Hemorrhoids, sometimes known as piles, can be alarming if you don’t know what they are. Strange lumps or bleeding can be quite a scare, but hemorrhoids are not actually a serious condition. Although hemorrhoids are sometimes caused by anal sex, they are NOT contagious and are NOT sexually transmitted.
A hemorrhoid is a swollen vein in the anus or rectum. There are three types of hemorrhoids: internal, external and prolapsed. Hemorrhoids are caused by anal straining, which puts increased pressure on the veins in the area. Straining is generally caused by constipation or “pushing too hard” during a bowel movement, pregnancy, anal sex, heavy lifting and/or obesity. Hemorrhoids are a common affliction, as many as 86% of people have experienced them at least once in their lifetime.
As the name implies, internal hemorrhoids occur inside the rectum. Internal hemorrhoids are not generally painful. You may notice bleeding during bowel movements, swelling, or a feeling of fullness (feeling like you need to poop).
Prolapsed and External Hemorrhoids
Prolapsed hemorrhoids are internal hemorrhoids (inside the anus) that have bulged outside of the anus. External hemorrhoids occur in the veins outside of the anus and can sometimes be blue or purple in color. Both types of hemorrhoids tend to be itchy or painful, particularly when a blood cot has formed. When a blood clot forms, you will likely notice a tender or painful lump on the edge of your anus. These hemorrhoids may bleed during bowel movements; they can also “crack” and bleed at other times from straining or rubbing.
If you think that you may have hemorrhoids or notice bleeding during bowel movements, you should see your doctor. A doctor can rule out more serious conditions, such as cancer or colitis, as well as suggest possible medication. Hemorrhoid creams and ointments are available for purchase without a prescription, but it is advised you speak with your doctor before beginning use. Hemorrhoids can also be treated at home by taking frequent warm baths, applying ice packs to decrease any swelling, and use of over-the-counter pain relief.
If you find that you frequently suffer from hemorrhoids despite taking steps to prevent them, or if you have hemorrhoids that do not disappear following treatment, you can speak to your doctor about professional removal.
A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent hemorrhoids, including a diet rich in fiber, regular exercise, proper hydration and avoiding prolonged sitting. It is also important to use the bathroom as soon as you feel the need and to not strain too forcefully when doing so. If you engage in anal sex regularly, do so gently so as to not cause undue strain or pressure on the rectal and anal veins.