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Duke Medicine: What you need to know about your colon

Posted June 10, 2013
Updated June 11, 2013

No one likes to discuss colon health. But it’s serious business, and learning about it — and what you can do to take care of your colon — can help ensure you and your loved ones lead healthier lives.

Here, Benjamin Hopkins, MD, a Duke Medicine colon and rectal surgeon, touches on conditions you don’t want to talk about – from hemorrhoids, and fecal incontinence to anal pain and diverticulitis.

Q. What’s the most important thing to do for colorectal health?

A. The best approach to good colorectal health is to maintain a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of water. Eight glasses of water a day helps prevent constipation. A high-fiber diet will help prevent complications of hemorrhoids and anal tears and will help to prevent diverticulitis.

Q. What are hemorrhoids, exactly, and how do you know if you have them?

A. Everyone has hemorrhoids—they are part of our anatomy. It’s just a question of whether they’re bothering you. Hemorrhoids can become aggravated with changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea and constipation. Over the years, they can pull away from the underlying muscle, prolapse, and bleed. Prolapse means something is hanging out “down there.” Typically, hemorrhoids cause people to experience itching, bleeding, and prolapse. Pregnancy can also cause hemorrhoids to become engorged because of the increased pelvic pressure.

Q. How are hemorrhoids treated when they become aggravated?

A. Initial management includes increasing the amount of fiber and water in the diet. Most of my patients find that’s all that is needed.

For more about hemorrhoids treatment and other conditions of the colon, read the full post at DukeHealth.org. Duke Medicine, Go Ask Mom's sponsor, offers health tips and information every Tuesday.

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