By the age of just fifty years old, roughly half of the world’s population will have struggled with hemorrhoids in some fashion. This condition can be exceptionally painful and is, for obvious reasons, nearly impossible to ignore. But don’t lose heart–there are numerous steps that you can take to help alleviate hemorrhoids or even stop them before they start.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are protruding veins in the anal canal or just beyond it; they are incredibly sensitive to pressure and movement and can result in tremendous discomfort and affect quality of life. The actual cause remains a mystery, although multiple risk factors have been empirically confirmed.
Age, for instance, is generally considered the primary cause of hemorrhoids. As one ages, the tissues supporting your anal canal become weaker and more pliant, allowing hemorrhoids to bulge through with greater ease and lessening the chances of the tissue pushing the vein back on its own.
Straining oneself during bowel movement is another common risk factor; the added pressure on the lower intestinal tract forces the veins there to their full capacity and jump-starts the inflation that will eventually turn them into a hemorrhoid. Sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time or being clinically obese can also put you at risk, as the body is not well-built for sitting for prolonged periods, and the toilet puts the pressure onto your lower body in a most unusual pattern.
Although somewhat less common, other activities that put untoward stress on the lower abdomen have also been identified as risk factors. Pregnancy, anal intercourse, or a low-fiber diet are a known risks.
What Can I Do About Hemorrhoids?
Most cases of hemorrhoids will dissipate on their own and do not require medication or surgical intervention. If they are a recurring problem, consider some of the following lifestyle changes as a way of lessening your risk and increasing your recovery speed.
Altering your diet is a good place to start; increase your fluid intake and fiber consumption, both of which will soften your stool and minimize pressure on the anal canal. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in sugar or salt, all of which can seriously impact one’s gastrointestinal tract.
Aside from dietary changes, start exercising the area more; this will strengthen the muscles and tissues in the lower digestive tract and make them more resistant to hemorrhoids bulging through into the cavity.
If you detect that a hemorrhoid has formed, you should gently clean the area with baby wipes or sanitary towelettes, and take care to move or compress it as little as possible. For particularly pronounced hemorrhoids, it is sometimes possible to gently push them back into place after having sanitized the area; this is a tricky undertaking and should be stopped at the least signs of bleeding or increased discomfort.
Hemorrhoids aren’t pleasant, but they aren’t permanent either. You can avoid them by knowing the signs and taking action before they become overly problematic. If symptoms do not resolve, seek medical attention to ensure that your symptoms are related to hemorrhoids, and to address prescription and or surgical options for treatment.