How can you treat haemorrhoids (piles)?
If you’ve ever suffered from haemorrhoids (also known as piles) then you may have experienced first-hand the common symptoms of bright red blood after a bowel movement, itching, pain, and general discomfort around the bottom that come with the condition.
Luckily, haemorrhoids will often resolve themselves after several days but, for some people, the itchiness, pain and discomfort can be hard to bear. Depending on the severity and recurrence of the problem there are several treatment options for piles:
- Home remedies and lifestyle changes
- Over-the-counter creams, ointments, or suppositories
- Non-surgical procedures (e.g. banding or an injection to shrink the piles)
- Surgical procedures to remove haemorrhoids.
Aside from the physical discomfort, many people also find the experience distressing as they feel uncomfortable or embarrassed talking about piles. It’s important to realise that you’re not alone as nearly 3 out of 4 adults will experience them at some point in their lives.
Home remedies and lifestyle changes
There are some handy home remedies that can help to ease some of the symptoms of haemorrhoids when they appear. The NHS recommends taking paracetamol or having a warm bath to ease the itching and pain. Or, you can wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the painful area. Sitting on a soft cushion may also help, particularly if you’re suffering from external or prolapsed haemorrhoids.
Since lifestyle habits such as diet and weight can cause haemorrhoids, there are many things we can do ourselves to help manage the recurrence of piles including:
- Drinking more water
- Eating more fibre
- Wiping your bottom softly with quilted or damp toilet paper
- Exercising regularly
- Reducing alcohol intake.
Over-the-counter creams, ointments or suppositories
If home remedies aren’t quite doing the trick, over-the-counter medication may be able to help. Haemorroids (or piles) medicines can come in a variety of formats, including creams, ointments and suppositories.
There are numerous over the counter remedies, such as Germoloids, which are designed to alleviate discomfort, whilst also acting on the source of the problem by shrinking the swollen blood vessels in the bottom. The Germoloids formula contains an anaesthetic which acts fast to numb the pain and itchiness of haemorrhoids. You can even find formats that are designed specifically for use on internal or external piles. Find out more about the Germoloids product range here.
Over-the-counter medicines can often help to resolve the issue within a few days to a couple of weeks, however, if symptoms persist or worsen then it’s always best to speak to your doctor for further advice.
In some cases, external haemorrhoids can develop blood clots and become extremely itchy and painful. This type of haemorrhoid is also called a thrombosed haemorrhoid and usually requires treatment through a medical procedure known as a thrombectomy. Don’t worry, the name may sound intimidating but it can actually provide fast relief of the painful symptoms and is fairly straightforward. During the procedure, your doctor will attempt to remove the blood clot by draining the haemorrhoids, which in turn reduces the swelling of blood vessels and pressure on the area.
Injections or ‘Sclerotherapy’
An alternative method of treating haemorrhoids is through a series of injections, known as sclerotherapy. During this procedure, liquid containing medication designed to shrink the swollen blood vessels is injected into the area around them. This helps to reduce blood flow to the affected area(s) and often takes place over several appointments before the haemorrhoids are fully treated.
Rubber band ligation
Rubber band ligation is another non-surgical solution to removing haemorrhoids. During the procedure, the doctor will wrap the haemorrhoid in two small rubber bands to constrict the affected area and stem the circulation of blood. The result should be that the haemorrhoid, starved of blood and oxygen, will gradually shrink and fall off and this usually happens within the space of a week.
Haemorrhoidectomy (haemorrhoid removal)
If medication and/or non-surgical procedures have failed to effectively treat the haemorrhoids, or if someone is suffering from particularly large ones, then a surgical procedure called a haemorrhoidectomy may be required to remove them. The area may still be sensitive for a period afterwards as the skin is either left to heal naturally or closed using stitches.
Stapling, or a stapled haemorrhoidopexy, is a procedure designed to produce results similar to those of banding by reducing the circulation to the haemorrhoids. First, part of the haemorrhoid tissue is removed and then the remaining tissue is ‘stapled’ back in place inside the bottom.
As with all treatments and procedures there are both advantages and disadvantages so, if you think you might be suffering from haemorrhoids, it’s worth discussing this with your local pharmacist or doctor to agree the most suitable treatment route for you. Remember, you can always ask to speak to your pharmacist in private to help you feel more comfortable talking about the condition.