Hemorrhoids: Your Guide to Recovery and Relief

Sometimes it’s the small things that are a big bother. Excessive pain during bowel movements, while walking, sitting or lying down seriously impact your quality of life. Hemorrhoids are not only the plague of many of us, but they are quite literally (and annoyingly) a pain in the rear. Having a consistent, nagging pain can deteriorate the enjoyment of any of your daily activities, and make any existing unpleasantness more unpleasant. If you have never experienced hemorrhoids, count your lucky stars and prepare for the possibility that they might occur as you get older.

Although most hemorrhoids are painful and just generally suck, they don’t last forever. Luckily, hemorrhoids are extremely temporary and there are several available options for treatment and relief. One thing that is key to avoiding the brunt of hemorrhoid horror is to catch them early on and start the treatment process. There are several sets of conditions, habits and activities that can make hemorrhoids worse, and sometimes those conditions are unavoidable, such as work or school or staying in shape. Irritated hemorrhoids can be tough to deal with, and may require a device, cushion or pad to provide enough comfort to get through the day reasonably happily until the symptoms subside.

What are Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids, aside from being characterized by being annoying and painful, are scientifically defined as swollen veins inside or around the anus. If that doesn’t sound like a weekend in Cabo, nothing else will. Hemorrhoids can be basically separated into two groups: internal and external – these mean pretty much what you think they mean.

Internal Hemorrhoids

Sometimes veins inside the anus become irritated and swollen. These internal hemorrhoids can cause bleeding, which can admittedly be pretty frightening at first. The good news about internal hemorrhoids is that the bleeding is usually the only symptom, without a ton of pain or irritability. Internal hemorrhoids are so far inside of your body that you’ll probably never see them or notice that you have them (unless they bleed, of course). Several people with internal hemorrhoids will never even know that they have them.

External Hemorrhoids

On the other side of the hemorrhoid spectrum in pretty much all ways, are external hemorrhoids. External hemorrhoids can be much more painful due to the fact that the skin around the anus has a lot more pain receptors and nerve endings than inside the anus, which is also why internal hemorrhoids won’t generally cause you much trouble. External hemorrhoids appear as red bumps around the anus, and they hurt as well as bleed. These occur when internal hemorrhoids grow so big that they prolapse outside of the anal sphincter. Bowel movements, sitting and daily activities can be pretty heavily affected by these.

Hemorrhoid Symptoms

As previously touched on, you may never experience any symptoms if you have internal hemorrhoids. You may go your whole life without knowing of their existence besides possible acknowledgement during a rectal examination.

However, some internal, and most external hemorrhoids come with a pretty rough set of symptoms.

  1. The first symptom is pain and discomfort. Like pain with most other conditions or disorders, the pain from hemorrhoids lies across a pretty wide spectrum, stretching all the way from “what hemorrhoids?” to “ring of fire”. There are several factors that will determine how bad the hemorrhoids hurt. If they are external, they will hurt more than internal. Also, the more swollen a hemorrhoid is, the more it will hurt. Sitting for long periods of time and any kind of physical straining will aggravate your hemorrhoids and increase the pain they cause.
  2. The second symptom is bleeding. With internal hemorrhoids, this may be the only symptom ever exhibited. Since hemorrhoids are irritated veins, some bleeding may occur due to the irritation to the vein itself – like water coming out of a damaged hose. This bleeding will subside once the hemorrhoid heals, which usually takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the hemorrhoid. Blood coming from the anal cavity can be pretty startling, but once the bleeding is associated with hemorrhoids (and not from another cause), you can rest easy knowing that it won’t last forever and there isn’t a more serious health risk with association to anal bleeding at play.
  3. The third symptom of hemorrhoids is itching. If you have ever had itching in that area before, you know how utterly unpleasant it can be. If you haven’t, imagine a mosquito bite inside or around your anal sphincter. It doesn’t sound fun, does it? Scratching or rubbing may offer relief for a second or two, but this furthers the irritation of the vein and causes the hemorrhoid to grow, get itchier and become more painful, making sitting, bowel movements, walking and several other activities extremely uncomfortable.
  4. Swelling is the last side effect of hemorrhoids; and, like pain, can lie on a pretty wide spectrum. Some hemorrhoids are tiny and remain tiny, while others grow large and become irritated and more painful. If the hemorrhoid is external and grows large enough, just sitting down or friction against your underwear can cause the hemorrhoid to become irritated and hurt and grow. If you can reduce swelling, a good part of the battle has already been won. Although hemorrhoids generally only last a few weeks, it is best to try and reduce the swelling early on to prevent the other symptoms from coming on too strong and exacerbating the problem.

