Bathroom Blues: Are You Taking Your Tech to the Toilet?

Bathroom Blues: Are You Taking Your Tech to the Toilet?

How your phone can give you hemorrhoids and why constipation is making headline news.

It’s a fact of modern life: Your phone, tablet or other tech can give you hemorrhoids if you take them to the bathroom with you on a regular basis.

“If you hang out on the toilet for 20 minutes a day, texting, playing games, posting on social media or reading your Kindle®, you will get hemorrhoids,” said Laurie Novosad, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Medical City McKinney. “Sit down with the lid closed and hang out all you want, but with the lid up, there’s no support. The more you sit, the more pressure you place on your anal area.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians agrees that hemorrhoids — swollen veins in your rectum or anus that may or may not hurt, bleed or itch — can be caused by sitting too long on the toilet. Other risk factors for hemorrhoids include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lifting heavy objects and any activity that causes straining
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy and giving birth
  • Standing for long periods

“Hemorrhoids are very common,” said Dr. Novosad. “They affect more than 50 percent of the population. Aging is also a risk factor — more than 50 percent of people over 50 will have hemorrhoids.”

To prevent and treat external hemorrhoids, follow Dr. Novosad’s advice for avoiding constipation, further below, and:

  • Soak in a sitz bath (warm, shallow bath) for 10-15 minutes as needed
  • Use wipes that contain witch hazel, such as Tucks®
  • Apply over-the-counter topical steroid cream for up to 2 weeks
  • If hemorrhoids remain or become worse, see your doctor

Constipation: making headline news.

On the heels of the opioid crisis comes another American epidemic: opioid-induced constipation, or OIC. The problem is so widespread that there are now prescription medications for the condition.

Each year constipation accounts for:

  • More than 700,000 emergency room visits
  • More than 48,000 hospitalizations (up more than 50% since 1997)
  • Millions of doctor’s office visits

There are plenty of other things stopping Americans up and they’re making international headlines. One of them, according to the Daily Mail, is modern life — featuring a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle spent behind a desk or on the couch. It’s causing at least 16% of Americans to suffer from constipation, including more than a third of people over 60, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

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How often should you be going?

According to Harvard Medical School, about 95% of healthy adults have bowel movements anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. Constipation is defined as having less than three in a week or having hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.

If you experience these symptoms multiple times over a three-month period, you may have chronic constipation and should see your doctor immediately to avoid an impacted bowel or worse.

Sitting and straining on the toilet, trying to make something happen, isn’t the best idea either, as it can lead to hemorrhoids. And once you have hemorrhoids, you’re less likely to want to go to the bathroom, which just compounds the problem.

“Some people think they must have a bowel movement at the same time every day or there’s something wrong,” Dr. Novosad said. “But that’s not the case. Often, if you just relax, it will happen.”

How to prevent and treat constipation.

But what if it doesn’t happen? Here are Dr. Novosad’s recommendations:

  • Eat at least 30 grams of fiber daily
    • Avocados have 11 grams of fiber per cup and are rich in healthy fats and vitamins B-6 and C
    • Raspberries have 9 grams of fiber per cup, as well as more than half of your daily recommended vitamin C
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily
    • Dehydration is a huge cause of constipation, so drink enough water so that you’re rarely thirsty and your urine is colorless to light yellow
    • Women over 65 have a dampened thirst reflex and must make a conscious effort to drink water
  • Exercise regularly
    • The American Heart Association’s weekly recommendations:
      • 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activities or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activities and
      • Two days of muscle-strengthening activities
    • Exercise isn’t all or nothing; any activity is better than none so just get up and move!
  • Choose the right laxative
    • If you have hemorrhoids, use only bulk-forming laxatives, such as Fiberall® and Metamucil®, as other types can cause diarrhea
  • Go when you have the urge
    • If you feel the need to have a bowel movement, go as quickly as possible; the longer you hold it in, the harder and dryer the stool becomes

Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program or using new medications.

Alex Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist at Medical City Dallas, talks about colon cancer and the importance of colorectal screenings, such as colonoscopy.

If you or someone in your family needs expert, emergency care fast, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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