Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins located in the lower part of the rectum and the anus.
The veins become swollen due to increased pressure within them, usually from
constipation or profuse
during pregnancy because of the pressure of the enlarged uterus.
Internal hemorrhoids are located in the inside lining of the rectum and cannot be felt. They are usually painless and make their presence known
because blood is seen with a
bowel movement. Internal hemorrhoids can prolapse or protrude through the anus.
External hemorrhoids are located underneath the skin that surrounds the anus. They can be felt when they swell and may cause
itching, pain, or bleeding with a bowel movement. A thrombosed external hemorrhoid occurs when blood within the vein clots, and
may cause significant pain.
Hemorrhoids are associated with
constipation and straining at bowel movements. Pregnancy is also associated with hemorrhoids. These conditions lead to increased pressure within the hemorrhoidal veins
that causes them to swell. Other conditions, for example chronic liver disease, may also cause increased venous pressure and may be associated with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are very common and are estimated to occur in up to one-half of the population by age 50.
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The enlarged uterus places extra pressure on the large vein (inferior vena cava) that drains the veins of the large intestine.
Constipation, a common problem during pregnancy, causes less frequent and more strained bowel movements. The bowels commonly move more slowly during pregnancy, and iron in prenatal vitamins also can cause constipation.
To prevent or ease constipation and hemorrhoids:
Eat a high-fiber diet (lots of whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
Don't strain (push hard) during a bowel movement.
Increase the amount of exercise you get every day.
SOURCE: Healthwise. Pregnancy: Hemorrhoids and Constipation.