Are Hemorrhoids Causing Your Rectal Bleeding? See the Doctor to Be Sure

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Anyone who experiences rectal bleeding at any age needs to see a doctor. Though hemorrhoids are the most common cause of rectal bleeding, other diseases, such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticular disease, can also cause rectal bleeding without other symptoms.

Be aware that mistakenly attributing rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids is the most common missed opportunity to establish a cancer diagnosis. Rectal bleeding should be evaluated by a healthcare professional who will do a complete history, physical examination, and internal inspection of the rectum to see if hemorrhoids are the cause of rectal bleeding and to determine if further evaluation, such as a colonoscopy, is warranted.

Mild hemorrhoids can usually be treated with lifestyle changes, for example, by increasing fiber in the diet and taking warm baths. If constipation is involved, you should increase the amount of fiber in your diet, as well as your fluid intake, to make stools bulkier, softer and easier to pass. This often requires the addition of supplemental psyllium (Metamucil, for example). Avoid prolonged sitting on the toilet. Regular exercise and weight loss may be beneficial.

Although research has not shown that over-the-counter suppositories, ointments or hydrocortisone creams are effective for treating hemorrhoids, many people report that they are helpful. That said, prolonged use of these medications may create problems and should be avoided. You may also get relief from pads containing witch hazel or a numbing agent.

To reduce irritation, try to keep the anal area clean. After a bowel movement, rather than using dry toilet paper, try wiping gently with wet toilet paper or moist towelettes. Note that some soaps can be irritants. Soaking in a warm bath for 20 minutes or using a sitz bath (a plastic basin of warm water that fits over the toilet) three to four times a day for 10 minutes at a time may be helpful. Afterward, dry the anal area by carefully using a hair dryer on a low setting to reduce moisture.

If conservative measures do not provide sufficient symptom relief, talk to your doctor about additional treatments, including rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, and hemorrhoid stapling.

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