Hemorrhoids, which are often called piles, are swollen veins in your rectum and anus. Common symptoms may include itching, pain, and rectal bleeding. They can develop both outside and inside of the anus and rectum, called external and internal hemorrhoids, respectively.
Hemorrhoids are very common, affecting an estimated 75% of Americans at some point in their lives. They usually go away on their own in a few weeks, but they cause mild to severe discomfort. You can use home remedies to relieve the discomfort and make it more tolerable.
1. Witch hazel
Witch hazel can help both with the itching and pain, the two biggest symptoms of hemorrhoids. Also, since it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, it can also help with the swelling. You can purchase it in liquid form and apply it to the hemorrhoids. Many products such as anti-itch wipes and soaps have it as an active ingredient.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera gel has been used to treat hemorrhoids and various skin conditions for decades. It’s considered to have anti-inflammatory properties, which could help reduce irritation. The National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health states it as safe for topical use, even though there isn’t enough clinical evidence on its effectiveness for hemorrhoids. If you choose to try this method, make sure you only use pure aloe vera gel or harvest it directly from inside an aloe plant’s leaves.
3. Warm bath with Epsom salt
Taking a warm bath can help relieve the irritation from hemorrhoids. Either take a full-body bath in the tub or use a sitz bath, which is a small plastic tub that fits over a toilet seat. Harvard Health reported that it’s most effective to take a warm bath for 20 minutes following every bowel movement. You can add Epsom salts to the bath to take it a step further and attain more pain relief.
4. Over-the-counter ointments
Over-the-counter creams and ointments like Preparation H are available at most drug stores and can provide immediate relief. Some are able to decrease swelling, helping your hemorrhoid heal quicker. If you choose a cream with hydrocortisone, avoid using it for more than a week.
5. Soothing wipes
When having hemorrhoids, using toilet paper following a bowel movement may further aggravate your condition. It’s best to use wipes to keep clean without further aggravation. For additional relief, use wipes with soothing, anti-hemorrhoid ingredients such as aloe vera or hazel. Avoid wipes that have perfume, alcohol, or other irritants since they can aggravate your symptoms rather than relieve them.
6. Cold Compresses
A great way to relieve swelling is to apply cold compresses or ice packs to the anus for 15 minutes at a time. This is especially effective for large, painful hemorrhoids. Never apply anything frozen directly to the skin, wrap the ice inside a paper towel or cloth.
7. Stool softeners
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, fiber supplements or stool softeners, like psyllium, are great at relieving constipation, making the stool softer, and making it possible to have painless bowel movements. Stool softeners come in many different forms like capsules, powders, and liquids that you take orally once to three times a day.
8. Loose, cotton clothing
Switching your tight polyester clothes to those made out of ultra-breathable cotton, (especially underwear) will help to keep the anal area dry and clean. This may help reduce your symptoms. Also, avoid using fabric softeners or perfumed detergents to reduce irritation.
Changes to your lifestyle and diet are the best ways to help prevent hemorrhoids. Eat healthily and stay physically active to maintain regular bowel movements. Try to eat more foods rich in fiber and drink lots of water to help the digestive process and prevent constipation. Exercising regularly and not sitting still for long periods of time is also helpful in preventing hemorrhoids.
When to see your doctor
It’s usually easy to treat hemorrhoids and they often clear up on their own. However, in some rare cases, hemorrhoids could cause complications. Sometimes, hemorrhoids can cause chronic blood loss, which can lead to anemia. Internal hemorrhoids may also have their blood supply cut off, resulting in strangulated hemorrhoids, which can produce extreme pain.
If none of the home treatments are helping you, make an appointment to see a doctor. Your primary care physician can diagnose and appoint proper hemorrhoid treatment plan suited for you. They can prescribe ointments, medicated creams, and suppositories. Sometimes, procedures like rubber band litigation or surgery may be recommended. If you notice rectal bleeding for the first time or if the bleeding increases, make an appointment with your doctor right away.