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Hemorrhoids (sometimes called piles) are swollen veins in your anus and rectum that can cause pain, itching, and rectal bleeding. They can be either internal or external.

Internal hemorrhoids are located in the rectum and usually are not seen or felt. External hemorrhoids are on the outer skin of the anus.

Hemorrhoids are common. One in 20 Americans experience them at some point, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

They typically go away in a few weeks on their own, but they can cause mild to severe discomfort.

Here are some home remedies and treatments that can help make them less disruptive.

Here are some common home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids.

Warm bath with Epsom salt

Warm baths can help soothe irritation from hemorrhoids. Try using a sitz bath — a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat so you can just immerse the affected area — or take a bath in a tub, if you can.

Try a warm bath or a sitz bath for 20 minutes after each bowel movement. Adding Epsom salt to the bath can provide further relief by reducing pain.

Cold compresses

Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the anus to relieve swelling for 15 minutes at a time. For large, painful hemorrhoids, cold compresses can be an extremely effective treatment.

Be sure to wrap ice inside a cloth or paper towel. Never apply something frozen directly to your skin, since this can harm or damage the skin.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel can reduce both itching and pain, the two main symptoms of external hemorrhoids. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it can also reduce swelling.

You can buy it in a liquid form that you can apply directly to external hemorrhoids. You can also find it in products like anti-itch wipes and soaps.

Shop for witch hazel products online.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is often used to treat hemorrhoids and skin conditions. It’s thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that might help reduce irritation.

There isn’t much clinical evidence on the effectiveness of aloe vera gel for hemorrhoids. But the National Center for Complimentary and Integrated Health lists it as likely very safe for topical use.

Aloe vera gel can be found as an ingredient in other products like sunscreen or lotion. But you should only use pure aloe vera gel on hemorrhoids, since other ingredients and additives can irritate hemorrhoids. Pure aloe vera gel can also be harvested directly from inside an aloe plant’s leaves.

Some people are allergic to aloe vera, especially those who are allergic to garlic or onions. Check for allergic reaction using the following steps:

  1. Rub a dime-sized amount onto your forearm.
  2. Wait 24 to 48 hours.
  3. If no reaction occurs, it should be safe to use.

Soothing wipes

Using toilet paper after a bowel movement can irritate existing hemorrhoids. Moistened wipes help keep you clean without causing further irritation.

You can also use wipes that have soothing anti-hemorrhoid ingredients, such as witch hazel or aloe vera.

Make sure that the wipes you choose don’t have alcohol, perfume, or other irritants in them. These substances can make hemorrhoid symptoms worse rather than relieve them.

Loose cotton clothing

Swap out tight, polyester clothes with breathable cotton (especially cotton underwear) to help keep the anal area both clean and dry. This can potentially reduce symptoms and the risk of infections in open sores or raw, damaged skin.

Avoid using perfumed detergents or fabric softeners to help reduce irritation.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that may help relieve pain, itching, and discomfort. Tea tree oil may also help fight against bacteria that could otherwise lead to infections in damaged or irritated skin.

There is not lot of research available on the effectiveness of tea tree oil for hemorrhoids, but one 2012 study found that a 2-week hemorrhoid treatment combining tea tree oil, hyaluronic acid, and methyl-sulfonyl-methane (often used to treat arthritis) helped significantly reduce pain, bleeding, and inflammation compared with a placebo.

Use tea tree oil along with other natural treatments, like witch hazel or aloe, for additional relief.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil has strong anti-inflammatory properties, according to 2008 research, which can reduce inflammation and swelling. It’s analgesic (pain-relieving) properties can help to reduce discomfort caused by the hemorrhoids. Its antibacterial properties allow hemorrhoids to heal faster, according to 2014 research.

Coconut oil may also aid in relieving constipation, thanks to a laxative effect. Since constipation or straining during bowel movements is a common cause of hemorrhoids, this can help to treat and prevent them.

You can take coconut oil for hemorrhoids by consuming it regularly or by applying it externally. You can cook with the oil, apply it to external hemorrhoids with a cotton ball, add it to your bath, and more.

Here are some over-the-counter (OTC) treatments you can try to help relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids.

OTC ointments

OTC ointments and creams, like Preparation H, can be found in almost every drugstore and can offer immediate relief. Some can even reduce swelling and help your hemorrhoid heal faster.

