For some people, hemorrhoids may seem funny and a good source for jokes around the water cooler, but for people that suffer from them, they're no laughing matter. While it's true that a problem with hemorrhoids might not be the worst thing that could happen to a person, it can cause itching, anal bleeding and in some more extreme cases a great deal of pain and discomfort and keep you from fully enjoying your life.
If you have itching, discomfort when using the bathroom, blood on the toilet paper or in the bowl after passing stools, or any pain in the anal area, you may potentially have a hemorrhoid condition, but a medical exam is always necessary to get a proper diagnosis, as there are some dangerous colon conditions that can also have seeming minor symptoms very similar to those of hemorrhoids. Unfortunately you may require a colon exam, as this is the only way to view the entire colon and rule out these other diseases. Your doctor will most likely recommend one of two procedures, a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, with a colonoscopy, the colon is viewed entirely, but with a sigmoidoscopy only the last 24 inches of the colon are viewed.

As unpleasant as the prospect of a colonoscopy sounds, it is actually a very safe, low risk procedure that should be a part of your general health screening when you reach a certain age. Depending on your families medical history, you may need to start getting examined at age 40 if you are at a higher risk and have a family history of colon cancer or age 50 for people without any additional riskvfactors. After you have an initial yearly exam, you will need to be retested only every five to ten years if your tests come back negative. Most people consider the laxative that is taken the day before the colonoscopy to be the worst part of the whole process, while the actual procedure itself isn't as bad as you might expect.

With a quick trip to the doctor, you can easily rule out some of the potentially more dangerous causes of your discomfort, such as colon cancer, polyps, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis which are inflammatory bowel diseases. Other general problems with the anal cavity can be tears which are called anal fissures and anal abscesses which are infections next to the anus. Only a thorough medical exam will be able to eliminate these serious colon problems from hemorrhoids because they both can have the same symptoms.

Since hemorrhoids are much more common than these other medical conditions, it is more likely than not that your diagnosis will be hemorrhoids, but a doctor's visit is always necessary before you start any treatment.