Although these symptoms can be difficult to deal with, there are several over-the-counter treatments, as well as physical devices to help you stay comfortable while the hemorrhoids heal themselves and start to subside. We’ll discuss these a little later on. Before that, we’re going to take a look at how those pesky hemorrhoids got there and started causing you pain in the first place.

How Did I Get Hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids can be caused by a great number of stressors and predispositions. One thing that many people do not know about hemorrhoids is that the predisposition to developing and suffering from them can be passed down genetically, so if your parents suffered from hemorrhoids, there’s a higher chance that, at some point, you will too.

There are 5 main causes of hemorrhoids: pushing while pooping, physical straining, pregnancy, consistent constipation and consistent diarrhea. There are several other factors that can put you more at risk for hemorrhoids and behavioral patterns that can increase the severity of the symptoms once the hemorrhoids are already there, but these are the core causes. Let’s break these down and take a look at how they can cause hemorrhoids to rear their ugly head.

  1. Pushing During a Bowel Movement  We’ve all been there – you go to the bathroom expecting a bowel movement and nothing happens, or it happens very slowly, so you push. You push and push until the magic happens, or until become so impatient and frustrated that you call it quits and live to fight another day. Even if this pushing does not produce, what it will always do is increase the pressure around the anus and in the anal cavity. This pressure can act upon the veins contained therein and cause enough irritation to produce hemorrhoids. Continuing this behavior will not only cause new hemorrhoids, but will worsen any existing hemorrhoids by compounding irritation by way of added pressure.
  1. Physical Straining   Whether job-related or not, physical strains are one of the leading causes of hemorrhoids. Straining physically isn’t the same as performing exercise. Many exercises can be performed without straining too hard; and, in some cases, straining is a diagnostic for poor form and poor exercise choice. If you are susceptible to hemorrhoids, subjecting your body to intense straining will increase the pressure everywhere, including the anal cavity, which can enflame veins and lead to painful hemorrhoids. Try to keep straining to a minimum, or put measures in place to reduce the strains that are an unavoidable part of your day-to-day life.
  1. Pregnancy   While pregnancy and the miracle of birth are beautiful, wonderful things, they inarguably take a toll on your body. Aside from swollen ankles, fat gain and several other symptoms, pregnancy and birth can give you a hearty dose of hemorrhoids. The shifting in hormones, blood flow and pressure within different parts of your body can wind up putting a lot of pressure on your anal cavity, which can easily summon a small militia of hemorrhoids. These are pretty much unavoidable, so treatment of these, along with all of the other pre and post-birth symptoms is important to keep up with.
  1. Constipation   Constipation can carry a lot of weight on your mind if it is severe enough. This stress will likely make it worse, and prolonged constipation comes with a few side effects. One of the more painful side effects of constipation is the hemorrhoid or group of hemorrhoids that results from this constipation. Constipation results in pushing and straining with no success, which increases pressure around the sphincter and will cause hemorrhoids to pop up. Make sure that you have enough dietary fiber in your diet and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation, and to avoid the nasty hemorrhoids that can accompany it.
  1. Diarrhea   Avoiding diarrhea at all costs is in your best interest regardless of any associated health risk or symptoms – diarrhea is inconvenient, uncomfortable and a hassle. Not only can it be a telltale sign of a wide variety of illnesses and disorders, diarrhea can lead to dehydration. Diarrhea irritates your anal cavity and anal sphincter pretty badly, which can lead to the appearance of hemorrhoids, especially if the diarrhea is prolonged or happens often. A balanced diet and removal of unnecessary stressors can help to clear up diarrhea, as well as several over-the-counter medications for stomach and bowel issues.

