Hemorrhoid Care: How To Treat And Then Avoid In The Future


Hemorrhoids (also called piles) can cause pain, itching, bleeding and irritation that makes sitting uncomfortable. These swollen or enlarged blood vessels in the lining of the rectum can cause bulges. The swelling can occur inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids) or just outside, near the anus (external hemorrhoids). “Internal hemorrhoids often have no symptoms, and up to half of people who have them don’t even know it. They may not cause any problems unless something makes them swell up,” says Abigail Entz, M.D., a primary care physician at Henry Ford Health.

What Increases Your Risk Of Hemorrhoids?

At least 5% of adults have hemorrhoids. Men and women are equally at risk, and hemorrhoids become more common as we get older. “As we age, we are more likely to have symptoms from hemorrhoids,” says Dr. Entz.

One of the main causes of hemorrhoids is chronic constipation. “When you strain to have a bowel movement, you put a lot of pressure on those veins,” says Dr. Entz. “That forces more blood into the area, where it can pool and lead to swollen blood vessels.”

The added pressure on your pelvis during pregnancy can have the same effect. As the uterus gets larger and heavier, it presses on the vessels around the rectum. That, combined with increased blood volume during pregnancy, can lead to hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoid Treatment

Luckily, there are several effective ways to soothe hemorrhoids and relieve symptoms at home. Over-the-counter remedies include:

  • Sitz baths: Dr. Entz recommends soaking in a warm bath for about 15 minutes, three times a day. You can add a packet of bath salts designed to soothe hemorrhoids.
  • Steroid cream or suppositories: Creams or suppositories that contain low amounts of cortisone help reduce swelling and relieve pain. But don’t use them for more than a week. “The steroid can thin the skin and lead to more irritation if you use it for too long,” says Dr. Entz.
  • Donut pillow: If the enlarged veins make sitting uncomfortable, a donut-shaped cushion can help take pressure off the area.

Should You See A Doctor For Hemorrhoid Treatment?

For most people, over-the-counter hemorrhoid remedies are enough to relieve symptoms. “But if over-the-counter remedies don’t work, you should see your doctor,” advises Dr. Entz.

Your doctor can prescribe a stronger steroid cream or suppository and can help identify other ways to reduce your risk of recurring hemorrhoids. In rare cases, doctors surgically remove chronic hemorrhoids.

If you suspect you have a hemorrhoid for the first time, Dr. Entz suggests seeing your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Some symptoms — such as a change in bowel habits, pain or bleeding — can sometimes be signs of other, more serious, conditions.

How To Prevent Hemorrhoids

The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to avoid constipation and stay hydrated. If you find yourself straining and pushing to try to go, you’re putting yourself at risk of hemorrhoids. “Don’t sit on the toilet for longer than three to five minutes,” says Dr. Entz. “If you can’t go in that time, get up, move around, drink some water and try again.”

To help keep you regular, be sure your diet includes plenty of fiber — at least 20 to 35 grams per day. If you can’t get enough by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, talk to your doctor about adding a fiber supplement. As you increase the fiber in your diet, be sure to also increase your water intake. “You need to stay hydrated in order to help keep things moving,” says Dr. Entz.

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Abigail Entz is an internal medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Categories: FeelWell