There’s no doubt about it: piles are irritating. When they are inflamed, you can’t think about anything else. You want relief, and you are willing to try anything.
All too often, however, the first place people turn for advice is an Internet search engine. The search turns up sites promising to cure your hemorrhoid symptoms in as little as three days. You wonder if it will work, but think it is probably worth a try. A more important question, though, should be “is it safe?”
Your Hemorrhoids May Clear Up on Their Own
Small hemorrhoids will likely clear up on their own, especially if something was exacerbating the problem. For example, constipation can cause piles if you strain too much on the toilet. By increasing the fiber in your diet – even accidentally – your bowel movements will become more regular. This will give the sensitive tissues a break and allow the swelling and inflammation to go down.
If the swelling in your hemorrhoidal tissue goes down on its own after a few days of trying one of the tricks from these websites, it may seem like the online tricks worked. In reality, your hemorrhoids shrunk back to size on their own. How long hemorrhoids last depend on a number of factors, but they typically go away within a week.
In fact, if your external hemorrhoid symptoms don’t clear up in a few days to a week on their own, we advise you make an appointment with your primary care physician or a colon and rectal specialist (known as a proctologist). You should also see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience symptoms of internal hemorrhoids such as rectal bleeding, thrombosed hemorrhoids, or a prolapsed hemorrhoid that you cannot manually push back inside manually. These could become serious health conditions.
It’s a Bad Idea to Try Some At-Home Treatments
The most important thing to consider before trying a treatment you read about online is to remember that the person giving you advice is likely not a doctor or scientist. Even if they claim to be an expert online, there is no way to check their credentials. However, no doctor will promise to cure you in only a few days through advice offered on a website.
Some of the most unlikely treatments we found online include:
Tea Tree Oil
We do not recommend using any type of oil-based treatment on your hemorrhoids. However, tea tree oil is an especially bad idea. Unless you want to experience more intense burning and irritation, it is not a good idea to apply tea tree oil to the anus or near the rectal canal.In fact, you do not want to use this oil on any tender skin or near mucous membranes. There is no scientific proof to back up the use of other essential oils on piles, either.
Many of the online “treatments” involve taking special herbs you need to buy at a health food store or order from the internet. The website offering advice may even sell the herbs. Some of the most common include triphala, horse chestnut, and butcher’s broom. These come in the form of capsules, creams, or teas. There is no scientific proof to support the effectiveness of any of these herbs, and they may have side effects.
Many of these websites promising a quick fix rely on aloe. They want you to eat a spoonful with each meal, use it topically, or mix it in with your tea or coffee. Aloe juice also makes frequent appearances. Other websites call for using coconut oil in similar ways. Ingesting either of them can cause gastrointestinal upset that may actually make hemorrhoid symptoms worse.
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Mineral Oil Mixtures
Some online hemorrhoid “cure” websites recommend a protocol that requires you to eat mineral oil several times a day. This is often mixed in apple sauce, but it still will not be a pleasant experience. Especially because it will not help your hemorrhoids and may upset your stomach.
Strange Combinations that Promise a Cure
The protocol on some of these websites consist of combinations of common chemicals or household items. One, for example, recommends soaking a compress in apple cider vinegar, garlic oil, and cranberry juice.
While all these tricks may not be harmful, there is no scientific proof to back their use, either. There are other, proven ways to ease the irritation of your inflamed piles without taking an unnecessary risk.
But You Can Try Some of the Things Your Doctor Will Recommend
We recommend having your doctor evaluate your symptoms as soon as possible for the quickest relief. If you cannot get an appointment quickly or need to stop the pain and itching sooner, you can try some of the things your doctor will likely recommend at your appointment anyway.
When a patient comes to our office complaining of symptoms from small hemorrhoids, we recommend:
- Sitting in a warm tub of water or using a sitz bath several times a day
- Using ice backs intermittently for relief
- Eating a high fiber diet and drinking plenty of fluids
- Exercising regularly
Many people want to know if they can use over-the-counter creams for quick relief. We typically recommend witch hazel pads instead. However, be sure to carefully follow the directions on the package. We do not usually recommend creams unless using them for only a short period of time or we prescribe them during your appointment. The medications in these creams can damage your skin if you use them too long.
Know When It’s Time to See the Doctor
In some cases, you will need to see a doctor and there is no option to try at-home treatments first. Intense pain may be from a thrombosis – a blood clot – in a prolapsed external hemorrhoid. This requires treatment within three days, or you may require surgery. We can likely drain the clot with a small incision in our office within the first 72 hours.
If you have symptomatic hemorrhoids that do not respond to non-medical treatments, you may need an in-office procedure or a surgical procedure to eliminate your symptoms. Visit your doctor or make an appointment with one of our proctologists to learn more.