Some 59 percent of Americans who use the Web say they’ve searched for health information online in the past year, according to January data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It has become a favored first source, often over our doctors or other health care professionals especially when time and money are tight.

Searching online also offers something that going to a practitioner’s office doesn’t privacy. So we can delve into topics that may be a little, um, embarrassing to discuss with our physician. That helps explain why the top trending health issue of 2012, according to Google, was a pain-related condition that most of us would rather others not know about: hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids are inflamed veins around the lower rectum or anus, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of National Institutes of Health. They are often caused by straining too hard while having a bowel movement and may be brought on by pregnancy. The swollen veins can be internal (in the lower rectum) or external (under the skin around the anus).

Here’s a little information on this painful, annoying problem that will affect about 75 percent of us at some point (to save you having to do a search on Google!), according to the NIDDK:

  • Most likely causes: Diarrhea or chronic constipation; straining while going No. 2; sitting on the toilet for long periods; pregnancy; and not getting enough fiber in your diet.
  • You might have another problem: The symptoms of hemorrhoids are similar to those of fissures, abscesses, warts, and polyps, so a doctor will need to do a rectal exam to determine if hemorrhoids are what’s causing your discomfort.
  • Lifestyle treatments (if you want to avoid seeing the doctor): Eat a high-fiber diet (that means fruits, veggies, and whole grains); drink plenty of water; exercise regularly; and don’t strain while going to the bathroom.

With so many Americans searching “hemorrhoids,” it’s worth mentioning that this condition, while terribly painful in some cases, is not dangerous, and in most cases the symptoms will go away in a few days. For more information, including medical treatments and suggestions for how to get more fiber in your diet, visit the NIDDK’s page on hemorrhoids.

Have you ever had hemorrhoids? How did you get rid of them? Please join our community today to share.

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