About half the population will suffer from hemorrhoids by age 50, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This painful condition is caused when the blood vessels inside or on the surface of the rectum and anus become inflamed and sometimes start bleeding. "The discomfort can make it difficult to work or engage in exercise or sexual activity," says Philip Jaffe, M.D., an associate professor of clinical medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
Prolonged sitting, straining when going to the bathroom, pregnancy (which exerts extra pressure on the pelvis), and childbirth are common causes of hemorrhoids, says Jaffe. Anxiety can also trigger flare-ups, as you're more likely to get constipated when you're under stress.
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If your hemorrhoids are caused or irritated by constipation, Jaffe suggests increasing your liquid and fiber intake by drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily and getting at least 25 grams of fiber a day. Look for a combination of insoluble fiber (found in veggies, wheat bran, and whole-grain cereals) and soluble fiber (in oats, beans, and psyllium-fiber supplements).
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Treatment for hemorrhoids and their itching and burning: soak in a tub or sitz bath (a pan that fits over the toilet) full of warm water. Over-the-counter creams and suppositories can also help; many contain steroids that shrink the hemorrhoids' swollen tissue. If you don't get relief within 10 days of using the product, or you have rectal bleeding or severe pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP. "Your physician will want to rule out serious diseases, like colorectal cancer," explains Jaffe.