Hemorrhoids, a common issue, appear in and around the anus and rectum. They happen when the blood vessels in the area swell and bulge, and they can be either internal (within the rectum) or external (around the anus).
Here at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division, located in Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, and Highland, New York, our board-certified gastroenterologists evaluate hemorrhoids and can make sure you don’t experience complications. If you’re wondering if hemorrhoids are serious, here’s what you need to know.
How to tell if you have hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids aren’t easy to ignore: The itching, discomfort, and swelling around the anus are distinct, and you might see some blood on the toilet paper or in the toilet. Hemorrhoids are among the least serious causes of rectal bleeding. That said, you should always contact Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division if you have any type of rectal bleeding.
Typically, if you do experience rectal bleeding from hemorrhoids, it’s because they’re prolapsed. Prolapsed hemorrhoids are swollen enough to stick out of your anus. On the milder side, they only stick out due to the pressure of straining while using the bathroom or lifting heavy objects. Prolapsed hemorrhoids stick out at all times.
What happens if you don’t treat your hemorrhoids
It’s a good idea to come in for testing and treatment for hemorrhoids if you notice rectal bleeding or if your symptoms are getting worse. Severely prolapsed hemorrhoids can lead to complications like infections as well as:
- Anemia (a lack of oxygen in the blood due to excess bleeding)
- Blood clots (coagulated blood in a hemorrhoid causing more discomfort)
- Skin tags (benign tissue growths attached by stalks)
- Strangulated hemorrhoids (blocked arteries into hemorrhoids)
Although infections and other complications from hemorrhoids are rare, you shouldn’t ignore any significant bleeding or discomfort in the rectal area. Treatment options for prolapsed or thrombosed hemorrhoids (hemorrhoids with blood clots), such as hemorrhoid banding or infrared coagulation, eliminate your hemorrhoids and any associated pain or bleeding.
Preventing future hemorrhoids
Even without complications, hemorrhoids are uncomfortable. The key to preventing hemorrhoids is to keep your stool as soft as possible so it passes without resistance. There are a few behaviors and circumstances that put you at a higher risk, such as pregnancy, chronic diarrhea, and heavy lifting, but generally, you can reduce your chances of developing hemorrhoids by:
- Including plenty of fiber in your diet
- Drinking lots of water
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding long periods of sitting down
- Avoiding using too many laxatives or enemas
- Avoiding holding in your bowel movements
If you struggle to include fiber in your diet, over-the-counter fiber supplements can give you the boost in fiber.
Anybody can experience hemorrhoids. For expert hemorrhoid care and prevention by board-certified gastroenterologists you can trust, schedule an appointment over the phone or online with Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division right away.