Hemorrhoids are swollen and irritated veins in the anus that can occur both outside and inside the anal canal. Causes of hemorrhoids range from behavior, such as straining too hard during bowel movements, to bowel problems. Hemorrhoids also are more likely to occur in pregnant women, the obese and people who engage in anal intercourse. It it thought, but less well-established, that poor fiber intake and genetics also play roles in developing the condition.
Hemorrhoids develop when undue pressure on anal veins causes blood to pool in them, creating swelling. Over time, the swollen veins expand nearby tissue, causing hemorrhoids. Improper toilet behavior is among the known causes of hemorrhoids. Straining or excessive pushing to release a bowel movement puts pressure on anal veins that can lead to hemorrhoids. Likewise, sitting too long on the toilet strains the veins.
Bowel problems also are among the causes of hemorrhoids. Constipation—irregular and difficult bowel movements—may cause hemorrhoids because the person likely strains to move his bowels. Chronic diarrhea, although the opposite problem of constipation, has a similar effect because a victim moves his bowels much more often than average. This puts pressure on anal veins, increasing the risk of developing hemorrhoids. While most short-term cases of diarrhea do not lead to hemorrhoids, even one session of overstraining with constipation can cause the condition to develop.
The causes of hemorrhoids extend to excessive weight around the pelvic region as well. The weight stresses the veins in the area, making it more likely that they will swell. Pregnant women often experience hemorrhoids, especially toward the end of pregnancy, for this reason. Obese people also also are at greater risk of developing hemorrhoids. The risk increases for obese people who carry the bulk of their weight around the middle.
Anal intercourse can play a role in hemorrhoids as well. The motion may irritate anal veins and cause them to swell. A person who already has hemorrhoids may want to consider abstaining from anal sex until the condition has been treated in order to avoid further inflammation and pain.
While toilet behavior, bowel problems and weight have been pegged as known causes of hemorrhoids, there are less well-established theories. Some people believe that a diet poor in fiber can lead to the condition. Fiber helps people move their bowels, so advocates believe that a lack of the substance can cause constipation and thus hemorrhoids. Others point to genetics as a cause of hemorrhoids, arguing that weak anal veins can run in the family.
Hemorrhoid relief options vary. Some people find luck with lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of fluids. Others apply ointments to the area to reduce swelling and itchiness. A medical professional should be consulted if there is evidence of rectal bleeding or acute rectal pain.