What is it?
Hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels or veins in the anal or rectal area. They can occur on the outside of the anus where they are felt as small bumps when wiping; or they may be located on the inside where they are usually painless.

Although troublesome, hemorrhoids are rarely serious and often clear up by themselves or with minimal treatment.

What causes hemorrhoids?
Standing for long periods of time is a common cause of hemorrhoids, as blood above the rectum exerts pressure on the rectal and anal areas.

Constipation, diarrhea, pregnancy, obesity and frequent straining when having a bowel movement can also be causes; however, some patients will have none of these conditions and still develop hemorrhoids.

What are the symptoms?
External hemorrhoids can be itchy, especially if the area is moist and irritated.

Bleeding — Hemorrhoids can ooze fresh red blood, whether located externally or internally. External hemorrhoids often cause dripping of blood from the anus while sitting on the toilet. The blood might also be seen in your underwear. Internal hemorrhoids that bleed may produce fresh blood in the stool.

Thrombosis and pain — Severe pain may indicate a blood clot in the hemorrhoid and usually demands immediate medical attention.

How is it diagnosed?
Hemorrhoids are most commonly diagnosed by a thorough history and physical exam.

How is it treated?
Treatment typically is simple and effective and may include pain-free ligation or “banding” which can be done in an office setting.

More serious cases may still require surgery. People with hemorrhoids who work closely with their physician are usually assured a good outcome and relief from this common disorder.

How can hemorrhoids be prevented?
Eating plenty of fiber, bran, and roughage, or using a bulking agent to maintain regular, soft bowel movements

Not delaying or trying to prevent a bowel movement when the urge is present

Exercising, especially aerobically, to help produce more regular bowel movements

Drinking plenty of liquids and eating regularly scheduled meals