A hemorrhoid is a cushion of tissues and veins present at the anus. Based on where the hemorrhoid is located it can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. External hemorrhoids are covered with nerves so they can be painful, itch or burn. Internal hemorrhoids can go in and out of the anal canal, causing bleeding, and if they get a clot can also cause pain.

Hemorrhoids form for a variety of reasons. These tissues and veins are very sensitive to pressure changes in the anal canal. Being constipated where you have very infrequent, hard stools where you have to strain can contribute to their formation. Any condition that would increase your abdominal pressure like pregnancy, liver or kidney disease where you have fluid in the abdomen, or constant straining can also cause these veins to dilate. These also can be genetic: if your family had them you might have them too.

The tissue and veins that make up the hemorrhoid is very thin and sensitive. This is why hemorrhoids are prone to getting irritated or bleeding. The best way to treat this is by having normal, regular bowel movements that aren’t super hard. Getting constipated means you will have hard, large stools that require straining to come out. This can further irritate the tissues and cause bleeding. Most patients will have a relief of symptoms with fiber supplements and a stool softener. Sitz baths, where you soak your bottom in warm water using a bathtub or a plastic tub you can buy at the pharmacy, also helps with pain and swelling.

Surgery is required for a hemorrhoid that develops a clot. This can be excruciatingly painful. The tissue can be red or purple, hot to touch, and most people can barely sit down. Surgery would involve cutting the hemorrhoid out.

If you think you have a hemorrhoid talk to your doctor about getting a rectal exam. There are several conditions that may mimic the signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids but require a different treatment plan. While you may find the exam a bit embarrassing or uncomfortable, you won’t get relief from your problem if you don’t let someone check it out.