids, but they’re obviously a problem for a lot of us: In 2012, more people searched Google for information on hemorrhoids than any other health condition.

That’s not really surprising, considering that the National Institutes of Health says half of all Americans over the age of 50 have hemorrhoids. And 75 percent of people will suffer from them at some point in their lives. (Women often get them during pregnancy and after childbirth.)

So what exactly are hemorrhoids? They’re basically varicose veins of the tush. The veins in the anal area and lower rectum become swollen and inflamed – often from constipation, straining during bowel movements and too much sitting, among other things. Unfortunately, hemorrhoids are more likely as we age because tissues stretch and don’t provide as much support to the veins.

There are two kinds of hemorrhoids, explains Herbert Lerner, M.D., medical officer with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which evaluates products and devices used to treat and remove hemorrhoids. There are internal ones that you can’t see or feel, but can cause bleeding, and external ones that are at the anal opening and cause a lot of itching, pain and discomfort.

Over-the-counter creams can provide temporary relief, but they’re not a cure, Lerner says. They also shouldn’t be used for more than a week without a doctor’s approval because they can cause the skin to thin and other side effects.

Hemorrhoid symptoms can also include bright, red blood smears on toilet tissue, stool or in the toilet bowl. If the blood is thick and dark, however, it could indicate a more serious problem, such as colorectal or anal cancer, and you should check with your doctor.

 Here are seven things you need to know about preventing or treating hemorrhoids:

 

Photo: woofiegrrl /flickr