How Can Hemorrhoids Affect My Daily Life?

  1. There are two common misconceptions about hemorrhoids that skew our perception of how they affect a person’s life. The first misconception is that they last forever. One hemorrhoid pops up and bam! You have hemorrhoids now, from now until you die. The other misconception is that they only last a day or two. While this is certainly a possibility, most hemorrhoids will last longer. Both of these misconceptions alter how we plan, while instead plans should be set in place to reduce irritation and heal hemorrhoids in the short and long-term, while also ensuring and promoting overall health in the long run. While you shouldn’t let hemorrhoids control your activities or way of life, there will be some changes while they heal and dissipate.
  2. Getting from point A to point B is one of the most fundamental and necessary parts of daily life. What if that activity was always accompanied by a nagging pain? Walking to the kitchen, grabbing something from the file room and getting the mail would all be unpleasant. If you have large hemorrhoids and do not treat them, this is a very possible reality. Having swollen, painful veins surrounding your anus can add a very real layer of discomfort to walking to work, walking to the garage or simply walking the dog.
  3. As with walking, exercise is a necessary party of life. It is vital to keeping your heart healthy, regulating body fat and keeping your muscles engaged and strong. Flexibility, strength and postural stability are all extremely important factors in your health, especially as age sets in. There are several factors that can make exercise difficult, with hemorrhoids making a pretty bold appearance on the list. With physical straining being a cause of and irritant to hemorrhoids in the first place, intense exercise can not only be painful because of the hemorrhoids, it can simultaneously make them worse. Mild forms of exercise should be okay, as long as the pain is manageable. 
  • Horror of horrors, your butt hurts when you are doing absolutely nothing. Severe, external hemorrhoids that remain untreated, or are subjected to a lot of irritation and become large and painful will make even sitting down and remaining seated an uncomfortable endeavor. Sitting all day (if you have a desk job like many of us) the hemorrhoids can make the day a little bit rough. If sitting irritates the hemorrhoids, you also face the risk of them getting worse.
  1.  Another way hemorrhoids can affect you is when you sleep. If you’re a side or a tummy sleeper, you can skip this part, but if you move a lot or roll over in your sleep, hemorrhoids could really put a damper in your rest. If you have irritated external hemorrhoids, any pressure put on them will cause moderate to severe pain (depending on how far along they are) and rolling over can cause a good amount of your body weight to be centered on that area, which can easily cause enough discomfort to wake you up, if it happens frequently enough it can impact your sleep schedule.
  2. One of the worst ways hemorrhoids make their presence known is during bowel movements. Any sort of complications with your number 2s can make for a weary day, and a helping of added stress as well. Hemorrhoids, due to their location, provide direct contact to any bowel movements, and thus can easily cause you pain when that contact occurs.
  3. While these are all ways that hemorrhoids can affect your life, they are not permanent debilitations, and they are commonly more mild than severe. However, when a hemorrhoid becomes thrombosed, it is a bit of a different ballgame, unfortunately.

Thrombosis

While hemorrhoid symptoms lie on a spectrum of say, 0-5 on a hypothetical discomfort scale, if thrombosis occurs in a hemorrhoid, that scale shifts from 4-10. Thrombosis in hemorrhoids is also not nearly as easily treatable as a regular hemorrhoid, and can cause much more discomfort for a longer period of time. While hemorrhoids can be treated with over-the-counter topical ointments and several other options, thrombosed hemorrhoids aren’t so easy to get rid of, and sometimes even require a surgical intervention if the case is advanced and other options aren’t yielding any promising results. Let’s take a look at thrombosis and what the signs and symptoms are.

