What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are a result of increased pressure on the veins in the pelvic and rectal area. As pressure increases, blood pools in veins and causes them to swell. Veins can swell inside the anal canal to form internal hemorrhoids, or they can swell near the opening of the anus to form external hemorrhoids. Eventually, the swollen veins stretch the surrounding tissue, and hemorrhoids develop.

Common causes of hemorrhoids include:

Constipation—This may be due to a lack of fiber in the diet, or possibly medications such as iron supplements commonly found in OTC vitamins.

Heredity—Hemorrhoids commonly run in families; a heredity component is commonly seen with hemorrhoids.

Lack of dietary fiber intake—Dietary fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables are essential to preventing constipation and anorectectal problems. 25-30 grams of fiber is recommended each day, which is the equivalent of three tablespoons of wheat germ or unprocessed bran (psyllium seed).

Inadequate fluid intake—A minimum of eight, 8 ounces of liquid is also recommended to maintain a healthy colon.

Pregnancy and labor—Hormonal changes during pregnancy increase blood flow to the pelvis and relax supportive tissues while the growing fetus causes increased pressure on blood vessels. During labor, hemorrhoids may develop because of the intense pressure on the anal area while pushing to deliver the baby.

Medical conditions—For example, long-term heart and liver disease may cause blood to pool in the abdomen and pelvic area, enlarging the veins.