Harvard Women's Health Watch

What to do about hemorrhoids

Bulging blood vessels in the backside can be a pain, but you have many options for treating them.

Some women have a passing encounter with hemorrhoids during pregnancy. By midlife, many more of us have had one or more of the classic symptoms, which include rectal pain, itching, bleeding, and possibly prolapse (protrusion of hemorrhoids into the anal canal). Leakage of feces may also occur. Although hemorrhoids are rarely dangerous, they can be a painful recurrent bother. Fortunately, there's a lot we can do about them.

What are hemorrhoids?

In one sense, everyone has hemorrhoids — pillow-like clusters of veins that lie just beneath the mucous membranes lining the lowest part of the rectum and the anus. Trouble develops when these veins become swollen and distended, like varicose veins in the legs. And like varicose veins, hemorrhoids may be a byproduct of our blood vessels' constant battle against gravity to get blood back to the heart — and part of the price we pay for being upright creatures.

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