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Everything you've ever wanted to know about hemorrhoids but didn't want to ask

Dr. Yolanda Kirkham gets to the bottom of the causes and treatment options.
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April 7, 2021 12:02 p.m. EST
April 7, 2021 12:02 p.m. EST
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It's an issue that affects almost every Canadian at some point in their life, but it's so rarely talked about: Today, we're getting to the bottom (pun intended) of the cause, treatment, and prevention options for hemorrhoids with the help of OBGYN Dr. Yolanda Kirkham.

What are hemorrhoids 

Quite literally, they're a pain in the bum. In scientific terms, hemorrhoids are dilated varicose (swollen) veins of the anus; also called piles. Internal hemorrhoids (which are painless, thankfully) occur more in the rectum, while external hemorrhoids are painful and you can feel them at the anus.

Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling

You may not know you have one until you have a bowel movement where you strained and then a toilet bowl of blood.

Who gets them

  • 50% of men and women by age 50
  • People and kids with constipation (low fibre or not enough water)
  • Someone prone to straining/sitting on the toilet for a long time
  • People with varicose veins
  • People with more weight around the middle 
  • Pregnant women are also prone to hemorrhoids – that baby in the growing uterus! Then pushing during delivery doesn’t help
  • All of these conditions block blood flow and cause pressure

Prevention

  • Address the problem causing the hemorrhoids. More often than not, the cause is constipation so increasing fibre is an effective first line of defence. Add high fibre foods like beans, broccoli, fruits, veggies, and bran buds. And don't forget to drink enough water. Additionally, a pharmacist may help direct you to some stool softeners or laxatives. Fibre decreases hemorrhoid bleeding by 50%
  • Reduce straining and time on the toilet, using a footstool to change the angle for having a bowel movement.
  • Sitz baths 2-3 times a day
  • There are also over-the-counter medications and creams - products that have a bit of soothing cortisone/steroid for the inflammation, or a numbing effect) even a barrier like Vaseline. MD may also prescribe a cream
  • Exercise

Treatment

  • Over the counter medications and creams with anti-inflammatory and soothing cortisone/steroid or numbing agents; barriers like petrolatum jelly
  • Prescription creams 
  • Hemorrhoid treatment can include office or surgical procedures like botox, hemorrhoid banding, and a general surgery called hemorrhoidectomy

Watch the video above to learn even more, and be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any new treatment.