Hemorrhoids are a common problem affecting people of all ages. Pregnant women often get them during the third trimester, as well as during and soon after childbirth.
How exactly do you get this medical condition and how can you avoid getting hemorrhoids? How do you treat this ailment? Read on to find out more about this condition and learn about the home remedies and lifestyle changes you can implement in order to treat piles.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are ruptured veins in your lower rectum and anus. They become enlarged and swollen due to pressure. Within a few weeks, they could clear up on their own but some people are afflicted with hemorrhoids for several months.
Women who underwent vaginal delivery are also more likely to develop this condition. Hemorrhoids often cause rectal bleeding and anal itching. Seeing bright red blood in your stool or on the toilet paper could indicate a burst hemorrhoid. Consult a doctor if the hemorrhoids don't improve after a week of home care. Schedule a checkup if your stools change in color or consistency and if you notice any changes in bowel habits.
Other symptoms of hemorrhoids include painful bowel movements, getting an itchy or painful lump near your anus as well as extreme itching around your anus.
When they develop inside the rectum, they are called internal hemorrhoids, but if they are found under the skin near the anus, they are known as external hemorrhoids.
Causes of hemorrhoids
When you strain too much while doing a bowel movement, there is increased pressure on the veins in the rectum or anus, causing hemorrhoids. Too much straining increases pressure on your lower extremities or belly. This can cause rectal and anal veins to become inflamed and swollen. Constipation can also cause you to push too hard during bowel movements. Pregnant women who take too much iron could become constipated and cause them to get piles.
You can also get hemorrhoids outside of the bathroom. When you strain yourself too much when lifting heavy objects or weightlifting, you put too much pressure on the veins near the rectum as well as your internal organs. When you lift very heavy objects, you put extra strain on the pelvis, causing blood to pool and blood vessels to stretch, increasing the risk of getting hemorrhoids.
As you grow older, there is a higher risk of getting hemorrhoids. This is because the tissues that support the veins in the anus and rectum can stretch and weaken. Pregnant women are also prone to getting hemorrhoids because the baby's weight puts pressure on the anal and rectal region. Your expanding uterus also puts increased pressure on the veins near your anus.
Here are some common causes of hemorrhoids:
- Hormonal changes
- Pregnancy causes weight gain, which leads to increased pelvic pressure
- Increased blood volume, resulting in larger and swollen veins
- During childbirth, extended straining during the 2nd stage of labor can cause hemorrhoids
Some women find that their hemorrhoids disappear without any treatment since their blood volume, hormone levels, and abdominal pressure decrease after pregnancy and delivery.
How to prevent hemorrhoids
The veins outside the anus or inside the rectum tend to stretch under pressure and may swell or bulge. The swelling, mild pain and inflammation accompanying hemorrhoids could improve with simple home remedies but there are times when people need medical procedures.
Prevent hemorrhoids by keeping your stools soft so they are easier to pass. Reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids by following these tips:
Eat high-fiber foods.
Getting more fiber can help prevent hemorrhoids. Add more whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables to your diet but do it gradually until you reach 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day. As you increase the fiber in your diet, remember to also increase your water intake and other liquids, such as clear soups and fruit juices. Water can improve digestion and help the fiber in your diet work more efficiently. If you don't increase your water intake, you might suffer from constipation which could cause you to develop hemorrhoids.
Also check your prenatal vitamins, as sometimes the iron in your supplements can cause constipation. Find out the best prenatal vitamins here.
Use a step stool.
When you elevate your feet while sitting on the toilet, you change the position of the rectum and this helps for easier passage of stools.
Wipe your butt with moist towelettes rather than dry toilet paper.
Wet wipes can clean the rectal area without causing irritation. It would be best to use fragrance-free wipes with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera or witch hazel.
Sit on an ice pack for 15 minutes at a time.
Wrap the ice pack in a towel in order to prevent skin damage. This can relieve pain especially when dealing with an external hemorrhoid.
Soak regularly in a sitz bath.
Soak your anal area in warm water and epsom salt for 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day. You can use a sitz bath or a small plastic basin that fits over a toilet seat. This type of therapy can promote healing as well as reduce the discomfort and inflammation caused by hemorrhoids.
To make pooping less painful, spread some petroleum jelly just inside your anus. There are ointments and over-the-counter creams that can provide temporary relief from burning, itching, and inflammation. To relieve itching, put 1% hydrocortisone cream on the skin surrounding the anus. Be careful not to use an over-the-counter steroid cream for over a week unless prescribed by your doctor since the medication can thin your skin.
Another option is to use medicated cooling pads with witch hazel, which is a natural remedy that can provide relief from the itching and pain caused by hemorrhoids. A suppository containing hydrocortisone can be inserted directly into the rectum in order to reduce inflammation.
Take oral pain relievers.
You can temporarily relieve your discomfort by taking aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol or other brands), or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.)
When to see a doctor
By following these treatments and home remedies, you might notice that hemorrhoid symptoms will resolve within a week. Consult with a doctor or your gynaecologist if you don't get relief in a week, or sooner if you experience severe bleeding, intense pain or if you pass stool that's colored black or red.
Dietary and lifestyle changes are the best way to prevent getting hemorrhoids (piles). It would be best to increase fiber in your diet gradually in order to avoid getting side effects such as bloating or gas. You can reduce pain and swelling by using topical treatments or by taking oral pain relievers.
When you already have existing hemorrhoids, it would be best to sit on a cushion instead of a hard surface in order to reduce the swelling and prevent new ones from forming.
Original Publisher: theAsianparent