Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed blood vessels that develop inside or outside the anus. Symptoms can be mildly irritating or distractingly painful. Almost anyone can experience hemorrhoids, but they are more likely to occur if you are overweight, frequently constipated, and if you stand or sit for long periods of time. They are also a common occurrence in pregnancy. Several home remedies may bring symptom relief and may work to shrink hemorrhoids -- minimizing the need for surgical intervention.
One of the most effective and immediate ways to treat hemorrhoid discomfort is a simple home therapy known as a sitz bath. Soaking your buttocks in warm water, either in a bathtub or using a sitz bath -- a plastic basin that sits over the toilet -- for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times daily can relieve the itching and irritation from hemorrhoids. If you aren’t in a position to use a sitz or tub bath, you can try to ease symptoms by using warm compresses for 10 minutes, 2 to 3 times daily.
Creams, ointments, suppositories and wipes are available over-the-counter (OTC) to provide home treatment for hemorrhoids. In addition to protectants, such as petroleum jelly, these products may include pain-relieving anesthetics such as lidocaine, steroids to reduce swelling and itching, and phenylephrine, which constricts blood vessels and provides temporary pain relief. Witch hazel is another common home remedy, an astringent reputed to shrink hemorrhoid tissue. Medicated witch hazel pads, commonly sold as Tucks, as well as bottled witch hazel, are available at most drugstores. Other botanical products touted to shrink hemorrhoids by causing vasoconstriction include butcher’s broom, horse chestnut and stone root -- yet limited scientific data is available to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Passing hard stool and straining during bowel movements can damage the anal tissue and lead to hemorrhoids. If you have hemorrhoids, softening the stool will usually reduce or prevent the pain and irritation caused by bowel movements, and continued avoidance of constipation can allow hemorrhoids to heal. Using OTC stool softeners such as docusate or psyllium, or increasing the amount of fiber and fluids in the diet are the most effective home remedies to make the stools easier to pass. High fiber foods include whole fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. According to a May 2012 article in “World Journal of Gastroenterology,” regular exercise, abstaining from both straining and reading on the toilet are also recommendations in the treatment and prevention of hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids commonly respond to home treatments that provide symptom relief and soften the stool to allow healing. However, if you do not have relief after 1 week of home treatment, see your doctor. Also see your doctor if you have any bleeding from the rectum, or severe anal pain or itching.
- Merck Manual: Professional Version: Hemorroids
- International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services: Hemorrhoids -- A Common Ailment Among Adults, Causes and Treatment: A Review
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Hemorrhoids: From Basic Pathophysiology to Clinical Management
- National Institute of Health: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Treatment of Hemorrhoids
A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.