Did you know that about 75% of American adults will experience the discomfort of hemorrhoids at some point in their lives? Although this condition that affects the anus and lower rectum is common, it can be embarrassing to talk about, making it difficult to know whether you’re at risk.
To confuse matters, not all hemorrhoids are the same. Hemorrhoids may occur internally or externally, triggering different symptoms. And while for some people hemorrhoids are an occasional bother, for others they pose a chronic issue.
At the Rivas Digestive Center, gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, and our team provide experienced hemorrhoid diagnosis and treatment for patients in the Hollywood, Florida, area. Our practice offers a range of effective treatments, including several minimally invasive procedures for our patients with chronic hemorrhoids.
Take a moment to learn more about this common condition and whether you’re at risk of developing hemorrhoids.
What are hemorrhoids?
All hemorrhoids stem from the same root cause: veins on the anus or in the anal canal that become swollen and uncomfortable. External hemorrhoids occur in the skin around your anus, and because of the many nerve endings, they typically cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Pain or discomfort
- Itching, burning, or irritation in the anal area
- Swelling around the anus
Internal hemorrhoids, on the other hand, form in the lining of your anus or rectum. They tend to cause fewer symptoms or no symptoms at all until they rupture and begin bleeding, usually after straining during a bowel movement.
Sometimes blood pools in an external hemorrhoid and causes a clot called a thrombus. Thrombosed hemorrhoids feel like hard bumps near the anus and can cause severe pain and inflammation.
How do I know if I’m at risk for hemorrhoids?
Anyone can develop hemorrhoids, and medical researchers are still investigating why some people develop them while others don’t. They do know, however, that certain risk factors are associated with the development of hemorrhoids.
Here’s a closer look at some of the top risk factors for developing hemorrhoids:
Having a low-fiber or poor diet: Not having enough fiber leads to strained or irregular bowel movements, which increases your risk for hemorrhoids.
Being overweight or obese: Studies have found a significant association between excess weight and the development of hemorrhoids.
Age: Hemorrhoids are more common in people 50 or older.
Having chronic constipation or diarrhea: Both conditions can add strain to the veins in your anal canal, increasing the chances of hemorrhoids.
Pregnancy: Hemorrhoids during pregnancy are common due to the added pressure on the veins of the anal area.
Having IBS or Crohn’s Disease: These conditions cause issues with bowel movements and inflammation, increasing the risk of hemorrhoids developing over time.
Sitting on the toilet for extended periods: Sitting for too long on the toilet strains the veins in the anus and anal canal and can cause hemorrhoids.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle: Not being physically active can affect your gastrointestinal motility.
Family history can also play a role in the development of hemorrhoids, meaning if the people in your immediate family have a history of struggling with hemorrhoids, you may have an increased risk for the condition.
Is there help for hemorrhoids?
Yes. At the Rivas Digestive Center, Dr. Rivas first evaluates your symptoms to determine if treatment is required. In mild cases, hemorrhoids often heal on their own once the underlying factors that triggered them, such as a low-fiber diet, are addressed.
For more problematic hemorrhoids, Dr. Rivas may prescribe medicated pads, creams, or suppositories to alleviate the swelling and other uncomfortable symptoms. In the case of severe hemorrhoids that require more complex treatment, Dr. Rivas may recommend one of these minimally invasive therapies:
- Rubber band ligation
- Infrared, laser, or bipolar coagulation
- External hemorrhoid thrombectomy
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy
These treatment options destroy or remove the hemorrhoids; however, it’s imperative to make the appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent other hemorrhoids from developing in the future. Before recommending a specific treatment plan, Dr. Rivas discusses your options and addresses any questions or concerns you have.
If you’re worried about hemorrhoids, Dr. Rivas and the team at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, can help. Contact our office at 954-228-5882 or book an appointment online now for more information.