What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids: a Real Pain in the Butt

They may be embarrassing to talk about, but they are more common than one might think. And just about any woman who's given birth knows what they're all about. They are hemorrhoids, and they are a real pain in the rear.

What exactly are hemorrhoids? The journey begins in the large intestine, where the lowest part of the colon becomes the rectum and anal area. This area is lined by a thin membrane, and lying just beneath the membrane are clusters of veins collectively called hemorrhoids. For any number of reasons, these vessels may become swollen or inflamed, and when they do, they become the hemorrhoids we think of in those somewhat embarrassing commercials. Symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • Bright red blood noted after a bowel movement, either on the toilet paper, in the stool or in the toilet bowl water
  • Palpable or visible tissue protrusion around the opening of the anus
  • Pain, burning or itching, particularly during or after a bowel movement
  • Occasional pain, burning and itching at rest or with daily activities

Usually, the swollen tissue is quite noticeable (if you've had it, you know), but hemorrhoids can also occur inside the canal of the anus. Even if the problem is located internally, though, bleeding can still occur and the affected veins will become painful if the inflammation is great enough.

Most cases of hemorrhoids can be self-treated with over-the-counter remedies. If, however, the problem persists or bothers you to a point that your normal daily activities are affected, seek medical attention. Treatment options exist that can alleviate the problem rather quickly so you no longer have to suffer, as the commercials say, "the embarrassing pain and itching of hemorrhoids."

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