Thrombosis in hemorrhoids occurs only to prolapsed (external) hemorrhoids. When a hemorrhoid swells to a large enough size and stays swollen, it may allow blood to pool and eventually clot inside of it. Blood clots are no joke wherever they occur, but the discomfort can be more direct when they occur in an external hemorrhoid that can be subjected to irritation via clothes, regular activity and day-to-day living. When a blood clot occurs, the hemorrhoid has thrombosed. A thrombosed hemorrhoid will carry all of the symptoms of a regular hemorrhoid, with the added bonus of often-incapacitating pain.

Treatment of thrombosis in hemorrhoids includes extra strength versions of standard hemorrhoid treatments. Topical creams, ointments and pain relievers can help you weather the storm of symptoms you’ll be facing, but the blood clot will often have to be surgically removed to achieve a permanent solution, at least for the hemorrhoid in question. There are several homeopathic methods that have been colloquially held effective for thrombosed hemorrhoids, but most of these have been dismissed by the medical community as snake oil with no evidence of helping to prevent recurring hemorrhoids or offer any long-term relief from the associated symptoms. 

Treating Hemorrhoids

 Luckily for those of us who suffer from hemorrhoids, we aren’t completely left out in the wind with our symptoms. Since hemorrhoids are so common, there are many treatments out on the market that don’t help a ton. Since the symptoms of hemorrhoids vary widely from case to case and person to person, the treatments won’t be the same for everyone. The severity of whichever symptoms you have from the potluck of possible symptoms associated with hemorrhoids will be the determining factor on if you seek treatment, for what you seek treatment and how strong the treatment has to be for you to heal up and get on with your life.

 Over the counter medication is the first thing to turn to at the sight of hemorrhoids. Topical ointments, creams and other devices can help take down swelling and provide some relief from itching and other irritation. Some of these devices are put in the refrigerator then place on the affected area for some cool relief (think icing for muscles and other injuries). For the pain, over-the-counter pain meds will fix you up just fine for most hemorrhoids. If the hemorrhoids are external and extremely irritated, prescription pain medication may have to be obtained to achieve relief while the healing process is underway.

Phenylephrine creams (Preparation H) can provide some relief to your hemorrhoids by restricting your blood vessels. This topical ointment can soothe hemorrhoids by acting as a vasorestrictor and reducing the size of all of the blood vessels it is applied to. Smaller hemorrhoids mean less irritation and pain. Hydrocortisone can also be used for this, but it is more acute in the way it works and the people it works for – some users report an increase in redness and swelling while others have reported better results than phenylephrine cream.

Here at Lemonhero, we offer a few simple products that can assist with the healing process by removing your hemorrhoids from friction and irritation. These donut cushions are designed so that you can sit comfortably without exposing your hemorrhoids to your chairs or couches. We have 2 products that can help take some heat off of your rectal area while healing is underway:

  1. Contoured Foam Donut Cushion  This durable foam cushion is designed to provide maximum comfort while your hemorrhoids repair themselves. If you work a job where you’re seated all day, or perhaps have a disability that keeps you seated, this cushion can not only be a lifesaver, but can add some extra comfort to your day that wasn’t there before. The cover is easy to clean and the foam is breathable so you still get plenty of airflow to the affected area. Check them out here
  1. Inflatable Donut Cushion  If you’re on the go and need some comfort, or you’re looking for cheaper intro donut cushion to test the waters, our Inflatable Donut Cushion is for you. This cushion is easy to inflate, puncture-resistant and comes with an easy-to-use hand pump.  As with the Contoured Foam Donut Cushion, this cushion is easy to wash and designed to provide optimum comfort so you can quickly get back to 100%.

What Can I Do to Prevent Hemorrhoids in the Future?

While having hemorrhoids and the healing process of the ones already formed can be a hassle, there are several measures one can take to decrease the amount of hemorrhoids incurred from genetics, or simply daily life. Diet alteration, behavioral alteration and catching swollen veins early on can be huge in saving yourself from a large amount of hemorrhoid grief you would be exposed to otherwise.

Diet alteration is simple enough – increase your intake of dietary fiber. Beans, broccoli, peas, okra and several other foods are high in fiber and can calm down your lower GI tract and rectal area. Staying regular, avoiding constipation and having healthy bowel movements are all big parts of preventing hemorrhoids, as well as helping to calm them down once they’ve already arrived.

