USA Today reports that while hemorrhoids aren't a popular topic of conversation, they are a popular search topic online. Read on:
People may not want to talk about the issue of hemorrhoids, but they are searching for information online.
- People hit hardest by the problem: those ages 45 to 65 and pregnant women
- Over-the-counter creams can make people more comfortable
- To prevent hemorrhoids: Exercise regularly and eat a diet high in fiber
People may not want to talk about their hemorrhoids in mixed company, but they're sure searching for information about them on the Web.
Last year's top trending health issue on Google was hemorrhoids, so the Food and Drug Administration is addressing the uncomfortable problem in its latest article of Consumer Updates.
Let's not be squeamish: Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the lower part of the rectum or anus, and they affect 75% of people at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"It bothers a lot of people," says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. "It's a very common medical complaint."
Many people in the USA don't get enough fiber in their diets, which can lead to constipation. That can cause hemorrhoids, which can make you miserable, says Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston. "All the more reason to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are full of fiber and water." The general recommendation is about 25 grams of fiber a day for women and about 38 grams a day for men.
Heather Mangieri, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says, "As a dietitian, half my time is spent talking to clients about GI (gastrointestinal) issues, and yes, that includes hemorrhoids.
"When it comes to prevention, think fiber and fluid, but make sure to increase both of these together. Water is essential if you're eating a higher-fiber diet. And the fact that they can be painful to sit on might be a good thing, since movement is another important prescription for prevention and treatment," says Mangieri, a sports nutritionist in Pittsburgh.
People hit hardest by this health issue: adults ages 45 to 65 and women during pregnancy and after childbirth. Common symptoms include itching and pain, especially when sitting, and bright red blood on toilet tissue or in the toilet bowl, the FDA says.
There are a number of over-the-counter creams and other products available to patients. They make people feel more comfortable but won't get rid of the underlying hemorrhoids, the agency says.
People can relieve mild symptoms by soaking regularly for 10 to 15 minutes in a warm bath. If symptoms don't improve with treatments at home or get worse, you need to go to your doctor, the FDA says.
Bottom line: To try to avoid hemorrhoids, the agency advises these steps:
- Eat foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Exercise and don't sit for long periods of time.
- Use stool softeners.
- Use fiber supplements.
"This is another good reason to get out of your chair and go for a walk," Church says.
Adds Dawn Jackson Blatner, a Chicago-based registered dietitian: "Your food choices affect you from head to toe and top to bottom. Staying active and caring for yourself by making wholesome food choices helps everything from hemorrhoids to headaches."
Click here to find out more about treatments available for hemorrhoid sufferers.