Bathroom reading and hemorrhoids!?

Originally Published: December 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 22, 2014
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Dear Alice:

A friend told me that bathroom reading caused hemorrhoids. Is this true?

Thanks for your attention,
The reader

Dear The reader,

Our friends, although a common source of advice and information, don't always hit the proverbial nail on the head. Hemorrhoids, or piles, are enlarged veins in the lower rectum and anus. Hemorrhoids sometimes occur outside the anus and can be seen; at other times they occur inside the rectum and cannot be seen by the naked eye.

There is no single cause of hemorrhoids, although many factors are related to them: straining to have a bowel movement; passing hard, dry stools; sitting on the toilet for long periods of time; pregnancy; diet; overuse of laxatives; inflammation or infection of the rectal area; heredity; and other problems of the rectum. A health care provider can discuss options for both prevention and treatment. If you're a student at Columbia, you can contact Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC) to make an appointment.

It is possible that your friend misconstrued the literal act of bathroom reading to mean sitting on the toilet for long periods of time, straining to have a bowel movement. It is not the reading itself that causes hemorrhoids, but the potential straining that may contribute to the formation of hemorrhoids.

The related Q & A's below should shed some more light on hemorrhoids. You may want to take a turn to inform your informative friend. Unless you're sharing a bathroom with others, you can sit down with a copy of War and Peace and read until your heart and bowels are content.