DR. DAVE HEPBURN  |  MAY 1, 2013

Hemorrhoids. Lovely.

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I have written many, many articles. My columns tend to be a little...out there. Doesn’t mean there isn’t some useful information in them, just as there are useful nutrients in elephant dung, if you happen to be a mongoose or a dung beetle. Yes, I tend to be less pedantic, Wikipedic and sublime and more the ridiculous and even absurd because medicine can be ridiculous and even absurd. Yet of all of the articles I have written, I have actually never written about the number ONE health subject searched for online. While Doc Google has given oodles of advice about this, I have given none and what makes this worse is that this is a topic that many of you would associate with me. Hemorrhoids. Lovely. According to the FDA, hemorrhoids have really popped out piles ahead of all other health topics searched online and, as I tweeted this week, “Hemorrhoids are the health subject most searched for online, unfortunately also too often searched for in line at Walmart.” (I have since been banned from Walmart, so there goes my wardrobe.) I have written about anal fissures, rectal gas, anal tags, tax collectors, but never about hemorrhoids and so to rectify that obvious cultural void in my therapeutic tome, I will discuss the grapes of wrath. 

Why is that it is number one online? Well likely because:

1. Everyone gets ‘em. Up to 75 percent of us, er you, will be affected by hemorrhoids at some point before the end of our lives, in the end. 

2. Many think that anything unusual in the nether regions like a lump, an itch, blood, Snooki, etc., is a hemorrhoid. And that scares us, as doctors, as believe it or not there are many anal issues that are not hemorrhoids. Do not self diagnose or let Dr Google determine what you actually have. You might be harboring anything ranging from anal fissures to warts to cancer to small seashells collected from that last time you body surfed in Maui. (After a day at beach, I take off my shorts and Holy Seahorse!, looks like Jacques Cousteau would have a heyday in there.)

3. A third reason, I suspect, is that folks are a little embarrassed (put the emphasis where you will) about being bare in front of the doctor. Instead they go to the computer which, though less invasive than a doctor’s rubber glove, doesn’t have our charming personality or sartorial taste. 

Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum or anus. Lovely. There are two different types that do two different things to you depending on location.

Internal: They are painless but can bleed like a stuck pig, which apparently bleed a lot when stuck. They hide up inside the rectum meaning that they are not visible to your naked mirror unless you happen to catch them when they pop out for a breath of fresh air. They rarely hurt you but they do surprise you when the bowl turns fire engine red or perhaps a softer burgundy. In this case you can have a lovely wee noose painlessly slipped over them from whence they slough off and are gone, much like myself when fishing season opens. 

External: these outer guys (pains in this area usually referred to medically as “fellas”) can just sit there and look attractive or can suddenly turn nasty and develop a blood clot which will cause tremendous discomfort. Can’t sleep, can’t sit, can’t bungee jump naked. These are not exactly piles of fun and have to be enucleated by a doctor ASAP. Creams and preparations, regardless of which letter you use, will not help these fellas. 

While hemorrhoids can happen to anyone, they are more predisposed to those who suffer from constipation, obesity or pregnancy. And to dispel a common myth, you cannot get them from sitting on a cold bench at a bus stop unless you happen to become obese, constipated or pregnant while waiting. 

Time for lunch.                Lovely.

Listen live or call in to Dr Dave on his fun yet informative radio show, Wisequacks, heard each Sunday at 2 pm at www.cknw.com.