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A common problem no one wants to talk about: hemorrhoids

Sid Sowder

Hemorrhoids are a condition that nobody wants to talk about, but that more than half of all Americans will experience in their lifetime. This week on “Take Care,” we get to the bottom of hemorrhoids with Dr. Rajeev Jain.

Dr. Rajeev Jain is a partner at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, chief of gastroenterology at Texas Health Dallas and clinical assistant professor of medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

“Hemorrhoids are actually just dilated veins in the rectum and anus, and we all have those veins there. They have some degree of dilation; it becomes a problem or symptomatic when those become more dilated,” Jain says.

Many factors can lead to hemorrhoidal symptoms.

Humans have gone from eating a very high fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and containing less meat, to diets high in red meats and low in fiber rich foods. Because of these low fiber diets there is an increased incidence of symptomatic hemorrhoids.

Increased dietary fiber helps to bulk up the stool and allows it to pass through more easily.

Either extreme of bowel movements, both constipation and diarrhea, can lead to increased hemorrhoidal symptoms.

Jain suggests that his patients go immediately when they have the urge to go to the bathroom, as holding it in can also increase blood flow.

“Sitting on the commode for a long time, or an excessive amount of time, does increase blood flow to the rectum,” says Jain.

When you go to the restroom, Jain says, you shouldn’t spend more time than needed on the toilet because the longer you sit on the commode, the more blood flow is increased and the higher the likelihood of developing symptomatic hemorrhoids.

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching around the anus, discomfort and rectal bleeding.

“I always advise patients who may have some symptoms of hemorrhoids, if they don’t respond to your diet maneuvers with increasing fiber or other over the counter remedies, to always seek medical advice or care,” Jain says.

Because hemorrhoids are such a common disorder, Jain suggests that patients experiencing hemorrhoidal symptoms consult with their primary care physician.