Hemorrhoids: What Works (And What Doesn’t)

David Goehring, CC BY 2.0

Hemorrhoids are quite normal and are present in all individuals

| Science Nordic – Hemorrhoids are one of the best described maladies in medical lore.

There are a huge number of suggestions as to why you get them and how you can get rid of them, but even today, there is no consensus about the best treatment.

Throughout our history, diseases have haunted humanity. Many were most likely the same as we see today, but most of them were poorly understood, and their names are often hard to interpret.

Ulcer of the stomach, appendicitis, colorectal cancer, and cirrhosis of the liver, were first described fairly correctly in the 18th century, and myocardial infarction (heart attack) even later.

So, it is pretty difficult to be sure of which diseases our ancestors suffered and died. Examination of skeletons as well as chemical and molecular biological investigations sometimes give valuable information.

However, one group of diseases is different: hemorrhoids and other disorders of the anus have been described fairly precisely from as far back as ancient times and from all parts of the world.

The reason is undoubtedly that these diseases were common, directly observable, and present with rather simple symptoms such as pain and bleeding. But even so, the understanding of their origin and treatment has varied a lot over the years, and this continues up to the present day.

What are hemorrhoids?

Hemorrhoids are clusters of vascular tissue, smooth muscle, and connective tissue, arranged in three columns along the anal canal—the final four centimeters of the digestive tract, stretching from the rectum to the anus. These clusters are named the anal cushions.

Hemorrhoids are quite normal structures and are present in all individuals, but we only use the term for pathologic or symptomatic hemorrhoids. Read more. 

More from WebMD

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus. Sometimes the walls of these blood vessels stretch so thin that the veins bulge and get irritated, especially when you poop.

Hemorrhoids (or piles) are one of the most common causes of rectal bleeding. They’re rarely dangerous and usually clear up in a couple of weeks.

But you should see your doctor to make sure it’s not a more serious condition. He can also remove hemorrhoids that won’t go away or are very painful.

Internal and External Hemorrhoids

Internal hemorrhoids are far enough inside the rectum that you can’t usually see or feel them. They don’t generally hurt because you have few pain-sensing nerves there. Bleeding may be the only sign of them.

External hemorrhoids are under the skin around the anus, where there are many more pain-sensing nerves, so they tend to hurt as well as bleed.

What Causes Them?

A buildup of pressure in your lower rectum can affect blood flow and make the veins there swell. That may happen from extra weight, when you’re obese or pregnant. Or it could come from:

  • Pushing during bowel movements
  • Straining when you do something that’s physically hard, like lifting something heavy
  • People who stand or sit for long stretches of time are at greater risk, too.
  • You may get them when you have constipation or diarrhea that doesn’t clear up.
  • Coughing, sneezing, and vomiting could make them worse.

How to Prevent Them

  • Eat fiber. A good way to get it is from plant foods — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.
  • Drink water. It will help you avoid hard stools and constipation, so you strain less during bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables, which have fiber, also have water in them.
  • Exercise. Physical activity, like walking a half-hour every day, is another way to keep your blood and your bowels moving.
  • Don’t wait to go. Use the toilet as soon as you feel the urge. Read more. 

Treatment – Mayo Clinic

Home remedies

You can often relieve the mild pain, swelling and inflammation of hemorrhoids with home treatments. Often these are the only treatments needed.

  • Eat high-fiber foods. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Doing so softens the stool and increases its bulk, which will help you avoid the straining that can worsen symptoms from existing hemorrhoids. Add fiber to your diet slowly to avoid problems with gas.
  • Use topical treatments. Apply an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream or suppository containing hydrocortisone, or use pads containing witch hazel or a numbing agent.
  • Soak regularly in a warm bath or sitz bath. Soak your anal area in plain warm water 10 to 15 minutes two to three times a day. A sitz bath fits over the toilet.
  • Keep the anal area clean. Bathe (preferably) or shower daily to cleanse the skin around your anus gently with warm water. Avoid alcohol-based or perfumed wipes. Gently pat the area dry or use a hair dryer.
  • Don’t use dry toilet paper. To help keep the anal area clean after a bowel movement, use moist towelettes or wet toilet paper that doesn’t contain perfume or alcohol.
  • Apply cold. Apply ice packs or cold compresses on your anus to relieve swelling.
  • Take oral pain relievers. You can use acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) temporarily to help relieve your discomfort.

