Hemorrhoids or piles refer to inflamed and swollen glands that appear in the anus, in the rectum or under the skin that surrounds the anus. These are caused by strain to the area, typically due to straining during a bowel movement or pregnancy. This may cause itching, bleeding and pain around the rectal area. There are many common treatments available to help manage the symptoms of hemorrhoids, but lifestyle changes may be necessary to prevent them from reappearing.
How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids
1. Tropical Treatments. Over the counter suppositories or hemorrhoid creams that contain witch hazel or hydrocortisone are quite effective in numbing hemorrhoids.
2. Soaking or Sitz Bath. Soaking the anal area in plain water for 10-15 minutes each day in a traditional sitz bath for your toilet will help to reduce swelling.
3. Clean Anal Area. Bathe every day to cleanse the anal area, but avoid using soap or perfumed or alcohol-based wipes as these can irritate the skin around the hemorrhoid. Use a hair dryer to dry the area rather than scrubbing with a towel.
4. Right Toilet Paper. Wet toilet paper or moist towelettes that do not contain alcohol or perfume are ideal for cleaning the anal area after bowel movements without causing irritation.
5. Cold Compression. Applying an ice or cold pack to the anus can help take down hemorrhoid swelling.
6. Pain Relievers. Pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are ideal for hemorrhoid relief.
1. Medications. Those experiencing mild discomfort from hemorrhoids, over the counter creams, suppositories, ointments or pads that contain hydrocortisone or witch hazel may be sufficient to provide temporary relief. You should not use these products for more than a week unless your doctor has instructed you to do so as these medications may cause inflammation, skin rash or thinning when overused.
2. Minimally Invasive Procedures. When an external hemorrhoid has formed a blood clot, your doctor can perform a small incision to remove it to relieve your symptoms. Other procedures can be performed to quell insistent bleeding.
- Rubber Band Ligation. During this procedure your doctor will place small rubber bands around the hemorrhoids, cutting off its circulation so it will fall off. This procedure is typically effective but it may cause bleeding for 2-4 days after the procedure.
- Injection. Your doctor may inject the hemorrhoid with a chemical solution that may cause it to shrink. This is not as effective as a rubber band ligation but it does not cause the patient any pain.
- Coagulation. Laser, infrared or bipolar apply light or heat to coagulate the hemorrhoid so internal hemorrhoids can harden and shrivel away. This treatment has a higher rate of recurrence and side effects compared to rubber band ligation.
3. Surgeries. Large hemorrhoids may need to be surgically removed to minimize risks. These procedures can be performed in an outpatient setting but some may need to stay in the hospital overnight depending on the severity of the existing hemorrhoid.
- Hemorrhoid Removal. This procedure, called a hemorrhoidectomy, removes excess tissue that is causing the rectal area to bleed. This may be performed with a variety of techniques, commonly performed alongside local anesthetic, spinal anesthetic, general anesthetic or sedation. This is considered one of the most effective ways to treat reoccurring hemorrhoids, though complications may cause difficulty emptying your bladder and an increased risk of urinary tract infections after the procedure.
- Hemorrhoid Stapling. A stapled hemorrhoidectomy closes off the blood flow to the hemorrhoid tissue, managing the hemorrhoid with less pain and a shorter recovery time than a hemorrhoidectomy. However, this procedure has a greater risk of rectal prolapse and hemorrhoid recurrence.
How to Prevent Hemorrhoids
1. High-fiber Foods. Adding more whole grains, fruits and vegetables to your diet will add bulk while softening the stool so you are less likely to strain during bowel movements and cause hemorrhoids. Add these items to your diet slowly to prevent gas.
2. Water Intake. Consuming 6-8 glasses of water and liquids that do not contain alcohol will ensure soft stool.
3. Fiber Supplements. If women are not getting the recommended 25g of fiber and men are not consuming 38g of fiber each day they may take over the counter fiber supplements such as Citrucel and Metamucil to soften the stool and encourage regular bowel movements.
4. No Straining. Holding your breath or straining when you attempt to make a bowel movement can put pressure on the veins in the rectal area, leading to hemorrhoids.
5. Bowel Movement. Do not wait to make a bowel movement. If the urge to use the bathroom passes it can make your stool dry and difficult to pass.
6. Exercise. Those that are heavy are more prone to hemorrhoids because excess weight will put more pressure on the veins. Staying active will reduce your risk of constipation. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can put pressure on the veins that may cause hemorrhoids.
7. No Long Sitting. Do not spend too much time sitting, especially on the toilet, because this will put more pressure on your veins.
When to See a Doctor
Most people who experience hemorrhoids will experience bleeding when they make a bowel movement. However, this can also be a sign of a more serious ailment such as anal or colorectal cancer. If you notice bleeding during a bowel movement you should consult a doctor to make sure you are not experiencing something more serious. Your doctor can perform a quick examination or tests to rule out these potentially-life threatening diseases and confirm the presence of hemorrhoids.
If your hemorrhoids are very painful or seem to be bleeding excessively it may take more than home remedies to get these symptoms under control. If your bleeding causes you to feel faint, dizzy or lightheaded seek emergency assistance right away. Pay close attention to the types of bowel movements to ensure that your bowel movements have not changed. If you notice tarry, black or maroon stool, blood clots in the stool or the presence of blood clots you should consult a medical professional immediately as this is a sign that you are bleeding somewhere else in the digestive tract.