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Five common haemorrhoid myths

Many people in Britain would have heard the age-old warning, “Do not sit on a cold surface, because it will give you piles” at least once in their lives! But is this an old wives’ tale or is it advice we should all be heeding?

Dr Mark Hudson-Peacock, medical director at eXroid, says that around half the population in the UK will experience haemorrhoids at some point in their lives. However, there are many misnomers around the condition, and one reason for this is that people who have haemorrhoids don’t like to talk about it.

A survey carried out by eXroid found that piles rank as one of the top three most embarrassing subjects to talk about, even with your doctor – and this is despite haemorrhoids being a very common ailment.

So, what is a haemorrhoid? The textbook definition is enlarged veins in the anus that may become irritated, or even prolapse and become externalised haemorrhoids. In addition to discomfort and irritation, haemorrhoids may cause bleeding or display as a bloody stool.

 

Man sitting on snow and ice

Dr Hudson-Peacock breaks down the five most common haemorrhoid myths:

 

Myth 1. You can’t get haemorrhoids if you are young and healthy

Haemorrhoid myth or fact? This is a very common misconception about haemorrhoids. While a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are factors that can cause piles (because they can lead to constipation, a major contributor to haemorrhoids), it is also very common for healthy people with a good diet and who exercise regularly to develop this condition. People of any age can get piles. That said, as you get older, the likelihood of developing piles also increases – this is because supporting tissues in the anal canal and rectum areas become weaker with age. However, factors such as constipation, diarrhoea and straining during bowel movements can affect anyone at any age.

Myth 2. Sitting on a cold or wet surface can lead to piles

This is one of the most common haemorrhoid myths. While sitting on a cold or damp surface may not be the most comfortable experience, rest assured that it will not lead to piles. The temperature of your seat actually has no effect on the development of piles. What does matter, however, is how long you remain seated for – it is the lack of movement that can cause piles because it puts pressure on your rectum. With this in mind, people who sit at desks should take regular breaks to stand up, or consider investing in an ergonomic chair or standing desk. Long-distance drivers and taxi drivers should also consider taking regular breaks for the same reason.

Myth 3. Too much working out will cause piles

The amount of time you spend working out doesn’t cause piles, it’s the type of movements you do, and the strain these put on the muscles around your rectum that can be a problem. If you put excessive strain on your body or use the incorrect technique when lifting heavy weights, you can increase your chances of developing haemorrhoids. However, that should not deter you from working out, as exercise is actually a very important factor in preventing haemorrhoids. This is because regular physical activity helps prevent constipation and weight gain, both of which can lead to the condition. Light exercise such as swimming, walking or yoga can help keep you healthy – and your bowels regular – without putting too much strain or pressure on your body. Check out our Gym goers advice

Myth 4. Spicy food, colon cancer and piles are all related

The myth that piles cause colon cancer stems from the fact that there are some similarities in the symptoms of both conditions, such as bleeding from the anus. However, there is no evidence to suggest that piles actually lead to cancer. And while eating curry may leave you with an upset stomach, there is also no evidence to suggest a direct link between piles and spicy foods. That said, if you experience stomach discomfort after eating spicy food, it may aggravate existing haemorrhoids when passing stool.

Myth 5. Piles are very difficult to treat

This is another haemorrhoid myth, as piles can be treated very easily and effectively through various treatment methods. Some haemorrhoids can even get better by themselves if they are caused by constipation. In some cases, a doctor may simply recommend a dietary change to introduce more fibre. Over-the-counter or prescription creams, ointments or suppositories can help alleviate the symptoms, however, with more significant or persistent symptoms, you may be referred to a specialist who can help to identify the best treatment course. Electrotherapy treatment can also help. eXroid electrotherapy is an effective treatment for piles. Half of our patients were cleared of their haemorrhoid symptoms after one treatment session and over 80% after two. Larger piles may require more than two treatments.

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