Frequently Asked Questions

Check out the most frequently asked questions below.

Q: What is a hemorrhoid?

A:

Hemorrhoids are a painful condition that affects millions of men and women. Hemorrhoids refer to a condition where the veins in the lower rectum and around the anus are swollen, dilated and inflamed (similar to varicose veins in legs). This can result in pain, itching, irritation, burning and sometimes bleeding – this indicates a flare-up. Learn more about hemorrhoids.

Q: What’s the difference between hemorrhoids and piles?

A:

Hemorrhoids are the veins lining the lowest part of the rectum or anus. When there is increased pressure and these veins become swollen or inflamed, they're called hemorrhoids. In the UK, they are often called “piles.”

Q: What’s the difference between internal and external hemorrhoids?

A:

There are two types of hemorrhoids, internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids occur inside the rectum and external hemorrhoids develop under the skin around the anus. Learn more about internal and external hemorrhoids. * Harvard Health Publications. “Hemorrhoids and what to do about them.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2004.

Q: How common are hemorrhoids?

A:

Hemorrhoids are very common. About 75% of all Americans will have hemorrhoids at some point in their lives. Hemorrhoids are not gender-, race- or age-specific. Hemorrhoids are most common among adults ages 45 to 65. Hemorrhoids are also common in pregnant women and new mothers. Learn more about who gets hemorrhoids

Q: Why do pregnant women and new moms get hemorrhoids?

A:

Hemorrhoids are caused by pressure in the hemorrhoid veins. There are several reasons pregnancy may cause extra pressure. For one, a pregnant woman's enlarged womb increases pressure in the hemorrhoid veins. Secondly, a pregnant woman's blood supply actually increases during pregnancy, raising the pressure within her veins. Lastly, a pregnant woman's hormones tend to relax the anal and rectal area's supporting muscles as the baby presses more and more on the veins below it. All these can create extra pressure that triggers hemorrhoids to flare up or form. Add to all of this the fact that pregnancy often causes constipation (a trigger of hemorrhoids), it is no wonder why expectant mothers get hemorrhoids.

If you had hemorrhoids before pregnancy, you're more likely to get them again while pregnant. They may also develop or flare up with the increase of pressure caused by straining during labor.

For more information, see Just for Moms.

Q: Are hemorrhoids life threatening?

A:

Hemorrhoids, in and of themselves, are not dangerous or life threatening

Q: How do I know if I need surgery for my hemorrhoids?

A:

There are surgical options for people with severe hemorrhoids.  To determine whether surgery is right for you, talk to your healthcare provider.

Q: What do I do about bleeding hemorrhoids?

A:

Talk to your healthcare provider. Bleeding can be a symptom of hemorrhoids or of a more serious condition.

Q: Do hemorrhoids go away? Can hemorrhoids be cured?

A:

Hemorrhoids are chronic, meaning they don't go away entirely and there is no cure. Hemorrhoid flare-ups, however, come and go. With proper care and lifestyle changes, you can get relief from hemorrhoid flare-ups and help reduce the risk of them reoccurring.

Q: What is a flare-up?

A:

Everyone has a hemorrhoidal plexus, a vascular cushion lining the lowest part of the rectum or anus. A hemorrhoid is a condition in which the veins and tissues in and around the anus swell due to excessive pressure. This is called a flare-up. Learn more about flare-ups.

Q: How long does a flare-up last?

A:

The duration of a flare-up varies by person. They can last anywhere from a few days to over a week. Some people have flare-ups once a month, others only once every few years. Read more about treating flare-ups.

Q: How can I reduce the risk of a flare-up?

A:

You can reduce the risk of flare-ups by following a high-fiber diet, exercising and not causing extra strain while sitting or standing. For more suggestions on reducing the risk of flare-ups, see Live Better

Q: How can I treat my symptoms away from home?

A:

You can treat hemorrhoid symptoms away from home with Preparation H® Totables®. They are portable and discreet so you can treat and relieve your hemorrhoid symptoms away from home. For tips on treating hemorrhoids away from home, see Treating Flare-Ups Away From Home

Q: Does stress cause hemorrhoids?

A:

Stress doesn't necessarily cause hemorrhoids but constipation (which may be caused by stress) can cause hemorrhoids. Learn more about stress and hemorrhoids.

Q: Are hemorrhoids hereditary?

A:

Yes, hemorrhoids tend to run in families. If anyone in your family has hemorrhoids, it's a good idea for you to take care of your lifestyle and diet.

Q: Should I eat certain foods to reduce the risk of flare-ups?

A:

A balanced diet, rich in fiber and fluids, can help prevent constipation (a common cause of hemorrhoids and flare-ups). Learn more about what to eat.

Q: Can I exercise when I’m having a flare-up?

A:

There is no reason to avoid exercise because of hemorrhoids, unless it is uncomfortable. If an exercise doesn't feel right, then choose a different exercise.

If you have had hemorrhoid flare-ups in the past, you may want to avoid exercises that increase pressure in the anal area because that can trigger a hemorrhoid flare-up. Examples of this type of activity are horseback riding or bicycling (because they place pressure on your rectum) and weightlifting (because it causes exertion, straining and bearing down on the rectal area).

For tips on exercises to do (and avoid), see Physical Activity.

Q: Are there exercises to help reduce the risk of flare-ups?

A:

Some exercises can help reduce your risk of flare-ups by stimulating bowel function and/or toning the rectal area.

Moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking 20 minutes a day, can stimulate bowel function.* Other beneficial cardio activities include running, swimming and aerobics.

They also stimulate bowel function as well as enhance blood flow and muscle tone.

* Harvard Health Publications. “Hemorrhoids and what to do about them.” Harvard Women’s Health Watch, 2004.

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