From salt soaks to topical creams, we've rounded up the most effective over-the-counter treatments and home remedies for external hemorrhoids.
When it comes to our butts, down-there problems can be embarrassing or sensitive topics. Even hemorrhoids, as common as they are, can be difficult to understand and talk about. If you've gotten a hemorrhoid diagnosis from your doctor, don't fret: Hemorrhoids affect about one in 20 Americans (both men and women), and half of adults above age 50 have them, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
"We all have blood vessels in that area, but when they become enlarged, that is a hemorrhoid," explains Health contributing medical editor Roshini Rajapaksa, MD. Constipation, straining to push out a bowel movement, pregnancy, and even prolonged sitting or cycling can put pressure on veins and cause hemorrhoids to develop, Dr. Raj tells us.
Hemorrhoid home care
Over-the-counter ointments or creams that contain a mild steroid can help decrease itching or pain, and there are also prescription-strength creams and suppositories available. But one of the best treatments you can do at home is to soak the area in warm water several times a day. This helps to soothe and shrink hemorrhoids, says Dr. Raj.
New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, agrees. "I prefer having patients do sitz baths daily, which involves having them take warm baths and soaking the area," she says. Dr. Nazarian also backs over-the-counter products that contain witch hazel, since this ingredient is calming and anti-inflammatory. "[These products] are available in pads and wipes that can be applied directly to the hemorrhoid to help with symptomatic relief."
Sometimes, external hemorrhoids can shrink to the point that you don't notice they're there. But if you do experience bleeding from your rectum, it's important to see your doctor, especially if you've never had hemorrhoids before. Your doctor can do an examination and perform other tests to rule out something more serious. There are also medical procedures to actually remove hemorrhoids in case they don't disappear.
The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to prevent constipation, which in turn will help ward off swollen veins. "Eat a diet high in fiber, drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly," says Dr. Raj. Examples of fiber-rich foods include beans, whole grains, corn, lentils, artichokes, and fresh fruits and veggies.
Below, we've rounded up the best over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments with expert-approved ingredients to help you treat your annoying pain in the butt from home.