Hemorrhoids: Self-care vs. Physician Care

, Professor of Nonprescription Products and Devices, School of Pharmacy, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, OK

US Pharmacist. 2001;26(5) 

In This Article

Patient Information

Many people think they have hemorrhoids. If you experience anorectal discomfort of some type (e.g., burning, itching or pain), it is important to consider the possibility of another more serious condition, such as a fissure, abscess or fistula, or a simpler condition, such as anal irritation caused by allergies or incomplete cleansing following a bowel movement

Effective Ingredients for Self-Treatment

If your symptoms are fairly minor in nature, you may be able to obtain relief from several nonprescription products. Some products contain local anesthetic ingredients to stop pain, itching and burning. These ingredients include benzocaine, dibucaine, and pramoxine. These products are applied 3-6 times daily, depending on the specific ingre- dient in the product. Read the label for exact application directions. Products containing local anesthetics are only to be applied externally, since humans do not have nerve endings beyond the anal opening. You should not use your fingers or any other device (such as a plastic tube or "pipe") to place the products internally.

Protectants such as petrolatum (Vaseline), cocoa butter, hard fat, lanolin, mineral oil, glycerin and topical starch coat the skin. This relieves irritation and burning, protects inflamed skin and prevents drying of the skin. Protectants may be applied after each bowel movement, following label directions.

Some products contain ingredients such as epinephrine and phenylephrine, which directly shrink blood vessels to reduce swelling. However, they must not be used if you have heart disease, hypertension, thyroid disease, diabetes, or difficulty in urinating as a result of an enlarged prostate (unless directed by a physician).

Other ingredients include astringents and hydrocortisone. Astringents such as witch hazel relieve irritation and itching. Hydrocortisone in some hemorrhoid products can relieve anal itching as well.

For help finding products that contain these ingredients, consult your pharmacist. Remember, if you use these products and seven days have passed, it is suggested that you seek the advice of a physician.

Remember, if you have questions, Consult Your Pharmacist.

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