Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum or anus. By age 50, about half of the population will have experienced this sometimes painful condition, which results from an increase in pressure inside the veins of the rectum. Common causes include constipation, pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, heavy lifting, sitting for long periods and diarrhea.
There are two types of hemorrhoids based on location. Internal hemorrhoids occur inside the lower rectum and often can’t be seen or felt. As this form is typically painless, the only symptoms you may notice are small amounts of bright red blood (on your toilet paper or inside the toilet bowl) or a feeling of fullness following a bowel movement.
Occasionally, internal hemorrhoids can push through the anal opening. This is known as a prolapsed, or protruding, hemorrhoid. Sometimes these swollen veins remain prolapsed temporarily; in other cases, they become permanent. If the hemorrhoid remains outside the anus, it can cause pain, itching, bleeding and the formation of excess skin (skin tags).
External hemorrhoids occur as bulges or lumps around the anus. Because of the sensitive nerve fibers in this area, these enlarged veins are often painful, especially when sitting. They also may bleed and itch. Should blood pool in an external hemorrhoid, a blood clot referred to as a thrombosed hemorrhoid may develop and cause severe pain.
The less common of the two forms, external hemorrhoids are often incorrectly self-diagnosed because many people mistake internal hemorrhoids – or the skin tags they can produce – for external hemorrhoids. Always consult a physician to determine whether you have the internal or external type.
Home remedies such as creams, suppositories and warm baths may offer temporary relief from the symptoms of hemorrhoids. But for many people, hemorrhoids don’t go away. Instead, they can get progressively worse over time, growing in both size and number. Some chronic sufferers develop hemorrhoids in as many as three locations.
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with recurring flare-ups and increasing pain. You can seek professional medical treatment now, and end your discomfort for good.