Contrary to popular belief, hemorrhoids are a common digestive problem that affects many patients. Hemorrhoids are also referred to as piles, and they are swollen veins that form inside the rectum or outside the anus. Some hemorrhoids may be extremely painful, while others may not even be noticeable. There are many myths about hemorrhoids, and many are not truthful. Read on to learn about five myths about hemorrhoids busted, as well as symptom and treatment information.
Myth #1: Hemorrhoids aren’t hereditary.
A few outside factors can contribute to the development of hemorrhoids, but there is a genetic component as well. If your parents suffered from hemorrhoids, it’s likely that you will also develop them. Hemorrhoids do tend to run in families. However, this isn’t the only contributing factor to hemorrhoids. Lifestyle choices and habits make a difference as well. Some of the other risk factors for hemorrhoids include:
- Having a sedentary job
- A low-fiber diet
- Consistent heavy lifting
- Spending too much time on the toilet
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Having chronic diarrhea or constipation
In addition, those who are pregnant have an increased risk of developing hemorrhoids as well, and about one-third of pregnant women will develop hemorrhoids at some point during their pregnancy. As the abdomen expands during pregnancy, it puts increased pressure on the pelvis, including the blood vessels in that area. This can cause hemorrhoids to form.
Myth #2: There Is Only One Kind of Hemorrhoid
It is a common misconception that there is only one type of hemorrhoid, when in fact, there are two types: internal and external. Both types are swollen veins, categorized as internal or external depending on where the hemorrhoids form.
Internal hemorrhoids form inside of the rectum. The rectum is at the very bottom of the digestive tract, and it connects the colon (also known as the large intestine) to the anus. These types of hemorrhoids may not be noticeable at first because internal hemorrhoids aren’t usually painful. However, these types of hemorrhoids can bleed, which should prompt you to make an appointment with your GI doctor. However, just like external hemorrhoids, there is a hemorrhoid treatment available to eradicate them.
External hemorrhoids form around the anus, just underneath the skin. Your anus is how you excrete waste from the colon. These types of hemorrhoids can be painful, and you may experience itching and irritation as well. These types of hemorrhoids can also bleed, and they may fill with blood. This can result in clotting, which is not a serious condition, but can be incredibly painful. Just as with internal hemorrhoids, there are treatment options available.
Both types of hemorrhoids can prolapse. This means that they bulge outside of the anus as they stretch. These hemorrhoids would be quite noticeable, and prolapsed hemorrhoids can be very painful.
Myth #3: Only older people get hemorrhoids.
You may associate hemorrhoids with being an older person’s disease, but this isn’t exactly true. Aging can be a risk factor for hemorrhoids, and they are a common problem for those between the ages of 45 and 65, but aging isn’t the only risk factor. Younger people can develop hemorrhoids also, particularly if they have a poor diet or strain when excreting waste. Having chronic constipation and diarrhea (at any age) is also a top risk factor for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are more common in older people because the tissue located between the rectum and anus can weaken, causing these swollen veins to form. But, it’s not uncommon to see cases of hemorrhoids in younger people, particularly pregnant women.
Myth #4: Hemorrhoids Are Always Painful.
Hemorrhoids are not always painful. In fact, many times internal hemorrhoids go unnoticed because they typically don’t cause pain unless the internal hemorrhoid prolapses. The most significant marker of having internal hemorrhoids is the risk of possible bleeding. If you see blood on toilet paper after wiping, you should contact your GI doctor immediately. While rectal bleeding is a symptom of internal hemorrhoids, it is also a symptom of other digestive diseases, some of which are serious.
Myth#5: Hemorrhoids are caused by spicy food.
While your diet does have some effect on whether you develop hemorrhoids or not, there is no evidence to support the myth that hemorrhoids are caused by spicy food. However, if you already have hemorrhoids and haven’t yet received treatment, you may want to avoid spicy food for the interim. This is because spicy food can cause other forms of gastrointestinal distress, and passing stools after eating spicy food may be uncomfortable for those that have hemorrhoids, particularly if you’re already experiencing pain.
What Are Some Other Myths About Hemorrhoids?
There are a few other myths about hemorrhoids that aren’t true. These include:
- They can be caused by sitting on hot or cold surfaces (false)
- There is no treatment available (false)
- Hemorrhoids are a symptom of cancer (false)
- You shouldn’t exercise if you have hemorrhoids (false)
Those who exercise regularly are at a decreased risk of developing hemorrhoids. If you do have hemorrhoids, exercise can help them heal. Try lighter exercises, such as yoga, swimming, or walking.
What Are Hemorrhoid Symptoms?
There are a few symptoms associated with hemorrhoids. When it comes to internal hemorrhoids, the number one symptom is rectal bleeding unless they are prolapsed. However, there aren’t many other symptoms of internal hemorrhoids because they usually aren’t felt. When it comes to external hemorrhoids, there are more symptoms, in part because they can be painful, such as:
- Pain around the anus
- Persistent itching around the anus
- Leakage from the anus
- Noticeable swelling around the anus
- Painful bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
If you have one or more of these symptoms, it may be time to make an appointment with your GI doctor.
What Are Hemorrhoid Treatments?
It’s a common myth that the only available treatment for hemorrhoids is surgery. That would be the last line of treatment offered by your GI doctor. The first line of treatment is soaking in a warm sitz bath for 10 to 15 minutes each day, followed by a topical cream, such as hemorrhoid cream or hydrocortisone. For many, this helps relieve the pain of hemorrhoids while also treating the problem. Another suggestion from your doctor may be to treat constipation before treating hemorrhoids. If you suffer from constipation, over-the-counter treatments such as laxatives and stool softeners can help.
If none of the above treatments work, rubber band ligation may be performed. During this procedure, the doctor will place a rubber band around hemorrhoid. What this does is cut off all blood circulation, which will naturally cause it to shrink. This procedure should only be performed by a medical professional. If you need more information about hemorrhoids or want to be seen by a doctor, contact us today at Carolina Digestive Health Associates. We provide comprehensive and quality care, focusing on all types of gastrointestinal disorders and problems.