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Hemorrhoids: It can be an embarrassing subject, a topic most people don’t want to discuss. Yet, many myths are often taken as truth when it comes to the causes and treatments of hemorrhoids. In a quest to suss out the facts, we tapped an expert. Here, her helpful insights.
So, what are hemorrhoids exactly? “Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of the rectum and anus,” explains Nicole Scott, MD, a physician in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Indiana University Health. “Technically, everyone has these veins, but it’s more of an issue of whether they become swollen and inflamed.” She notes that hemorrhoids are estimated to affect 50 percent of people at some point in their lives.
Below, Dr. Scott clears the air about myths surrounding this condition and explains what really helps prevent and treat hemorrhoids.
Myth #1: You’ll know if you have hemorrhoids because it’s painful.
Not necessarily, explains Dr. Scott. “People can have both internal and external hemorrhoids. Internal means it’s above the anus and these are typically not painful, but can cause bleeding.” The bulging external ones, however, can be very painful. You should see your doctor if you’re having pain or any rectal bleeding.
Myth #2: Everyone is equally at risk of getting hemorrhoids.
Actually certain groups are more at risk because the cause of hemorrhoids has to do with increased abdominal pressure. “Chronic constipation, obesity and pregnancy are the often the causes,” says Dr. Scott. Additionally the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes that you’re at increased risk of getting them if you:
Myth #3: Changing your diet won’t help hemorrhoids.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Changing your diet is one of the best ways to prevent hemorrhoids. “Drinking more water, eating more fiber, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables all decreases your chance of getting constipated, which is the best prevention,” says Dr. Scott. Eating fiber-rich foods can make your stools softer and easier to pass. Additionally, she adds, exercising, wiping thoroughly and going to the bathroom when the urge hits can all help.
Myth #4: Surgery is often needed.
“The first line of treatment is conservative, often with topical steroid cream and working to decrease constipation. Rarely do people with hemorrhoids need surgery,” she says. She explains that those with internal hemorrhoids may benefit from a suppository.
Myth #5: Spicy foods are often the culprit.
This is not the case, says Dr. Scott. However, there are certain foods to avoid if you have hemorrhoids according to NIDD. These include foods with little or no fiber (which can trigger constipation and strain during bowel movements), including:
-- By Judy Koutsky