Hemorrhoids are abnormally swollen veins in the rectum and anus. They are much like varicose veins you might see on a person's legs. When bulging hemorrhoidal veins are irritated, they cause surrounding membranes to swell, burn, itch, become very painful, and bleed. Hemorrhoids are caused by too much pressure in the rectum, forcing blood to stretch and bulge the walls of the veins, sometimes rupturing them. Listed below are the most frequent causes of hemorrhoids:

There are two kinds of hemorrhoids: internal and external

Once the rectal veins have been stretched out and hemorrhoids created, they are difficult to get rid of completely and tend to recur with less straining than it took to cause them in the first place. Fortunately, good habits and simple medical treatment usually control hemorrhoids well, and surgery is only recommended in unusually severe cases.

Avoiding the causes listed in Basics will prevent most cases of hemorrhoids, but this advice is sometimes hard to follow. For example, how can you avoid sitting all day if you have a seated job? And most of us would like to avoid coughing, diarrhea, and childbirth, but that's pretty much impossible, isn't it? Here are some practical hints to help:

If these preventive measures fail, you must take action right away! Hemorrhoids are one condition that can be mild in the morning and become intolerable by nightfall.

You must first find the cause of your hemorrhoids and stop it. Treating the hemorrhoids themselves is pointless if you keep re-creating them. Click here to review the causes listed in Basics. You should also read the Self Care Advisory section on Constipation, since it's probably the major cause of hemorrhoids.

Once you have eliminated factors causing your hemorrhoids, it's time to treat them. There are two treatment goals: first, take away the symptoms (burning, pain, itching) and second, shrink the hemorrhoids.

Aggressive treatment using the above techniques should improve hemorrhoids within days, but they may need 2-4 weeks of treatment to completely calm down. If they have not resolved to your satisfaction in that time, consult a physician. Other medical problems such as inflammatory bowel disease or bowel infection can cause hemorrhoid-like symptoms. So if the problem does not clear up promptly with basic OTC treatment, see your doctor.

None of the OTC treatment methods listed above will be effective for thrombosed hemorrhoids (click here to review Thrombosed Hemorrhoids). These clotted hemorrhoids are always very hard, have a smooth black or purple surface, and feel like a growth coming from the anus. They are extremely painful, and a tiny incision made by a physician to remove the clot alleviates pain and bulging immediately. Don't delay seeing your doctor for a thrombosed hemorrhoid. Left alone, they take days or even weeks to go away.

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