Altering your behavior is a bit more difficult than your diet (for most), since we can tend to get stuck in our daily routines. If you have a predisposition to developing hemorrhoids and you want to avoid them, you’ll need to cut out, reduce or modify your daily activities to take pressure off of your rectal area and lower colon. Physical straining and pushing while having a bowel movement are two of the quickest ways to get hemorrhoids, and they are mostly avoidable. Making a few easy, conscious changes to your daily life can make a huge impact on any part of your health, with hemorrhoids being included.

Preventative measures include the use of a cushion, the use of other devices to provide a cooling effect and avoiding unnecessary pressure or friction. If symptoms are caught early enough, anti-inflammatory medicine or topical ointment purchased over the counter may be enough to win the battle on their own, before symptoms start to compound and exacerbate one another. Preventing hemorrhoids is a lot easier than healing them, so taking a few minutes to inventory your day-to-day life and how that may be helping or hurting your situation below the belt can offer a serious reduction in grief.

Final Thoughts

As with most people, you may have thought too much or too little of hemorrhoids until you got your first one. After you’ve had them for a while, you can identify your symptoms and find your sweet spot regarding treatment more easily. Remember the different treatment options for the symptoms, but they’ll occur quite a bit less often, and less severely if proper preventative measures are taken. Listen to your body, catch symptoms early on and give yourself time to heal when hemorrhoids come knocking. You’ll thank yourself down the line.

Hemorrhoid Symptoms

As previously touched on, you may never experience any symptoms if you have internal hemorrhoids. You may go your whole life without knowing of their existence besides possible acknowledgement during a rectal examination. However, some internal, and most external hemorrhoids come with a pretty rough set of symptoms. The first symptom is pain and discomfort. Like pain with most other conditions or disorders, the pain from hemorrhoids lies across a pretty wide spectrum, stretching all the way from “what hemorrhoids?” to “ring of fire”. There are several factors that will determine how bad the hemorrhoids hurt. If they are external, they will hurt more than internal. Also, the more swollen a hemorrhoid is, the more it will hurt. Sitting for long periods of time and any kind of physical straining will aggravate your hemorrhoids and increase the pain they cause.

The second symptom is bleeding. With internal hemorrhoids, this may be the only symptom ever exhibited. Since hemorrhoids are irritated veins, some bleeding may occur due to the irritation to the vein itself – like water coming out of a damaged hose. This bleeding will subside once the hemorrhoid heals, which usually takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the hemorrhoid. Blood coming from the anal cavity can be pretty startling, but once the bleeding is associated with hemorrhoids (and not from another cause), you can rest easy knowing that it won’t last forever and there isn’t a more serious health risk with association to anal bleeding at play.

The third symptom of hemorrhoids is itching. If you have ever had itching in that area before, you know how utterly unpleasant it can be. If you haven’t, imagine a mosquito bite inside or around your anal sphincter. It doesn’t sound fun, does it? Scratching or rubbing may offer relief for a second or two, but this furthers the irritation of the vein and causes the hemorrhoid to grow, get itchier and become more painful, making sitting, bowel movements, walking and several other activities extremely uncomfortable.

Swelling is the last side effect of hemorrhoids; and, like pain, can lie on a pretty wide spectrum. Some hemorrhoids are tiny and remain tiny, while others grow large and become irritated and more painful. If the hemorrhoid is external and grows large enough, just sitting down or friction against your underwear can cause the hemorrhoid to become irritated and hurt and grow. If you can reduce swelling, a good part of the battle has already been won. Although hemorrhoids generally only last a few weeks, it is best to try and reduce the swelling early on to prevent the other symptoms from coming on too strong and exacerbating the problem.

Although these symptoms can be difficult to deal with, there are several over-the-counter treatments, as well as physical devices to help you stay comfortable while the hemorrhoids heal themselves and start to subside. We’ll discuss these a little later on. Before that, we’re going to take a look at how those pesky hemorrhoids got there and started causing you pain in the first place.