Did you know that the vast majority of people will develop hemorrhoids at some point in their lives? Hemorrhoids might be a common problem, but there are ways to avoid them.
What are hemorrhoids?
As is the case with varicose veins, hemorrhoids are caused by abnormally dilated blood vessels. There are two types: internal hemorrhoids (located in the rectum) and external hemorrhoids (located under the skin around the anus).
Risk factors for hemorrhoids
The exact cause of hemorrhoids has not been clearly established. Experts believe they may be linked to excessive, repeated pressure on the veins in the anus and rectum. Many factors can predispose someone to the problem:
• A diet low in fibre
• Pregnancy and childbirth
• Weakening of the pelvic and rectal muscles
• Long-term, frequent periods in a seated position
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Anal sex
Hemorrhoids and their unpleasant symptoms
Generally not considered a serious medical problem, hemorrhoids can develop with or without symptoms. The following are the most common signs and symptoms:
• Burning sensation
• Discomfort or pain, especially when having a bowel movement
• Lumps in the anal region
• Mucous in the stool
• Mild fecal incontinence
How to prevent hemorrhoids
Fortunately, hemorrhoids can be prevented. There are, in fact, many easy ways to do so.
• Prevent constipation by eating fibre-rich foods every day. These include fresh fruit, cooked and raw vegetables, legumes and whole wheat cereal and breads. Fibre softens the stool and increases its bulk, making it easier to pass. If needed, you can also use laxatives containing psyllium to facilitate regular bowel movements. Ask your pharmacist which laxative would be best for you.
• Drink plenty of water. Some experts recommend at least eight glasses of water per day to ensure the proper functioning of your digestive system.
• Stimulate your digestion by exercising, for example, by walking 20 minutes every day. Given that obesity may be associated with the development of hemorrhoids, exercise is beneficial because it can also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
• Practise Kegel exercises. These exercises are great for everyone – men and women. They help strengthen the pelvic floor. Take the time to get information about this technique and learn it correctly so you can reap its full benefits.
• Don’t stay seated for extended periods of time. Stand up a few minutes every hour to reduce pressure on your anal region caused by sitting.
• Avoid heavy lifting. If possible, use tools to make the job easier.
• Go to the bathroom regularly, every time you feel the urge. Avoid delaying defecation when you feel you have to go — the longer you wait, the harder, dryer and more difficult to pass the stool can become.
• Avoid staying on the toilet longer than needed. This position causes the muscles to relax, promoting the flow of blood to the anal region. You should also avoid holding your breath or pushing while defecating. In fact, you should not have to strain when having a bowel movement.
• After a bowel movement, use moist cleansing cloths to wash the anal region, since toilet paper can sometimes cause irritation.
How to treat hemorrhoids
There are various over-the-counter creams, ointments and suppositories that contain ingredients to reduce the symptoms associated with hemorrhoids. If you experience pain, you can take a pain reliever. In addition, during a flare-up, taking a warm, 15-minute bath a few times a day is another good way to alleviate the pain and keep the anal region clean.
Good to know!
If you decide to take an oral pain reliever, choose acetaminophen, since both ibuprofen and aspirin can increase bleeding. Before selecting any over-the-counter drug, however, remember to always talk to your pharmacist, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, suffer from a chronic condition or take other medications. He or she can recommend the medication that is right for your symptoms and state of health.
Do you think you have hemorrhoids? You can always ask your family pharmacists for advice. They can prescribe medications for certain minor health problems, including hemorrhoids in women, when the treatment and diagnosis are already known. However, you need to have a treatment prescribed to you for this condition in the past year. A consultation will be required so the pharmacist can make sure you meet the prescribing criteria.
To avail yourself of this service, you may need to book an appointment with your family pharmacist. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more details. Some Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer an online appointment booking service. To locate the store nearest you providing this service, click here.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.