Contrary to what one might think, everybody has hemorrhoids. While they are a normal part of the body, they may become inflamed or flare up. Up to 70 per cent of Canadians will experience hemorrhoid flare-ups at some point in their lives, and it can happen at any age.
So most people know hemorrhoid flare-ups are a real pain in the butt. But treatment and lifestyle changes can help you manage the pain of your symptoms and decrease their frequency.
Continue reading for signs and symptoms of hemorrhoid flare-ups, what factors may put you at risk of developing hemorrhoid disease and prevention methods that can be used while people are self-isolating.
What are hemorrhoids?
Perhaps not exactly what you’d think they are! While the word hemorrhoid alone might sound unpleasant to you, it shouldn’t. Hemorrhoids are vein-filled cushions of tissue located in the anal canal and are a normal part of the body. They protect anal skin from the passage of stool and help with the closure of the anal canal. Everybody at every age has hemorrhoids inside their body.
What is a hemorrhoid flare-up?
A hemorrhoid flare-up is more than likely what you’re thinking of when you hear the word hemorrhoid. Hemorrhoid flare-ups occur when there is too much pressure on the veins in the rectal area. As pressure increases, caused potentially by repeated or constant pressure to the anal or rectal veins, blood begins to pool, causing swelling in the veins. The swollen veins stretch the surrounding tissues, causing the hemorrhoid flare-up.
If you’re experiencing that certain pain in the butt, it’s your hemorrhoids becoming irritated and inflamed (flaring up). Healthy hemorrhoids are not likely to cause you this pain.
Another important distinction: a hemorrhoid flare-up is not an anal fissure. An anal fissure is a crack in the lining of the anus, commonly caused by large or hard stools stretching the anal sphincter.
Symptoms of hemorrhoid flare-ups include:
- Anal bleeding
- Painful bowel movements
- Anal pain
Am I at risk?
As hemorrhoid flare-ups are caused by excessive pressure on the anal or rectal veins, they can occur due to any activity or physical state that causes strain on this area.
Factors that lead to hemorrhoid flare-ups may include:
- Low fiber intake
- Straining during bowel movement, chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Sitting for prolonged periods on the toilet
- Rushing to complete a bowel movement
- Anal intercourse
- Illness and other long-term heart or liver conditions
- Blood pooling in the abdomen and pelvic area
Certain stages of your life may make you more susceptible to hemorrhoid flare-ups. For example, you might be more likely to experience hemorrhoid flare-ups while pregnant. Postpartum hemorrhoids are also common.
Diagnosing hemorrhoid flare-ups
While an occasional hemorrhoid flare-up can be attributed to circumstance, the experience of continued and ongoing hemorrhoid flare-ups can be indicative of chronic hemorrhoidal disease. Diagnosing hemorrhoid flare-up is dependent on age; if you’re younger than 50 and experiencing symptoms, it’s more likely that you can be diagnosed by the dreaded rectal exam. However, if you are older than 50 or experiencing excessive bleeding, more invasive methods of testing may be undertaken, as rectal bleeding can also be a sign of colon, rectal or anal cancer.
How to mitigate risks of hemorrhoid flare-ups
Simple lifestyle changes are often all that is required to treat mild cases of hemorrhoid flare-ups and prevent them from reoccurring. Drinking plenty of water and increasing fibre intake are two simple and highly effective methods of treatment and prevention. Regular exercise can help stimulate bowel function and prevent straining.
Those who are spending more time at home during quarantine and suffer from hemorrhoid flare-ups should monitor the amount of time they spend sitting, as well as their eating and drinking habits. Your gut doesn’t know you are in isolation! It’s easy to fall out of our usual habits and into unhealthy ones while housebound; maintaining a diet with plenty of fibre, water and getting regular exercise is as important in isolation as ever to keep your hemorrhoid flare-ups in check. An effective method of treating symptoms quickly can be via over-the-counter oral treatments, including Venixxa. Venixxa can help relieve symptoms like pain and bleeding in as little as two days. It also helps in reducing the reoccurrence of flare-ups, as well as their intensity and duration. It is available in most drug stores and online without prescription. For more information about Venixxa click here or ask your health care professional.