You may find it embarrassing to talk about, but if you have hemorrhoids, you’re in good company. About 75% of us will experience the irritation, itching, and discomfort of hemorrhoids sometime in our life, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Hemorrhoids are caused by swollen anal or rectal veins. Diseases and other conditions that cause long-term constipation or diarrhea, or changes in the veins of the rectum and anus, increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
Although hemorrhoids are generally not serious, the itching, pain, and irritation often associated with hemorrhoids can get in the way of enjoying everyday life. Learn more about some common health conditions that can increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids and what you can do to reduce your chances of developing this unpleasant and uncomfortable condition.
Constipation can make you feel bloated and sluggish, and it also increases the likelihood that you will develop hemorrhoids. If you regularly have hard, dry stools, you may have to sit on the toilet for a long period of time and strain to pass stool. This increases pressure on the veins in your rectum and anus, which can lead to swelling and inflammation.
A low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, and not drinking enough water often cause constipation. The good news is that you can often prevent constipation and treat it by drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grain cereals and breads.
For many women, the excitement and anticipation of pregnancy often go hand-in-hand with the inflammation and irritation of hemorrhoids. During pregnancy, your body experiences changes that can make you more prone to developing hemorrhoids.
As your uterus grows, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy, it puts pressure on the veins of your rectum and anus, causing them to swell. Compounding this problem is an increase in the hormone progesterone, which causes your veins to relax and swell more easily. Progesterone also slows down your intestinal tract, which can lead to constipation and straining to have a bowel movement. This further increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
After the birth of your baby, the symptoms of hemorrhoids should begin to go away, especially if you're careful to avoid constipation by eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular exercise.
Obesity and hemorrhoids share a common link: conditions that contribute to obesity also increase your risk for hemorrhoids. Risk factors for both conditions include eating a diet that lacks enough fiber, low levels of physical activity, and long periods of sitting.
By addressing these factors, you can reduce your risk for hemorrhoids, while working to achieve a healthy weight. In addition, shrinking your waistline reduces the pressure that excessive weight puts on the veins of your rectum and anus, which can lead to swelling and inflammation.
4. Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a very common gastrointestinal disorder that affects about one in five Americans, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Irritable bowel syndrome is generally not serious, but it can be very uncomfortable. Typical symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.
If you have ongoing constipation or diarrhea due to IBS, you may have an increased risk of developing hemorrhoids. The good news is that the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including constipation and diarrhea, are controllable by following your treatment plan, which may include medications, changes in diet, and reducing the amount of stress in your life.
5. Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of your gastrointestinal tract. Typical symptoms of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain and swelling and frequent episodes of diarrhea, which increases your risk of developing hemorrhoids.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but you can help reduce symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea, and lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and other complications of Crohn’s disease by following your treatment plan. Your treatment plan may include anti-inflammatory medications, dietary changes, and regular exercise.
6. Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is another type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, ongoing disease that causes inflammation of your large intestine or rectum. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain, straining during bowel movements, and bloody diarrhea.
If you have ulcerative colitis, your symptoms may be mild to severe, but ongoing diarrhea increases your risk of developing hemorrhoids. Your physician will develop a treatment plan to help reduce your symptoms and the likelihood that you will develop hemorrhoids or other complications of ulcerative colitis. Your treatment plan may include anti-inflammatory medications, dietary changes, and surgery.