What Are Hemorrhoids?

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Hemorrhoids Are No Laughing Matter

While the subject of hemorrhoids is embarrassing and often avoided, it is estimated that most Americans, both male and female, will experience hemorrhoids at least once in their lives. Hemorrhoids can develop at any age, but the incidence increases after age 30. About half of people older than age 50 have had hemorrhoids at some time in their life.

For some, hemorrhoids may just be a mild discomfort. For others, they can be accompanied byextreme pain and swelling making normal daily activity vitually impossible. In the extreme case, the pain can be excruciating making it difficult to lay down, sleep or stand.Hemorrhoids are veins on or around the anus. Most people perceive hemorrhoids as “abnormal”, but they are actually present in everyone. It is only when the hemorrhoid vein walls have weakened, allowing blood to pool, that hemorrhoids can cause problems and begin to expand and enlarge. Bleeding hemorrhoids may occur if the weakened veins burst, resulting in the presence of blood during and after bowel movements.  It is important to note, however, that blood in your stool can be a sign of a serious medical condition and should be treated by a trained medical professional immediately.

Most medical professionals will classify hemorrhoids as either “internal” or “external” in nature.

Internal hemorrhoids

Internal Hemorrhoids can be manifest as a single bump or multiple Hemorrhoids. The swollen or dilated blood vessels can protrude for the intestinal wall and remain undetected for some time. In some cases they only manifest themselves through an exam, or through bleeding during bowel movements. Many people will not experience any pain associated with internal Hemorrhoids. However, they can be become painful if they are continually pressed on by the anal muscles. Occassionally, you may see mucus produced by an internal hemorrhoid.

External hemorrhoids

External hemorrhoids are technically the same as internal hemorrhoids. The obvious difference is location on the exterior of the anal cavity. The other difference relates to the symptoms of external hemorrhoids in comparison to the symptoms of internal hemorrhoids. Typical symptoms include:

  • Pain and itching
  • Swelling around the anus
  • A protruding bump

Sometimes blood clotting occurs resulting in severe pain, swelling and inflammation. This is often referred as a thrombosed hemorrhoid.

Both internal and external hemorrhoids may require a doctor’s examination and treatment.


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