Dealing with the discomfort and annoyance of hemorrhoid symptoms? You’re not alone. Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, have earned a notorious spot on the list of pesky health issues that can disrupt our lives.
And while most of us prefer to sweep them under the rug, they’re actually one of the most common health conditions. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly three out of four adults experience symptoms related to hemorrhoids at some point in their lives.
The good news is that self-care for hemorrhoids can treat most mild cases. Let’s find out how.
Home remedies for relieving hemorrhoid symptoms
If you’re seeking relief from the discomfort and irritation caused by painful hemorrhoids, several effective home remedies can provide much-needed relief, such as:
1. Wear soft, loose-fitting clothes
Avoid jeans, lycra leggings, and dense or tight clothing to reduce friction and irritation. Instead, choose loose, soft clothing made from fabrics like cotton. It’ll keep moisture from building up and the area dry, freeing you from hemorrhoid pain.
2. Try cold compresses
If the pain is too much, you can use a cold compress to treat hemorrhoids at home. It’ll numb the area, reduce swelling, and provide temporary relief from itching and pain. Here’s how to do it:
- Take a clean towel and soak it in cold water. If the water isn’t cold enough, fill a bowl, add ice to it, and dip the towel.
- Wring out excess water.
- Apply the cold compress to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
You can use cold compresses every few hours or whenever you feel pain.
3. Warm it up with sitz baths
A sitz bath is a 10- to 20-minute soak in hip-deep warm water using your bathtub or a flat-bottomed plastic tub from your pharmacy. It can reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, and promote healing. You can repeat it two or three times a day.
4. Use aloe vera
Aloe vera is known for its anti-inflammatory, soothing, and pain-reducing properties. You can apply the gel to hemorrhoidal tissue using clean fingers (while wearing vinyl or latex gloves) or a cotton ball. Let the aloe vera gel sit for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
5. Try witch hazel
If you’re looking to relieve painful or itchy hemorrhoids, use a cream or wipe (like Medicated Wipes) with witch hazel. But if you don’t have any on hand, you can purchase pure witch hazel and use a cotton ball to dab it around the affected area.
You can use it after every bowel movement or up to six times daily to relieve the inflammation.
6. Consider tea tree and coconut oils
Tea tree and coconut oils have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and soothing properties, which can help reduce swelling and discomfort caused by hemorrhoids.
You can mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil, like coconut or almond, to dilute it. Apply the mixture to the affected area using a cotton ball up to three times per day. You can also use coconut oil as it is to reduce dryness and itching.
7. Talk to your doctor about stool softeners
You could talk to your doctor about stool softeners if you’re experiencing pain from constant straining and constipation. For instance, you could ask them to prescribe Dulcolax (docusate sodium) because it allows water and fat absorption into the stool, causing it to soften.
8. Use over-the-counter ointments
You can try over-the-counter (OTC) ointments with lidocaine (such as Preparation H) or hydrocortisone to dial down the swelling and pain. These creams often come with steroids, numbing agents, and painkillers, which means they relieve pain quickly.
Long-term tips for hemorrhoid patients
So those were eight ways to quickly reduce the discomfort from hemorrhoids. But if you tend to get piles repeatedly, it’s a good idea to follow these long-term tips.
1. Develop good bowel habits
Developing good bowel habits is essential if you want to prevent hemorrhoids. Here’s what to do:
Place books or a short stool under your feet to elevate them. This mimics a squatting position and can help create a more natural alignment during bowel movements.
Don’t hold it in
Straining is a no-no if you’re living with hemorrhoids and holding it in counts. Plus, stools can get backed up if you keep them in too long, which can cause constipation. So, if you’ve got to go, do it.
Clean your bottom gently
Toilet paper is rough and can inflame your hemorrhoids further. To avoid that from happening, clean your bottom gently. You can use dabbing motions or wet the toilet paper before using it to reduce friction or wash gently with warm water.
