With a subject no one really wants to talk about, it’s easy for lots of misinformation to fly around. Hemorrhoids are definitely one of those subjects. They form when the anal or rectal veins get irritated and inflamed. They swell up, and become itchy, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful areas. Internal hemorrhoids occur in the rectal veins; external hemorrhoids form under the skin of the anus. And while there are a lot of unfortunate facts about hemorrhoids, there’s also a lot of myths flying around about them too.
Hemorrhoids only happen to old people.
While age does make you more susceptible to getting hemorrhoids, it’s not the only consideration. Anyone can get hemorrhoids—in fact, there are quite a few risk factors. Pregnant women often develop them, because of the increased pressure in the area, as do women with pelvic floor disorders. Chronic constipation or diarrhea, lack of fiber, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle are all instigators as well. And since those things can happen to anybody, so can hemorrhoids.
Spicy foods are a direct cause of hemorrhoids.
Eating jalapenos or other spicy foods has no direct effect the veins in your anus. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes you feel spiciness, can cause digestive problems, though. Some people get very upset stomachs, even a bad case of diarrhea, and since chronic diarrhea is a hemorrhoid cause, it’s easy to see how this myth got started.
Sitting on cold surfaces causes hemorrhoids.
Cold, hot, wet, or otherwise, sidewalks and other surfaces are not a cause of hemorrhoids. There’s two sides to debunking this one, though. On the one hand, too much sitting actually can cause hemorrhoids. Luckily, making room for a little exercise in your schedule can help. On the other hand, coldness is actually good for hemorrhoids (or at least the discomfort associated with them). A cold pack can provide some much needed numbing, along with reducing some of the swelling. If you’re not in the mood to sit on an ice cube, a warm bath may also give you some relief.
It's impossible to get rid of hemorrhoids.
While some hemorrhoids can be particularly stubborn and tenacious, it’s totally possible to get rid of one. In mild cases, using symptomatic treatment and increasing your fiber intake for a few weeks may be sufficient. Creams like Preparation H aren’t a cure, but they are soothing and help get rid of some of the swelling in the veins. However, sometimes, a trip to the doctor is necessary, and there you can have anything from a hemorrhoid shrinking injection (sclerotherapy) to a hemorrhoidectomy (surgical removal of the hemorrhoids), depending on how severe they are.
Hemorrhoids cause cancer.
While there can be some serious complications from hemorrhoids, cancer isn’t one of them. They’re just veins that have been damaged. What is true, however, is that constant constipation and other stomach troubles can make you more likely to develop intestinal cancers, which is a leading cause of hemorrhoids. So while cancer and hemorrhoids share risk factors, there isn't a direct relationship.