My only clue that they were some secret source of shame came from watching a guy in the drugstore look both ways down the aisle before surreptitiously dropping a tube of Preparation H into his basket and covering it up with a bag of Doritos. But then I got pregnant, which ushered me into this tangled-up world of bathroom discomfort, unexplained bleeding, and widespread misinformation. Unlike my male friends and family, however, I was more than happy to admit I had a problem and to research it into the ground. Brace yourselves, fellows.
But helpful. But pretty gross. In other words, everybody has hemorrhoids all the time. The problem is when a hemorrhoid becomes swollen or irritated.
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When that happens, you get itching, pain, aches, and bleeding, which can range from mild to heavy. Hemorrhoids affect men with the same frequency as they do women, yet for some reason we seem to associate them more with men. However, if left untreated, hemorrhoids can lead to certain ongoing health issues that are no bueno.
To get the lowdown on what can help hemorrhoids, I spoke with Dr. Mark Whiteford: The anus is a great black box that nobody wants to learn about, and nobody wants to talk about. People who deal with this on a regular basis really individualize patient care. Anal fissures like a paper cut in the anus , anal warts, STDs, etc. TM: Can you clear up that one-size-fits-all advice for us? What are most people and even their doctors missing?
A Pain That’s Hard to Discuss
MW: There are different types of hemorrhoids external versus internal. But there are also grades of hemorrhoids. Now that we knew the different grades of hemorrhoids, it was time to talk causes, which we knew or thought we knew was caused mainly from constipation and the straining that comes along with it. TM: It seems like all the advice out there ties hemorrhoids together with constipation.
But not everyone who has a hemorrhoid problem is constipated. What gives? MW: In America, constipation is a vague thing—there are actually 3 forms. While hemorrhoids do not cause constipation, they can be the result of chronic constipation and a low fiber diet. At this point, we needed to know what to do to treat hemorrhoids once properly diagnosed. We continued our quest to ask Dr. Whiteford all the questions everyone else is too ashamed to ask. MW: There are three levels of care for a correctly diagnosed hemorrhoid problem. Just like any other part of the body, like getting wrinkles around your eyes, hemorrhoid tissue can continue to stretch out, so you may need another treatment down the road if it starts bothering you again.
And finally, we asked Dr. Whiteford about the long-term impacts of having frequent or longstanding hemorrhoids. MW: The main long-term risk is annoyance. Statistically, 1 in 20 Americans is going to get colon cancer. We are a great first step. But sometimes you really should talk to a doctor, even if it's hard to choke out words for problems like " hemorrhoids ," " herpes ," " toenail fungus " or anything else "down there," as one patient called their pelvic region.
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Bernat works at the University of Michigan Medical School training medical students to offer better patient-centered care. Your relationship with your doctor "needs to be based on trust and respect, otherwise information will be missed on either side and it will have a negative impact. In other words, a failure to communicate with your doctor can hurt your health.
Thankfully, hemorrhoids are not all that dangerous. The veins near your anus or rectum have gotten swollen. There are topical creams you can buy at the drugstore to treat them. You can make dietary changes like adding more fiber and drinking more water to reduce your chances of having them.
You could even try something called a sitz bath to make them feel better. But sometimes hemorrhoids are beyond the help of home remedies. They can become so painful you need surgery. Hemorrhoids can come back even after you treat the symptoms and stay a real pain in the -- well you know. A doctor can help. It's also good to talk to a doctor for peace of mind.
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What if it's not really hemorrhoids? What if it's something else? For instance, one study found that poor communication between a doctor and a patient when it came to a less embarrassing disease, asthma, may be one of the reasons minorities have less effective treatment outcomes. Greg Diette who was a co-author on the study and works at Johns Hopkins. Diette tries to work around a patient's reticence. He starts each appointment with open-ended questions. He's mindful not to interrupt. He builds rapport. And he's always sure to ask a final question. He says some doctors also try to work around this discomfort by having you fill out a survey before you go in to see them.
The thinking is that you will feel more comfortable filling that out, rather than talking about a problem. Then it will be the doctor prompting you with questions.