Hemorrhoids are an unfortunate fact of life that are estimated to affect at least 5% of Americans and affect a much greater proportion of pregnant or expecting women and those over 50. What are they? Besides literally a major pain in the rear? Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed veins in or around the anus. They can either occur inside the rectum or externally around the anus.


Hemorrhoids most commonly form as a result of strain in the pelvic floor, particularly around the lower rectum. This often happens during a bowel movement, but vaginal childbirth is another significant time this area is under great pressure. Strain could be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation because of a medical condition
  • Constipation caused by medication
  • Constipation caused by poor diet
  • Constipation caused by dehydration
  • Sitting too long on the toilet

Again, childbirth
Furthermore, you are at a greater risk for hemorrhoids if you are over 50, overweight, lift heavy weights or objects, or are pregnant. Genetics may even be a factor in your likelihood of developing hemorrhoids, so you can thank mom and dad.


Extra strain can cause rectal-area veins to bulge with blood. When they bulge enough for the wall of the vein to stay protruded, this results in irritation. The location of the affected vein determines whether you end up with internal hemorrhoids or external hemorrhoids (hopefully, you aren’t cursed with both!). Internal hemorrhoids are inside the rectum, and external hemorrhoids are outside. External hemorrhoids are thought to be more uncomfortable. But even internal hemorrhoids can prolapse (protrude outward) causing greater irritation. Neither kind is something you particularly want to have!

If you think you may have hemorrhoids, read our post “How Do I Know If I Have Hemorrhoids?” If you’ve already come to the unfortunate conclusion that you are, in fact, living with hemorrhoids, check out “How To Soothe Hemorrhoids” for tips on relief.