If you use a cream with hydrocortisone, though, don’t use it for more than a week at a time.

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
  • make it easier to have quick, painless bowel movements

Many of these stool softeners come in forms like powders, capsules, and liquids that you take by mouth between one and three times per day.

In some cases, additional medical treatments or surgery may be needed if you have severe symptoms or complications from untreated hemorrhoids.

Here are some options for medical or surgical treatment for hemorrhoids:

  • Nifedipine ointment with lidocaine. This is for pain and swelling in hemorrhoids that have developed blood clots
  • Prescription corticosteroid creams or ointments. These help with itching and swelling, such as Analpram (hydrocortisone with pramoxineor).
  • Rubber band ligation. A rubber band is tightened around your hemorrhoid to cut off blood flow so that the hemorrhoid shrinks in a few days
  • Sclerotherapy. A substance is injected into the hemorrhoid that hardens the hemorrhoid blood vessel walls and shrinks the hemorrhoid
  • Infrared coagulation. Infrared light breaks down tissue in the anus to reduce blood flow to the hemorrhoid and causes it to shrink
  • Excisional hemorrhoidectomy. While you’re under general anesthesia, a surgeon uses a scalpel and other tools to cut the hemorrhoid out of your anus or rectum without harming the anal sphincter. An excisional hemorrhoidectomy can result in significant pain for several weeks and is used only in severe cases where other treatments have not worked.
  • Stapled hemorrhoidopexy. A surgeon uses a circular stapling device to secure a hemorrhoid back into the anal or rectal tissues so that it no longer sticks out and causes pain or discomfort while you’re sitting or going to the bathroom. It’s less painful and invasive than an excision, but it may not always prevent the hemorrhoid from coming back.
  • Doppler-guided hemorrhoid artery ligation. A surgeon uses an ultrasound device to find the artery supplying the hemorrhoid with blood. Then, the surgeon cuts off the blood vessel and stitches the hemorrhoid back onto the anal or rectal tissues.

Here are some answers to common questions you might have about treating hemorrhoids at home.

What shrinks hemorrhoids fast?

Using home remedies as soon as you identify a hemorrhoid can help you treat it before it gets irritated or inflamed.

Try a combination of warm (or sitz) baths, witch hazel, and OTC hemorrhoid cream to relieve symptoms and treat your hemorrhoid before symptoms get worse.

Do hemorrhoids go away on their own?

Hemorrhoids often go away on their own without prescription, even with minimal home treatment.

How long do hemorrhoids take to heal?

Depending on the size, a typical hemorrhoid goes away in 1 to 2 weeks. Hemorrhoids with blood clots may take a few weeks to go away and can leave a scar because of tissue damage in the area.

Contact a doctor if your hemorrhoid doesn’t heal in a couple of weeks or if your symptoms get worse.

Are there any home treatments I shouldn’t use on hemorrhoids?

Avoid any treatments that contain the following ingredients:

  • artificial fragrances
  • alcohol
  • chemicals

Lifestyle and dietary changes are the best way to prevent hemorrhoids. Staying physically active and eating a nutritious, balanced diet help keep your bowel movements regular.

Eat lots of high fiber foods (especially from plants) and drink plenty of water to keep the digestive process moving correctly and prevent constipation. Regular exercise 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.

Hemorrhoids are typically easy to treat and clear up on their own. In very rare cases, a hemorrhoid can cause complications.

Chronic blood loss from a hemorrhoid can cause anemia, a shortage of red blood cells. Internal hemorrhoids can also have their blood supply cut off, resulting in strangulated hemorrhoids that can cause extreme pain.

See a doctor if home treatments haven’t been effective after more than 2 weeks. 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, a doctor may recommend treatments like rubber band ligation or surgery to remove the hemorrhoids.

Make an appointment to see a doctor right away if you notice rectal bleeding for the first time or if your rectal bleeding increases.

Hemorrhoids can be uncomfortable or painful, but they often go away on their own in a couple weeks with home remedies and treatments that are typically easy to find at a drugstore.

See a doctor if your hemorrhoid pain or other symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, become more severe even with treatment. Getting treatment when you notice symptoms worsening can help you avoid complications or a longer period of disruptive symptoms.

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