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Fiber Laxatives May Cut Hemorrhoids' Symptoms

Bleeding Particularly Improved With Laxative Use, Researchers Report

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 19, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 19, 2005 -- Laxatives in the form of fiber may help ease symptoms ofhemorrhoids, especially bleeding, researchers report.

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum. Some lie far enoughinside the rectum that they don't hurt and aren't visible. Others lie withinthe anus and are usually painful.

Hemorrhoids are common. About half of people in the U.S. will have them atsome point. Most people are affected sometime between ages 20 and 50.

Hemorrhoids usually aren't a serious medical problem, but they can bepainful. They often are a cause of rectal bleeding. More serious conditions(such as colon cancer and diverticulosis) can also cause bleeding. See a doctorto rule out those problems.

Cause, Treatments

The cause of bothersome hemorrhoids isn't known, but constipation cancontribute.

"The initial approach is to increase the amount of water and fiber inthe diet, or to introduce a laxative," write Pablo Alonso-Coello andcolleagues in The Cochrane Library.

Alonso-Coello works at the Iboamerican Cochrane Centre at the Hospital de laSanta 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 laxativeswith no treatment (placebos). The laxatives contained fiber in variousforms.

The studies had between 28 and 92 participants in each. Rectal bleeding wastheir main complaint.

The reviewers found a "beneficial effect of laxatives in the form offiber for improving symptoms of hemorrhoids, especially bleeding."

How big was the improvement? The patients who took fiber laxatives wereabout half as likely to have persistent symptoms as those who got theplacebos.

Bleeding particularly improved. There was no clear pattern for othersymptoms, such as itching, pain, and prolapse (in which hemorrhoids slip downand out of the anal canal).

The studies were fairly small, and their quality could have been better, theresearchers note.

Most patients had relatively mild symptoms, the reviewers note.

"While fiber might also be effective in people with more advanced statesof hemorrhoidal disease, this remains largely unaddressed," they write.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Alonso-Coello, P. The Cochrane Library, 2005; issue 4. WebMD Medical Reference: "Understanding Hemorrhoids -- the Basics." WebMD Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Digestive Diseases: Surgery to Treat Hemorrhoids." News release, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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