Last updated: Jun 28, 2010
Q: Help-my hemorrhoids are a pain! What causes them?

A: Hemorrhoids are actually swollen veins in your rectal area. They may be caused and made worse by straining or pressure on the rectum, often the result of pushing hard while you're on the toilet, or by pressure on the veins from pregnancy. By age 50, half of all women will have had them.

To stop your pain and avoid future problems, you need to prevent the need to strain. Try a high-fiber diet plus six to eight glasses of water a day. This combo can soften your stool, making it easier to empty your bowels. The best natural fiber sources are whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, but in a pinch a supplement will do.

For temporary relief from pain or itching, you might try an OTC cream or a sitz bath (an apparatus that allows you to soak your bum in warm water while sitting on the toilet). Ask your doctor about adding salt or baking soda to the water for additional relief.