Fiber Laxatives May Cut Hemorrhoids' Symptoms
Bleeding Particularly Improved With Laxative Use, Researchers Report
Oct. 19, 2005 -- Laxatives in the form of fiber may help ease symptoms of
hemorrhoids, especially bleeding, researchers report.
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum. Some lie far enough
inside the rectum that they don't hurt and aren't visible. Others lie within
the anus and are usually painful.
Hemorrhoids are common. About half of people in the U.S. will have them at
some point. Most people are affected sometime between ages 20 and 50.
Hemorrhoids usually aren't a serious medical problem, but they can be
painful. They often are a cause of rectal bleeding. More serious conditions
(such as colon cancer and diverticulosis) can also cause bleeding. See a doctor
to rule out those problems.
The cause of bothersome hemorrhoids isn't known, but constipation can
"The initial approach is to increase the amount of water and fiber in
the diet, or to introduce a laxative," write Pablo Alonso-Coello and
colleagues in The Cochrane Library.
Alonso-Coello works at the Iboamerican Cochrane Centre at the Hospital de la
Santa Creu I Sant Pau in Barcelona, Spain.
Surgery can also be done to treat more severe hemorrhoids.
Seven Studies Reviewed
The researchers reviewed seven studies. Each study compared fiber laxatives
with no treatment (placebos). The laxatives contained fiber in various
The studies had between 28 and 92 participants in each. Rectal bleeding was
their main complaint.
The reviewers found a "beneficial effect of laxatives in the form of
fiber for improving symptoms of hemorrhoids, especially bleeding."
How big was the improvement? The patients who took fiber laxatives were
about half as likely to have persistent symptoms as those who got the
Bleeding particularly improved. There was no clear pattern for other
symptoms, such as itching, pain, and prolapse (in which hemorrhoids slip down
and out of the anal canal).
The studies were fairly small, and their quality could have been better, the
Most patients had relatively mild symptoms, the reviewers note.
"While fiber might also be effective in people with more advanced states
of hemorrhoidal disease, this remains largely unaddressed," they write.