Hemorrhoids often get better without surgery or even procedures your doctor can do in the office. Start with over-the-counter products and lifestyle changes. (If you're pregnant, you should talk to your doctor before you try any medicine or change your diet.)
Hemorrhoid Home Care
Try these tips to soothe the pain and itching of hemorrhoids.
- Warm Bath or Sitz Bath. It’s a time-honored therapy: Sit in about 3 inches of warm (not hot) water for 15 minutes or so, several times a day. This helps reduce swelling in the area and relaxes your clenching sphincter muscle. It's especially good after pooping.
- Ointments. Put a little petroleum jelly just inside your anus to make pooping hurt less. Don't force it! Or use over-the-counter creams or ointments made for hemorrhoid symptoms. A 1% hydrocortisone cream on the skin outside the anus (not inside) can relieve itching, too. But don't use it for longer than a week unless your doctor says it's OK.
- Witch Hazel. Dab witch hazel on irritated hemorrhoids. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that can work against swelling and itching.
- Soothing Wipes. After you poop, clean yourself gently with a baby wipe, a wet cloth, or a medicated pad.
- Cold Compress. Try putting a simple cold pack on the tender area for a few minutes to numb it and bring down the swelling.
- Loose Clothing. Weaning loose clothing in a breathable fabric like cotton may help with discomfort.
- High-Fiber Diet. It's the best thing for hemorrhoids: A diet rich in high-fiber foods and with few processed foods. Eat mostly vegetables, fruit, nuts, and whole grains to avoid constipation.
- Stool Softeners. If you can't get enough fiber from food, your doctor may want you to take a fiber supplement or stool softener. Don't take laxatives, because they can cause diarrhea that could irritate hemorrhoids.
- Keep Hydrated. Drink seven to eight glasses of water each day, at least a half-gallon total. If you're very active or you live in a hot climate, you may need even more.
Even if your doctor prescribes medication or suggests surgery, you'll probably need to change your diet. Introduce new foods slowly to avoid gas.
Pain relievers, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, may help with your hemorrhoid symptoms. You can also choose from a variety of over-the-counter creams, ointments, suppositories, and medicated pads. They contain medicines like lidocaine to numb the area, or hydrocortisone or witch hazel, to reduce swelling and itching.
Medical Procedures for Hemorrhoids
If your symptoms are severe or aren't getting better after a couple of weeks, your doctor may suggest a procedure to shrink or remove the hemorrhoids. Many can be performed in their office.
Injection. Your doctor can inject an internal hemorrhoid with a solution to create a scar and close off the hemorrhoid. The shot hurts only a little.
Rubber band ligation. This procedure is often done on prolapsed hemorrhoids, internal hemorrhoids that can be seen or felt outside. Using a special tool, the doctor puts a tiny rubber band around the hemorrhoid, which shuts off its blood supply almost instantly. Within a week, the hemorrhoid will dry up, shrink, and fall off.
Coagulation or cauterization. With an electric probe, a laser beam, or an infrared light, your doctor will make a tiny burn to remove tissue and painlessly seal the end of the hemorrhoid, causing it to close off and shrink. This works best for prolapsed hemorrhoids.
Surgery. For large internal hemorrhoids or extremely uncomfortable external hemorrhoids, your doctor may recommend surgery.
- Hemorrhoidectomy. The most effective technique is to completely remove the hemorrhoids. But recovery is painful and can take several weeks.
- Hemorrhoid stapling. This technique cuts blood flow to internal hemorrhoids and moves prolapsed tissue back in place. Recovery is easier, but there’s a greater chance of the hemorrhoids coming back.
Newer procedures use less invasive techniques to identify and cut off the blood supply to the problem tissues.
Medical treatments are effective, but unless you change your diet and lifestyle, hemorrhoids may come back.