Hemorrhoids are quite common. In fact, they are so common, that many people don’t even know that they have them. There are also many conditions often confused with hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the anus, or in the lower part of the rectum. The exact variation of this condition as determined by your doctor after checking the exact position, size, and other tissue characteristics will determine the correct hemorrhoid treatment. These veins may be painful or itchy, especially when the person strains while having a bowel movement.
We put together a comparison of medical hemorrhoid treatments, so you can be prepared before that nervous trip to the doctor. If you’re looking for more holistic alternatives, please take a look at our comparison of natural hemorrhoid treatments page.
Although many of the treatments described below do not require a doctor’s prescription, for your safety and for good piece of mind, we insist that you use this comparison as general information, but please go see your doctor to make sure you actually have a hemorrhoid before you begin treatment. We are not offering medical advice, we simply want to give you the best information possible.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
While people with sedentary lifestyles are more prone to hemorrhoids, they can also be caused by a medical condition such as cirrhosis of the liver, from infections of the anus, or from constipation and straining during the passing of bowel movements. Hemorrhoids can be located either just inside the anus, or they can actually hang outside the anal opening.
What Are Symptoms of Hemorrhoids?
Symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching of the anus, pain in that area – especially noticeable when sitting, blood in the stool or toilet bowl after a bowel movement, painful bowel movements, and/or hard and tender lumps in the anus. Quite often, people will seek surgical removal of these swollen veins, but there are other treatments that are far less invasive.
What Are Non-Surgical Treatments for Hemorrhoids?
While surgery is, indeed, an option, there are many different treatments for this often painful condition that don’t require surgery.
1. Corticosteroid Creams
Corticosteroid creams are available over the counter, or OTC, at pharmacies and in the medical section of grocery stores. They are usually quite affordable, ranging in price from about $6 to $10 a tube. The ointment version is more greasy than cream. Some of them may be obtained by prescription if necessary for a stronger dosage or for health insurance reasons.
These creams should be rubbed gently onto the exposed hemorrhoids. The effect should be to reduce swelling and relieve the pain associated with these swollen blood vessels. For minor hemorrhoids, the corticosteroid creams can be quite effective and affordable. If you have larger hemorrhoids, however, this may not present enough relief.
There are few contraindications for corticosteroid creams. Keep in mind that when used in the anal area, the skin will rub together. This will cause the cream to absorb more quickly, so you shouldn’t use as much of it as you would on an exposed area of skin. Just coat it on thinly.
Some of the creams will stain your clothes and skin. Be careful to use proper dressings to protect your clothes. If you use these creams for a long time, they can actually make your skin thinner. Keep the cream confined to the hemorrhoids, only, rather than on a larger area, as this can cause too much medicine to be absorbed.
There is practically no danger involved in using this type of treatment, but be sure to wash your hand thoroughly after application. You shouldn’t get these creams in your eyes or mouth. Call a doctor if you do.
This is a home treatment, and doesn’t require the help of a medical professional, although for stronger creams you’ll need a doctor’s prescription. You can find these creams in most grocery and drug stores.
2. Hemorrhoid Lidocaine Cream
Hemorrhoid lidocaine cream is similar to the previously mentioned corticosteroid cream, with the difference that lidocaine has been added. This makes it more able to relieve pain in the case of severe hemorrhoids. The price of these treatments is comparable to the corticosteroid treatment, and they are available OTC or by prescription as well.
The lidocaine creams are not usually necessary for minor hemorrhoid problems, but are quite effective, especially with those located inside the anal opening.
Most people can take the lidocaine treatment quite well, but there are some dangers for some people. Severe side effects may include itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, severe irritation, and even swelling. This is in the case of people who are allergic to the cream. Elderly people may be more sensitive to this treatment as well, and it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
Check with your doctor before using this type of cream, as it may interact with some medications, both prescription and OTC. If you have reactions to anesthetics, such as difficulty breathing or dizziness, you should not take this medicine. In addition, you shouldn’t use it if you have had vaccinations recently or if you have certain digestive problems.
While you do not need a medical professional in order to use this treatment, you do need permission from a doctor. It would be unwise to use this or any other topical cream without knowledge of interactions. This medication is available at drug stores, pharmacies, and in the health aisle of grocery stores.
3. Stool Softeners
Stool softeners are among some of the most commonly recommended treatments for hemorrhoids. The effect is that the stools are softened so that the person doesn’t have to strain so badly to have a bowel movement. This is another quite affordable treatment, and is often used in conjunction with one of the above creams. Prices for stool softeners range from $5 to $10. You usually only get a few days’ worth of treatment, as treatment for long periods of time are not recommended.
Stool softeners can be quite effective in the relief of hemorrhoids. By making the bowel movement easier, the inflamed veins can recover, reducing the severity of the hemorrhoids. This recovery time is often quite an effective treatment. While it does not eliminate the hemorrhoids, it does relieve the discomfort. Brand names include Colace, Diocto, Correctol, and Ex-Lax. There are also brands such as Correctol 50 Plus and Peri-Colace that combine docusate and sennosides in the softening of stools.
If you are allergic to any drugs, you should tell your doctor or pharmacist before taking a stool softener. If you experience vomiting, fever, stomach pain beyond cramps, or difficulty breathing, contact your doctor immediately.
You can take the stool softeners at home, without the aid of a medical professional. While you should always check with your doctor before taking any kind of home treatment, this OTC aid is quite effective.