Limit your time on the toilet
If you aren’t able to go after sitting on the toilet for ten minutes, chances are you won’t. And straining will only cause further problems. So, instead of waiting for a bowel movement to happen, walk away and try again when you feel like going.
2. Add fiber to your diet
Increasing your fiber intake is crucial if you suffer from recurrent hemorrhoids. It can soften your stools and lead to smoother bowel movements. You can find it in whole-grain bread, fresh fruits, legumes, and vegetables.
If you can’t meet your daily fiber needs by eating more high-fiber foods, you should consider taking a fiber supplement.
3. Move around (exercise)
Engaging in exercise can promote healthy bowel function and prevent constipation. It also increases blood flow to your backside, which makes supportive tissue stronger and helps prevent hemorrhoid flare-ups.
So, try to get 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, at least five days a week. You can also go for yoga or other slow-moving exercise regimes to ensure you don’t inflame or cause excessive friction while you’re moving.
4. Stay hydrated
Water plays a crucial role in maintaining soft and bulky stools, making them easier to pass. So, try to drink at least eight glasses of water daily. You can go for more if you live in a hot climate or engage in medium- or high-intensity workouts.
Also, don’t substitute water with coffee or tea. These can cause dehydration and hemorrhoid flare-ups.
When self-help won’t cut it
There are times when self-help measures may not work or provide sufficient relief. Let’s discuss them below.
Signs you need medical intervention
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you might need to seek medical attention:
- Rectal bleeding – While hemorrhoids can cause bloody stools, rectal bleeding can indicate other medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. Importantly, blood from hemorrhoids is often bright red. If you find maroon or black blood in your stool, it means the source of bleeding is higher up in the gut, such as a stomach ulcer.
- Extreme pain – If you’re experiencing severe pain making it hard to have a bowel movement or sit, you should seek medical help.
- Bowel habit changes – If you’ve emptied your bowels and still feel you have to go (tenesmus), you might have a prolapsed internal hemorrhoid. Your hemorrhoid may even fall outside during a bowel movement and, if left untreated, can lead to significant pain. Tenesmus can sometimes also mean anal cancer.
Risks of delaying treatment
Delaying hemorrhoid treatment can lead to several risks and complications. Let’s take a look at them below:
- Persistent pain – Hemorrhoids can cause persistent pain and discomfort. Delaying treatment can exacerbate these symptoms, causing your quality of life to drop.
- Symptom progression – If left untreated, hemorrhoids may progress from mild to more severe, increasing the risk of hemorrhoidal prolapse or thrombosed hemorrhoids (swollen hemorrhoids).
- Increased risk of complications – Untreated hemorrhoids can cause thrombosis (blood clots form within them), anal bleeding, anemia (due to long-term blood loss), and infection, which can be hard to eliminate.
Options for treating hemorrhoids
If all your at-home treatments fail, you can choose one of the following procedures to remove or destroy your hemorrhoids:
- Rubber band ligation
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy
- Bipolar, infrared, or laser coagulation.
A colon and rectal surgeon can recommend the right procedure for you based on your hemorrhoid grade, whether you have external or internal hemorrhoids, and your overall health condition.
Frequently-asked questions about hemorrhoids
How can I heal my hemorrhoids naturally?
You can treat mild symptomatic hemorrhoids naturally by using remedies like witch hazel, reducing strain, and improving your bowel habits.
What should you not do when you have hemorrhoids?
When you have hemorrhoids, you should avoid consuming fatty or low-fiber foods, picking at the affected area (no matter how itchy or painful it gets), and heavy lifting. Also, try to minimize stress and don’t use too many laxatives because they increase water loss, which can lead to dehydration.
Which food is the best for piles?
Foods high in fiber are recommended if you’re prone to hemorrhoids. They can promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. Some examples include whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and leafy vegetables.
Are hemorrhoids a lifelong problem?
No, hemorrhoids are not usually a lifelong problem. The duration of the condition can vary depending on its size and severity. While small hemorrhoids can heal on their own (or by using only OTC pain relievers) within a few days, larger external hemorrhoids may take more than a week to heal.