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Hemorrhoids seem to have a stigma to them, but the truth is, we all have them. It’s not uncommon for them to become inflamed and cause pain, itching, or bleeding. Many times, hemorrhoids go away on their own, but sometimes a trip to the doctor is necessary for faster relief, peace of mind, and tips to prevent them from coming back.
What are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are vascular cushions in the rectum that help us to control bowel function. When increased pressure causes the veins in your lower rectum and anus to swell, they can become inflamed and painful. Often this occurs as a result of:
- Low-fiber diets
- Straining during bowel movements
- Prolonged sitting
- Lifting something heavy with incorrect form
There are two types of hemorrhoids:
Internal hemorrhoids, which are located inside the rectum and often less painful than external hemorrhoids.
External hemorrhoids, which are found under the skin around the anus and are generally more painful.
When is it time to seek medical care for hemorrhoids?
Drinking more water, eating more fiber, and taking over-the-counter medications may help hemorrhoids to resolve on their own at home. However, often a doctor can help you get effective relief faster than you might on your own. And, in some cases, your symptoms could indicate a condition more serious than hemorrhoids. That’s why it’s always better to be safe than sorry and get your hemorrhoids evaluated sooner rather than later.
If you notice bleeding before, during, or after bowel movements.
If you notice blood before, during, or after bowel movements, you should seek medical care. Bleeding during bowel movements may be associated with hemorrhoids, but it could also be a sign of something more serious, such as colon or anal cancer. Call your doctor so you can get an accurate diagnosis and rule out anything life-threatening. Your doctor can help you identify and address the cause of your bleeding. And if it’s hemorrhoids, they can offer treatment, relief, and suggestions to help you prevent hemorrhoids from recurring.
If discomfort from hemorrhoids isn’t resolved within a week.
When you’ve had persistent discomfort, pain, or itching for a week, it’s time to talk to a doctor. While some symptoms of hemorrhoids resolve on their own, others do not and can be treated by a doctor, so you don’t have to live with the daily symptoms. Your doctor can recommend treatments that range from the conservative, like dietary and behavioral changes, or in-office procedures, such as rubber band ligation, to more invasive approaches like surgery.
If your symptoms continue worsening.
While many home remedies may provide temporary relief of inflammation, pain, or discomfort caused by hemorrhoids, they don’t necessarily cure the issue. That’s why it’s important to seek medical care for hemorrhoids, especially if your symptoms get worse. On top of treating your hemorrhoids, your doctor can help you reduce the chances of another hemorrhoid flare-up by discussing things like your diet, staying hydrated, and changing your bathroom habits.
If you notice a bulge, you may have a prolapsed hemorrhoid.
If an internal hemorrhoid becomes severely inflamed, it can prolapse, or fall outside of the anus. Many times it will retract on its own but not always. If it can’t easily be pushed back in, or it causes pain or bleeding, early hemorrhoid treatment from a doctor is important.
If you’re not certain your discomfort is caused by hemorrhoids.
When you have bleeding, discomfort, or pain in the anal region, it could be a sign of an inflamed hemorrhoid. Or, it could indicate that something else is wrong. This is especially true if you don’t have a history of hemorrhoids. That’s why it’s always better to play it safe and see a doctor, as they can accurately diagnose the cause of your symptoms. It’s much better to have an expert confirm that you don’t have something more serious like cancer than to avoid a hemorrhoid treatment just because you’re uncomfortable seeking care.
We all have #Hemorrhoids, but if yours become painfully inflamed, a doctor can help. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, colorectal surgeon Dr. Nicole Chaumont shares 5 signs that indicate you should seek care for hemorrhoids: https://bit.ly/2OQFntt.
What to expect at your doctor’s visit.
Whether you see a primary care doctor or a colon and rectal specialist, you can expect that your medical provider will conduct a thorough evaluation that includes:
- A review of your medical history
- Discussion of your symptoms
- Physical examination
During your appointment, your doctor will ask you detailed questions about what makes your symptoms better or worse. It’s important to be honest and direct so that they can identify what’s causing your inflamed hemorrhoid.
In most cases, the physical exam will require an internal exam of your anus and rectum. If that does not clarify the cause of your symptoms, or if you are at a high risk for cancer, your doctor may need to perform a colonoscopy to make sure your pain or bleeding isn’t caused by a more complex health issue.
Regardless of what sends you to the doctor for hemorrhoid treatment, know that it’s as common as getting other routine care. Prompt treatment can alleviate unnecessary pain and discomfort so if you think you have hemorrhoids, don’t delay your care.