Feel Like You May Have Hemorrhoids? We Answer the 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions with Evidence.
Written by: Tanvi Lodhia, Doctor of Pharmacy.
1. What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum. Many Americans between 45 to 65 years experience hemorrhoids… you are not alone! Not all hemorrhoids are painful, and some even go unnoticed. Read below to understand the causes of hemorrhoids, common symptoms you may experience, and your available treatment options.
2. How can I tell if I really have hemorrhoids?
Rectal Bleeding – The most common symptom of hemorrhoids is rectal bleeding. The blood is typically bright red and found in the toilet bowl. It is important to always call your health care provider if you see blood in the stool. Since bleeding may be a sign of other conditions, your doctor may want to perform a differential diagnosis before classifying it as a hemorrhoid.
Itching – Another common symptom you may experience is anal itching. This is usually a sign that you have a hemorrhoid close to the end of your anus. There are a variety of treatment options to help soothe sooth your discomfort.
Pain – Many people experience a variety of different pain levels; this is because the pain is based on the location and the extent of the inflammation of the hemorrhoid.
3. Why does it happen?
Certain Foods and Drinks –Some types of foods and drink alter your bowel movements and can cause constipation. Low fiber diet, spicy foods, and alcohol intake are the most common culprits. Continue reading below to learn how a high fiber diet can help prevent future hemorrhoids.
Prolonged Straining–Sometimes if the stool is harder to pass, you may be a culprit for straining. Veins in the anus are responsible for bringing oxygenated blood to the anus area. If straining occurs, you may be pushing against the veins around the anus to stretch and swell.
Overweight states such as Obesity and Pregnancy– Individuals who are overweight or are in states carrying excess weight i.e., pregnancy are prone to having hemorrhoids. The weight adds excess pressure that constrict the veins surrounding the anus and rectum.
4. What are my available treatment options?
Depending on the severity of the symptoms and condition, treatment will range from dietary and lifestyle modification to surgery. We will focus on the dietary and lifestyle modification and suitable over the counter medications as these can be readily accessed by most people. For further information about surgical procedures and prescription medications, please contact your healthcare provider.
Increase Fiber Intake – Sometimes straining, or the action of passing hard stool through the anus, can be the reason that you have hemorrhoids. Increasing the intake of fiber provides added bulk to help minimize straining. One clinical study report found adding fiber supplements reduced the risk of symptoms and bleeding by approximately 50%, but this may take up to 6 weeks for significant improvement.
Hydration & Nutrition – It is important to hydrate (eight 8 ounce glasses), stay away from fatty foods, and engage in regular exercise. This helps regulate your bowel movement and decrease the chances of experiencing constipation or diarrhea.
Hygiene – It is important to avoid long exposures on the toilet. Some say this can lead to irregular bowel movement and increase the likelihood of experiencing constipation. It is also important to have good toilet hygiene. This includes carefully cleansing and drying your anus. Lastly, sometimes people may be exaggerated cleaners and use liquid soaps and perfumes to clean the anus. However, this should be avoided since these products can contain irritants and lead to allergic reactions.
Stool Softeners – For chronic constipation, your healthcare provider may recommend stool softeners. Some common names include docusate sodium or Colace.
- Topical Anesthetics such as lidocaine
Lidocaine is a common anesthetic that is used to numb the localized area. It works by blockings the signals at the nerve endings which stops the nerves from sending signals to your brain. One research center studied the effects of rectally administered lidocaine ointment in the treatment and safety of rectal pain. The study found that accumulation of lidocaine was minimal in the body and there were no serious adverse events noted. Revivol-XR may be a suitable treatment option if pain is your primarily concern.
Overall Symptom Management
Sitz baths – Warm water baths or Sitz Baths may be useful for soothing anal itching or burning. These baths contain warm water; Sitz Soak can be added to the water for additional support. Sitz Soak contains anti-inflammatory substances and natural ingredients for added relief. Be sure to check the ingredients of the sitz bath as they often contain additional anti-inflammatory substances. This Sitz Bath Salt is made of Epsom salt, organic coconut oil, witch hazel, chamomile oil, aloe vera and other natural ingredients to sooth pain and support hemorrhoid recovery.
Witch Hazel is often an ingredient in Sitz Baths, but it can also be bought separately. Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for symptom relief.
Bioflavonoids are antioxidants that are commonly found in nature. Research has shown there were beneficial effects on bleeding, itchiness, and overall symptom improvement.
Vasoconstrictor such as Phenylephrine – Since hemorrhoids are caused by swollen, inflamed veins in your anus, often decreasing this inflammation can alleviate some of the symptoms. Patients usually use some type of vasoconstrictor to constrict the veins.
5. What do to next?
Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may want you to come in for a check-up. Your provider may also mention your available treatment options on the phone. You can visit your local pharmacy or shop online for the best available products.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem. Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.