Tube of cream

Hemorrhoids. No one likes to talk about them--those enlarged, painful blood vessels in an around the anal area. But according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, about 50 percent of the population over age 50 finds itself with hemorrhoids. And for sufferer, the only question is how to relieve hemorrhoids.

If you have hemorrhoids, you've probably used the old stand-by for relief--Preparation H. But did you know that a substitute for Preparation H can work as well, or even better? There are also methods that can help prevent hemorrhoids.

Preparation H

There are several Preparation H medications including ointment, cooling gel, medicated wipes, suppositories, anti-itch cream and maximum strength cream. Each product, with the exception of the anti-itch cream and the medicated wipes contains Phenylephrine HCl as its active ingredient. Phenylephrine is commonly used to relieve stuffy noses, and sinus and ear symptoms that are caused by colds, allergies or flu. It works on hemorrhoids because it decreases swelling in tissues.

The active ingredient in the Preparation H anti-itch cream is hydrocortisone, and in the medicated wipes it is witch hazel--a known natural cure for hemorrhoids.

Causes of Hemorrhoids

According to, the basic cause of hemorrhoids is increased pressure on the lower rectum. This can occur with the following:

Straining on the toilet Sitting on the toilet for extended periods of time Chronic diarrhea Chronic constipation Obesity Pregnancy Anal intercourse Hereditary tendency

Substitutes for Preparation H

One great substitute for Preparation H is witch hazel. Witch hazel is the extract from the Hamamelis virginiana plant, and is usually mixed in a solution with alcohol. Tucking a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel up close to the affected area can relieve pain and itching and reduce swelling, according to .

A sitz bath can also work wonders because it increases blood flow to the area, expediting healing. Sit in a few inches of warm water with your knees elevated for several minutes to a half hour, several times a day.

Natural Ways to End Hemorrhoids

The natural cure for hemorrhoids begins with taking proper care of your digestive system so that bowel movements are easy. Drink lots of fluids, especially water, and make sure you're getting plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

To keep your digestive system moving smoothly, take psyllium with juice or water every day. Note that you must keep your liquid intake high when you are using psyllium.

Consuming a diet that is fiber-rich and provides plenty of water will help prevent hemorrhoids from developing.

When to see your doctor

If you have a hemorrhoid that is bleeding a lot, as in more than just a bit when you have a bowel movement, you'll need to see your doctor. Sometimes, the only way to relieve hemorrhoids is to surgically remove them.