With these treatments, hemorrhoid symptoms often go away within a week. See your doctor if you don’t get relief in a week, or sooner if you have severe pain or bleeding.

Medications

If your hemorrhoids produce only mild discomfort, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter creams, ointments, suppositories or pads. These products contain ingredients, such as witch hazel, or hydrocortisone and lidocaine, that can relieve pain and itching, at least temporarily.

Don’t use an over-the-counter steroid cream for more than a week unless directed by your doctor because it may cause your skin to thin.

External hemorrhoid thrombectomy

If a painful blood clot (thrombosis) has formed within an external hemorrhoid, your doctor can remove the clot with a simple incision and drainage, which may provide prompt relief. This procedure is most effective if done within 72 hours of developing a clot.

Minimally invasive procedures

For persistent bleeding or painful hemorrhoids, your doctor may recommend one of the other minimally invasive procedures available. These treatments can be done in your doctor’s office or other outpatient setting and do not usually require anesthesia.

  • Rubber band ligation. Your doctor places one or two tiny rubber bands around the base of an internal hemorrhoid to cut off its circulation. The hemorrhoid withers and falls off within a week. This procedure is effective for many people. Hemorrhoid banding can be uncomfortable and may cause bleeding, which might begin two to four days after the procedure but is rarely severe. Occasionally, more-serious complications can occur.
  • Injection (sclerotherapy). In this procedure, your doctor injects a chemical solution into the hemorrhoid tissue to shrink it. While the injection causes little or no pain, it may be less effective than rubber band ligation.
  • Coagulation (infrared, laser or bipolar). Coagulation techniques use laser or infrared light or heat. They cause small, bleeding, internal hemorrhoids to harden and shrivel. While coagulation has few side effects and may cause little immediate discomfort, it’s associated with a higher rate of hemorrhoids coming back (recurrence) than is the rubber band treatment.

Surgical procedures

If other procedures haven’t been successful or you have large hemorrhoids, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. Your surgery may be done as an outpatient or may require an overnight hospital stay.

  • Hemorrhoid removal. In this procedure, called hemorrhoidectomy, your surgeon removes excessive tissue that causes bleeding. Various techniques may be used. The surgery may be done with a local anesthetic combined with sedation, a spinal anesthetic or a general anesthetic. Hemorrhoidectomy is the most effective and complete way to treat severe or recurring hemorrhoids. Complications may include temporary difficulty emptying your bladder and resulting urinary tract infections. Most people experience some pain after the procedure. Medications can relieve your pain. Soaking in a warm bath also may help.
  • Hemorrhoid stapling. This procedure, called stapled hemorrhoidectomy or stapled hemorrhoidopexy, blocks blood flow to hemorrhoidal tissue. It is typically used only for internal hemorrhoids. Stapling generally involves less pain than hemorrhoidectomy and allows for earlier return to regular activities. Compared with hemorrhoidectomy, however, stapling has been associated with a greater risk of recurrence and rectal prolapse, in which part of the rectum protrudes from the anus. Complications can also include bleeding, urinary retention and pain, as well as, rarely, a life-threatening blood infection (sepsis). Talk with your doctor about the best option for you. Read more. 

MORE OF TODAY’S TOP HEALTH NEWS: 

Tough New Health Laws Kick In Jan 1; Violators Will Be Fined

NY Priest Suicides After Doctor Puts Him On Mood Disorder Drug

Sex After Prostate Cancer?

“Deplorable” Chinese Doctors Lose Track of Gene Altered Patients