If you have inflamed hemorrhoids, the burning and itching in your anus can be problematic. It’s uncomfortable, and it can interfere with work, family, and your social life. But it’s far more common than you might think. An estimated 40 percent of all adults will experience a hemorrhoid flare-up at some point in their lives. Many seek the help of a proctologist, also known as a colon and rectal surgeon.
And it’s no wonder, with all the sitting the majority of people do these days. Prolonged sitting places added pressure on the blood vessels surrounding your anus. Those blood vessels are frequently squished, mashed and forced to withstand your body weight for hours on end when you’re sitting. And they can become irritated or inflamed. Prolonged sitting is one of the most common reasons hemorrhoids develop. But hemorrhoids can also be caused by being pregnant and carrying extra weight that presses down on the anus, eating a diet low in fiber, and straining while having a bowel movement.
If you have hemorrhoids, you’re probably not going to bring it up the next time you visit your in-laws or go out for drinks with friends. In most cases hemorrhoids will heal on their own within a few days to a week. But when your anus is burning and itching, you’ve got to find a way to ease the discomfort. There really isn’t a cure for hemorrhoids. But there are three practical solutions to consider to treat the symptoms.
1. At-Home Remedies
- Take a warm bath a few times a day and stay in long enough to soak in the water. If you don’t want to fully undress to take a bath, you can use a sitz bath. You place a small sitz bowl inside the toilet and fill it with warm water. This allows you to sit on the toilet and soak your hemorrhoids to relieve itching and burning without the need to take a full bath.
- Improve your diet. When you are forced to strain to pass a bowel movement, this places added pressure on your anus, blood vessels, and hemorrhoidal tissues that can cause inflammation. The most common reason for hard-to-pass stools is a poor diet. Aim to eat at an average of 30 grams of dietary fiber a day from plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, and fruits and vegetables. Drinking an adequate amount of water daily also helps improve digestion. Try to drink about 40 to 64 ounces of water a day.
- Use a ring cushion. When you’re sitting on a flat chair, or car seat for long periods of time, your hemorrhoids are under a great amount of pressure. You can reduce or redistribute the pressure your hemorrhoids experience by sitting on a ring cushion. These are available as a fabric pillow filled with foam or stuffing, or as a plastic inflatable ring you can sit on. Doctors commonly recommend pregnant women use a ring cushion to help reduce pressure around the anus and prevent a hemorrhoid flare-up. Many long-haul truck drivers also make it a point to use a ring cushion to help prevent hemorrhoids.
- Avoid straining during bowel movements. If you’re not ready to pass your stool, don’t turn your visit to the bathroom into a workout. Straining to have a bowel movement places incredible pressure on the blood vessels around your anus and can easily cause inflammation or a possibly rupture. If your stool isn’t going to pass easily, go drink some water, eat some fiber-rich foods, and revisit the bathroom in a few hours.
2. Over-the-Counter Medications
- Hemorrhoid cream is by far the most common over-the-counter medication used to treat the burning and itching associated with hemorrhoids. These analgesic creams usually include cooling substances like aloe, menthol, and natural oils that help provide relief from the symptoms. For external hemorrhoids, you apply hemorrhoid cream around the outside of your anus. For internal hemorrhoids, most hemorrhoid creams come with an applicator you can use to insert in the rectum for additional relief from a hemorrhoid flare-up.
- Medicated wipes. This relatively new product designed to treat hemorrhoids is only useful for external hemorrhoids. But it’s highly effective and far less messy than the traditional creams. The wipes are treated with properties similar to hemorrhoid cream and help provide relief from hemorrhoidal symptoms on contact.
- Pain relievers. When you have a hemorrhoid flare-up, the blood vessels around your anus are swollen and inflamed. One way to minimize the discomfort involves taking over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or Aleve. You’ll get some relief from these efforts, but it’s probably best to use a cream or medicated wipe in addition to pain relievers for bothersome hemorrhoids.
In severe cases, you may need a medical procedure or surgery to treat your hemorrhoids. Here are the options:
Rubber Band Ligation
Some hemorrhoids become so inflamed that a bulging blood vessel develops in the anus. If the hemorrhoid doesn’t resolve on its own, a rubber band ligation may be necessary. In this procedure, the hemorrhoid is restricted by a small rubber band. After about 10 days, the hemorrhoid falls off and is no longer inflamed. This may be performed in an office setting and involves a tolerable amount of discomfort.
Sclerotherapy is sometimes used as another in office option to treat hemorrhoids. In this treatment, an injection is made around the inflamed hemorrhoid. It is injectected in an area where there is a lack of nerve endings, and thus it can be essentially pain free. The sclerosing agent will shrink the hemorrhoid.
This is a last resort for hemorrhoid sufferers. In this surgery, a hemorrhoid doctor surgically removes the hemorrhoid to prevent further irritation. But it comes with some risk. The sphincter, essential to controlling bowel function, can be damaged during a hemorrhoidectomy. It also has the longest recovery time of any treatment option and may keep you away from work and your normal activities for up to two weeks.
There are other newer hemorrhoid techniques such as PPH (Procedure for Prolapsed Hemorrhoids), or THD (Trans Hemorrhoidal Dearterialization) that improve on traditional hemorrhoid surgery by offering significantly less pain intensity and duration that certain patient’s may be ideal candidates for.
The surgeons at Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates will be able to answer all of your questions and help you to navigate the myriad of options available to treat all stages of hemorrhoids. By calling (310)273-2310, you can schedule a visit and learn about the available options.