October 13, 2021
Hemorrhoids are at the top of the list of health problems that people avoid talking about, even to doctors. They are uncomfortable, unsightly, bleed, and make it difficult to go to the bathroom. They are also very common. In fact, about half of people have had a hemorrhoid attack before they reach the age of 50.
What is a hemorrhoid?
Hemorrhoids can be inside or outside your body. With external hemorrhoids, you can see them and they tend to hurt. With internal hemorrhoids, you don’t see or feel them, but a symptom may be bleeding during a bowel movement.
The most common cause of hemorrhoids is due to constipation or straining when using the toilet. Women are prone to hemorrhoids during pregnancy and after childbirth due to the increased pressure on the pelvic floor and hormonal changes that can lead to constipation. Children and adolescents can also have hemorrhoids.
Home remedies for hemorrhoids
“I tell my patients that the most important thing they can do for a hemorrhoid is let it heal by not straining when they have a bowel movement and avoiding constipation,” says Dr. Shah. The tension increases the pressure and prevents the hemorrhoid from shrinking.
To deal with the underlying problem of constipation and tension, Kulvir S. Nandra, MD, colorectal surgeon at Mountainside, offers some tips:
- Eat foods high in fiber, such as bananas, pears, strawberries, avocados, carrots, beets, broccoli, spinach, legumes, lentils, oats, nuts, seeds and Sweet potatoes.
- Increase your water intake.
- Consider taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement.
- Immerse yourself in a sitz bath – a warm, shallow bath – by filling a tub with a few inches of lukewarm water and sitting in the water for 15 or 20 minutes.
If you see a doctor for hemorrhoids, he or she may prescribe hydrocortisone which can be applied directly or as a suppository. “For most of my patients, a high-fiber diet, sitz baths and hydrocortisone work,” says Dr. Shah. The bleeding stops, the feeling goes away, and it’s usually over.
The three worst things you can do
- Spend too much time in the bathroom. “Having good bowel habits means eating a healthy diet and not spending more than five minutes in the bathroom,” says Dr Nandra.
- Wipe or wipe aggressively. Use simple, unscented and hypoallergenic wipes; wet tissue; cotton balls; or a bidet to clean yourself.
- Do not call your doctor when it could be something more serious. “Any type of rectal bleeding should be examined by a doctor, especially if it is associated with unintentional weight loss or anemia,” says Dr Shah. These symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. It is important to listen to your body, and if something is wrong, it is best to get evaluated by a healthcare professional.
If you have run out of home remedies and medical options and still have hemorrhoid issues, the next step may be to see a colorectal surgeon. There are many procedures that can be done in the office, such as what is called hemorrhoid banding or hemorrhoid sclerotherapy:
- Banding involves wrapping a small rubber band around the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink and fall. “This procedure is painless, quick and done in the office,” says Dr. Nandra.
- Sclerotherapy is similar but involves a special injection that cuts off the blood supply to the hemorrhoid, causing it to fall out.
If the hemorrhoids are severe and come back regularly, several outpatient procedures on the same day are available that involve sedation similar to a colonoscopy:
- Ligation of hemorrhoids, which is similar to elastic but with a suture.
- Hemorrhoidectomy, this is where the hemorrhoid is cut.
- Stapled hemorrhoidectomy, which involves the use of a stapler for larger hemorrhoids.
- Transanal hemorrhoidal desarterialization (DHT), which is a minimally invasive ultrasound guided technique to target the blood supply of a hemorrhoid.
Your medical team will work with you to decide which procedure is best for you.
The bottom line
“The sooner we deal with the problem, the sooner you will feel better,” says Dr Nandra. It is possible to treat hemorrhoids with simpler methods, but waiting too long could lead to surgery.
Next Steps and Resources:
The material provided by HealthU is intended to be used for general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your doctor for individual care.