Hemorrhoids typically aren’t life threatening, but they can be rather uncomfortable. They’re also very common, affecting about half of all adults before they reach age 50. This is, in part, due to the fact that many people spend long hours sitting both on the job and at home. Hemorrhoids are one of the most common complaints heard by Proctologists, also known as Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
In most cases, the pain, itching, bleeding and irritation will clear up in a few weeks, even without treatment. Knowing the causes of inflamed hemorrhoids, however, can help you reduce your risk of developing them, stop the pain when they do occur and prevent a recurrence. Lifestyle changes, including finding ways to avoid prolonged sitting, are often required to avoid repeat episodes of the condition.
Are Hemorrhoids Preventable?
Hemorrhoids become enlarged due to pooling blood trapped in the veins around the anus. This is sometimes caused by pressure from staining at bowel movements, or struggling to lift heavy objects during a move or at work. Prolonged sitting also pushes the veins downward, causing irritation. At the same time, standing much of the day may have a similar effect, because gravity also pushes the hemorrhoids downward.
Some people are at an increased risk of problems due to their occupation. Truck drivers may be especially at risk, because the nature of the job doesn’t allow for frequent breaks from sitting. Those who spend long hours in a desk chair at the office may also develop issues with hemorrhoids. An ergonomic chair that offers proper support cushions may help, but regular exercise breaks are still necessary.
Proctologists recommend going for a quick walk a few times a day, even if it is only around the office. If this isn’t possible, stand up at your desk and take a few moments to stretch. This will promote blood flow throughout your body, and reduce the pressure that may lead to hemorrhoidal irritation.
How Should I Manage Inflamed Hemorrhoids?
When hemorrhoids do occur, they should be examined by a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and rule out more serious problems. In most cases, they do not require special treatment, though. They should begin to improve on their own within two weeks.
A proctologist can offer advice on ways to speed recovery, including avoiding many of the things that cause inflammation in the first place. This often includes avoiding prolonged sitting without brief breaks for exercise. While using a donut-shaped pillow is common for hemorrhoids, it is not a good idea. Because these pillows lack support in the center, the enlarged veins may protrude further causing additional problems. Instead, try sitting in a recumbent position on a bed or couch to provide proper support and promote healing.
Your doctor may also recommend increasing your fiber intake, drinking more water and using stool softeners to combat constipation. Straining while sitting on the toilet will only make matters worse, and may delay healing. In the meantime, over-the-counter hemorrhoidal ointments and sitz baths may be used to alleviate symptoms.
Some hemorrhoids require more invasive treatment. If your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor will recommend one of the following treatments based on your condition:
- Removal of a clotted hemorrhoid through incision
- Chemical injections, known as sclerotherapy, that shrink the vein.
- Rubber band ligation.
- Stapling procedures for protruding internal hemorrhoids. This is known as PPH, or Procedure for Prolapse and Hemorrhoids,
- THD, or transarterial Hemorrhoidal earterialization.
- Surgical removal of the vein, known as a hemorrhoidectomy
In some cases, what people believe are hemorrhoid symptoms are actually signs of a much more serious condition. For this reason, it is important to see a specialist for symptoms that don’t respond to first-line treatments within a few weeks. Worsening symptoms should also be evaluated because complications — while rare — may be serious.
How Can I Prevent Recurrence?
In order to prevent a recurrence of hemorrhoids, the advice is very similar to the advice offered by colon and rectal surgical specialists in preventing the first outbreak. Avoiding sitting and standing for prolonged periods is key, since this causes increased pressure in the hemorrhoidal veins.
You should also avoid sitting on the toilet for longer than necessary. You can limit this time even further by eating a proper diet and exercising. Not only does a high-fiber, active diet ensure your bowel movements remain regular, it can also help you lose weight. This is important because being overweight or obese causes additional pressure around the anus when standing or sitting.
When additional problems do develop, chronic hemorrhoidal issues are managed through over-the-counter creams and other anti-inflammatory medication. It is important, however, to discuss your symptoms with a proctologist to determine if a more invasive treatment is needed.
So What Is The Verdict on Prolonged Sitting?
Prolonged sitting, such as that required by professional drivers or cubicle workers, may play a key role in the development of inflammation in the hemorrhoidal tissue. Limiting sitting and taking frequent breaks allows the hemorrhoids to shrink back to normal as quickly as possible, and limits complications. Once the irritation has cleared up, steps should be taken to limit your chances of a recurrence. If you avoid straining during bowel movements and limit prolonged periods of immobility, your chances of developing inflamed hemorrhoids again is greatly reduced.
Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates.
The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates treat inflamed hemorrhoids, as well as those with other acute and chronic issues. They are specialists in all diseases of the colon, rectum and anus. By calling (310) 273-2310, you can schedule a confidential appointment and discuss any of your questions with your physician.