Treating hemorrhoids, more commonly known as piles in the United Kingdom, is typically a matter of making some lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to address pain and discomfort. In some instances, other, more significant medical interventions may be necessary. These include hemorrhoidectomy, the surgical removal of hemorrhoids, or fixative procedures, which constrict blood flow to the hemorrhoids, causing them to shrink and fall off.
Hemorrhoids are a swelling of veins in the rectum and anus, which can become very painful. They are typically caused by pressure resulting from chronic constipation and subsequent straining to pass stool while on the toilet, a lot of sitting, or internal pressure caused by pregnancy or obesity. For some people, treating hemorrhoids begins with using stool softeners, taking fiber supplements, and drinking more water to reduce straining and further irritation of the area. In some cases, bed rest may also be prescribed to relieve the pressure caused by standing, particularly if the sufferer is pregnant.
Another aspect of treating hemorrhoids is addressing the pain and discomfort that often accompanies them. Medical professionals usually encourage individuals with hemorrhoids to be very careful when cleaning themselves after a bowl movement: blotting, instead of rubbing, with a warm, wet tissue or disposable wipe is recommended. Wearing cotton underwear can protect against accumulated moisture, which can make hemorrhoid discomfort worse. Some hemorrhoid sufferers find that sitting in warm water for 15 minutes, a process sometimes called a sitz bath, helps to relieve hemorrhoid pain. Applying ice packs to hemorrhoids can also help.
If home remedies and preventative measures don't work, it may be necessary to treat hemorrhoids with over-the-counter medications. Witch hazel compresses can help shrink hemorrhoids and minimize pain, as can hemorrhoid ointments and creams. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin can also help with swelling and discomfort.
When over-the-counter and lifestyle hemorrhoid treatments don't work, sufferers should see their doctor about more advanced methods of treating hemorrhoids. The doctor can rule out other, more serious reasons for anal bleeding and recommend more advanced procedures. Doctors may suggest fixative treatment, which uses rubber bands or cauterization to cut off circulation to the hemorrhoid or hemorrhoids. In situations where the hemorrhoids do not improve or they begin to interfere with a person's day-to-day life, doctors may recommend that they be surgically removed. This process can be painful, so it is usually not recommended unless complications develop or the sufferer simply cannot stand the pain and discomfort caused by the hemorrhoids.