If you are one of the 10 million Americans, or part of the 4.4% of the global population that suffer with hemorrhoids you are not alone. This disorder, that leads to rectal bleeding, pain and extreme discomfort can be isolating and embarrassing. If you are suffering from hemorrhoids, asking questions and seeking treatment can be hard. It is estimated that out of the millions of people that suffer from either internal hemorrhoids or external hemorrhoids only about a third seek treatment. If you are one of these many people, seeking information and asking questions can be crucial in your road to recovery. Here are some “need to know” facts and possible treatments that may help to clear up your hemorrhoids.

What causes hemorrhoids?
Believe it or not, hemorrhoids are completely normal cushions in your anal canal that are found in almost every individual. However, the term “hemorrhoids” when used by healthcare professionals refers to that section of tissue when it becomes pathologic, or problem causing.

The majority of symptoms secondary to hemorrhoids are due to the enlargement of the anal tissue. This enlargement, usually due to decreased circulation, straining, and constipation, causes the blood vessels in that area to dilate and become bigger. This engorgement puts strain on the anal muscles and eventually leads to anal tissue bulging through the muscular wall into your anal cavity (called a prolapse). When this occurs, it damages the lining of your anal cavity, which leads to the majority of the bleeding and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.

Certain hemorrhoids like thrombosed hemorrhoids are especially painful. Thrombosed hemorrhoids are large external hemorrhoids that are caused by blood clots. Although thrombosed hemorrhoids are not dangerous and usually heal themselves after the blood clot is reabsorbed by the body, they’re still painful.

What are common symptoms of hemorrhoids?
Anal bleeding and discomfort are the most common symptoms of hemorrhoids, but symptoms may vary greatly from person to person. In an external hemorrhoid, the most common symptom is a painful mass at the rectum.

How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?
If you are experiencing the symptoms above, and you want to see if you are suffering from hemorrhoids, it is important to see a physician. When deciding if you are suffering from hemorrhoids, the doctor will take an extensive history of your symptoms, a blood test, and will most likely perform an anal examination. This examination can vary from a digital anal exam to an anoscopy (using a scope to see the inside of the anus). For external hemorrhoids, an exam procedure may be as simple as looking for swelling. These physical examinations are important to ruling out other gastrointestinal disorders.

Is there a treatment for hemorrhoids?
After you have been diagnosed with internal hemorrhoids or external hemorrhoids, you are presented with a wide array of treatment options depending on the severity of your hemorrhoids. With mild cases, hemorrhoid treatment usually involves hot baths, taking a stool softener, and using topical steroids or a topical ointment to reduce the side effects associated with hemorrhoids. This works well as an internal hemorrhoid or external hemorrhoid treatment. For moderate hemorrhoids, rubber band ligation is most common treatment. Rubber band ligation involves using an instrument similar to a rubber band to tie off and eventually remove the hemorrhoid tissue. For advanced hemorrhoids, or for hemorrhoids that do not respond to other less invasive treatments, surgical removal of the hemorrhoid may be necessary.

When deciding on how to take action with your hemorrhoids you must weigh the risks and benefits that come with the different procedures. Although surgery is one of the more effective methods of removing hemorrhoids and carries the lowest risk of recurrence, it comes with a moderate risk of infection. Oftentimes warm compresses are sufficient for external hemorrhoid treatment.

Is there anything that I can do to stop my hemorrhoids from recurring and help to clear up my hemorrhoids at home?

Although they cannot be substituted for seeking medical help, there are many natural remedies that can help you clear up your internal and external hemorrhoids, lessen swelling and prevent future recurrences of hemorrhoids.

Unfortunately, if you have experienced hemorrhoids, there is up to a 50% chance that they will come back. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to be proactive at preventing future recurrences. Dr. Weil identifies dietary changes as crucial in preventing hemorrhoids. He recommends eating foods with less fiber and focusing your diet in fruits, vegetables and whole grain. He also recommends drinking plenty of water and exercising frequently. It’s amazing the diseases diet can cause.

If you are looking to take a supplement to help your hemorrhoids, Dr. Weil suggests the use of Triphala, a blend that contains herbs that help to strengthen the bowel muscles. You can find Triphala at most health food stores and online through Himalaya Herbal Healthcare. This supplement has been known to address many of the causes of internal and external hemorrhoids as well as general swelling. Applying aloe vera gel to the area is also suggested to help reduce inflammation caused by hemorrhoids and promote healing.

Above all, don’t be embarrassed if you have hemorrhoids. If you are suffering from hemorrhoids, you are not alone. This problem affects millions of people worldwide and is commonly seen in doctor’s offices around America. Seeking help for your hemorrhoids and taking steps to reduce your risk for hemorrhoids is the best way to reduce the pervasiveness of your hemorrhoids.