No one wants to talk about them, but many people suffer from hemorrhoids. They are annoying, painful and embarrassing, but hemorrhoids are also a very common health problem. Around half of all American adults will deal with this condition by the time they’re fifty, and 50-85% of the world’s population will have hemorrhoids during their life.

So what are hemorrhoids? According to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, the term actually means “cushions of tissue filled with blood vessels at the junction of the rectum and the anus”. This term is commonly used to describe the swollen, inflamed veins in your rectum and anus, also known as piles or emerods.

Itchy, painful, and sometimes accompanied by bright red bleeding, this condition could be caused from straining during bowel movements. Many pregnant women and women who have just given birth suffer from an increase in pressure on the veins. Constipation or diarrhea can cause hemorrhoids to flare up. Obesity, sitting for long periods of time, and poor posture might put too much pressure on the rectal veins, and too much caffeine or alcohol can cause hemorrhoids. High blood pressure can cause hemorrhoids because of the connections between the portal vein and the vena cava that occur in the rectal wall. Poor muscle tone can cause flare-ups as well.

If you don’t drink enough liquid, your stool could be too hard or you could develop constipation. Both can lead to irritation from hemorrhoids. Too much lactic acid from eating too many dairy products such as cheese can cause flare-ups. Hemorrhoids could also be caused by Vitamin E deficiency.

The two types of hemorrhoids are internal and external. Internal hemorrhoids usually aren’t painful because internal anal membranes don’t have pain-sensitive nerves. You can’t see or feel them, but straining to pass a stool can injure a hemorrhoid’s surface, causing it to bleed. Sometimes straining can push an internal hemorrhoid through the anal opening; if it remains outside, it can cause pain and irritation.

External hemorrhoids are usually painful. They occur outside of the anal canal and are swollen and itchy. When irritated, they may bleed. Sometimes blood pools in an external hemorrhoid, forming a clot that becomes swollen and inflamed, causing severe pain.

Your doctor can tell by looking if you have an external hemorrhoid. He or she may need to use a rubber-gloved finger to decide whether or not you have internal hemorrhoids. If the