Hemorrhoids, sometimes called piles, are swollen veins in your anus and rectum. Common symptoms of hemorrhoids can include pain, itching, and rectal bleeding. They can develop inside or outside of the anus and rectum, called internal and external hemorrhoids, respectively.
Hemorrhoids are an extremely common problem. An estimated 75 percent of Americans experience them at some point. While they typically go away in a few weeks on their own, they can cause mild to severe discomfort. To make them more tolerable, you can use home remedies to treat them.
1. Witch hazel
Witch hazel can reduce both itching and pain, two main symptoms of hemorrhoids. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it could also reduce swelling. Witch hazel can be purchased in liquid form and applied directly to the hemorrhoids. It can also be found in products like anti-itch wipes and soaps.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera gel can be found in purchased products at drugstores. It can also be harvested directly from inside an aloe plant’s leaves. According to the Cleveland Clinic, aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that are known to be effective at treating inflammatory skin conditions. However, you should only use pure aloe vera gel on hemorrhoids. Some people are allergic to aloe vera, particularly those who are allergic to garlic or onions. Check for allergic reaction by rubbing a dime-sized amount onto your forearm. Wait 24 to 48 hours. If no reaction occurs, it should be safe to use.
3. Warm bath with Epsom salt
Warm baths can help soothe the irritation from hemorrhoids. You can use a sitz bath, which is a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat, or take a full-body bath in your tub. According Harvard Health, taking a warm bath for 20 minutes after every bowel movement will be most effective. Adding Epsom salts to the bath can provide further relief by reducing pain.
4. Over-the-counter ointments
Over-the-counter ointments and creams, like Preparation H, can be found in almost every drug store and can offer immediate relief. Some can even reduce swelling and help your hemorrhoid to heal faster. If you use a cream with hydrocortisone, though, don’t use it for more than a week at a time.
Using toilet paper after a bowel movement can aggravate existing hemorrhoids. Instead, using wipes can help keep you clean without causing further irritation. For an added boost, you can find wipes with soothing, anti-hemorrhoid ingredients like witch hazel or aloe vera. Make sure that the wipes you choose do not have alcohol, perfume, or other irritants in them. These substances could aggravate symptoms instead of relieving them.
6. Cold compresses
Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the anus to relieve swelling for 15 minutes at a time. For large, painful hemorrhoids, this can be an extremely effective treatment. Always wrap ice inside a cloth or paper towel, and never apply something frozen directly to the skin.
7. Stool softeners
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, stool softeners or fiber supplements like psyllium can help reduce constipation, make stool softer, and make it easier to have quick, painless bowel movements. Many of these supplements, psyllium included, come in forms like powders, capsules, and liquids that you take orally between once and three times a day.
8. Loose, cotton clothing
Swapping out tight clothes made with polyester with ultra-breathable cotton (especially cotton underwear) can help keep the anal area both clean and dry. This can potentially reduce symptoms. Avoid using perfumed detergents or fabric softeners to reduce irritation.
Lifestyle and dietary changes are the best way to prevent hemorrhoids. Eating lots of high-fiber foods (especially from plants) and drinking plenty of water are essential for their prevention, as they keep the digestive process moving correctly and prevent constipation. Exercising regularly and avoiding sitting for long periods of time can also help prevent hemorrhoids. The most effective way to avoid constipation is to go to the bathroom when you first feel the urge. Delaying a bowel movement allows the bowel to reabsorb water from the stool. This makes stool harder when you finally do go.
When to see your doctor
Hemorrhoids are typically easy to treat and clear up on their own. In very rare cases, the hemorrhoid could cause complications. Chronic blood loss from a hemorrhoid could cause anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells. Internal hemorrhoids can also have their blood supply cut off, resulting in strangulated hemorrhoids, which can cause extreme pain.
If home treatments haven’t been effective after more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your primary care physician can diagnose and treat hemorrhoids. They can write prescriptions for medicated creams, ointments, and suppositories. If these treatments don’t work, they may recommend treatments like rubber band litigation or surgery to remove the hemorrhoids. You should also make an appointment to see your doctor right away if you notice rectal bleeding for the first time or if your rectal bleeding increases.
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