Preparation H, an over-the-counter remedy for hemorrhoids, comes in a variety of formulations including those that contain hydrocortisone, creams, suppositories and wipes. The product works by shrinking the hemorrhoid as well as reducing irritation and discomfort, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Preparation H causes few side effects but some people are allergic to it and pregnant and breast-feeding women may want to avoid it as it's unclear how it might affect the child, according to Drugs.com. There is little medical data comparing home treatments for hemorrhoids so it's difficult to know which are most effective but there are some remedies to try as an alternative to Preparation H.
Preparation H contains a mix of different active ingredients, including hydrocortisone and witch hazel, according to Preparation H. These ingredients are also available individually in over-the-counter products that can help reduce hemorrhoid symptoms, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Hydrocortisone creams alleviate itching and pain. Numbing creams can reduce pain and discomfort. Witch hazel, often available in pads, can be dabbed on the affected area to help reduce swelling and soothe symptoms. In addition, over-the-counter pain killers like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
There are some simple things at home that can be done to treat the symptoms of hemorrhoids without using Preparation H. Applying an ice pack or a cold compress daily can reduce swelling and help alleviate symptoms of painful hemorrhoids, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Daily warm baths can help soothe the pain and itching, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Also, clean the anus after each bowel movement with a moist bit of toilet paper or moist towelette to prevent irritation. You can also use a sitz bath, which fits over the toilet, to cleanse the area with warm water, according to MayoClinic.com. They are available at medical supply stores.
There are several minimally invasive procedures that can treat chronic hemorrhoids or those that don't respond to Preparation H or other simple remedies, according to Mayo Clinic. These include shrinking the hemorrhoid by injecting it with a chemical, or using a laser or infrared light or heat. There is also a procedure called rubber band ligation in which the doctor wraps the base of the hemorrhoid in two rubber bands to cut off its circulation. This causes the hemorrhoid to shrink and fall away within a few days. If those procedures don't work surgery to remove the hemorrhoid may be required.
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Louise Lyon has been a writer since 1989. Her work has appeared in "Family Doctor," "AARP Bulletin," "Focus on Healthy Aging" and other national publications covering health and science. She holds a Master of Science degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism.