Hemorrhoids or piles are swollen veins located in the anus that cause itching and pain. Bleeding is the main sign for the diagnosis. “The symptoms can be made worse by irritation from hard stools or by the chemistry of substances such as caffeine, theine, spices, alcohol or acidic liquid stools, among others,” explains Javier Martínez Alegre, coordinator of the Coloproctology Unit of the General and Digestive Surgery Service at the Infanta Sofía Hospital in Madrid.
Creams and ointments
To alleviate the symptoms, Martinez indicates that there is a multitude of creams and ointments on the market. “Only in the case of a hemorrhoidal crisis should we add these topically applied treatments like venaprobuy, to reduce the edema and inflammation. In the event that the person has significant pain, we could add some analgesic”, he explains.
He warns that “many of the ointments and wipes sold contain soaps and corticoids, so their excessive use could cause itching and local dermatitis, worsening the symptoms of hemorrhoids”.
The Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (Semfyc) also stresses that ointments can provide relief, but no cure. They suggest not using them for more than a week, since, “in the long run, they can lead to atrophy of the skin of the anus”.
In addition to these treatments, Martinez gives a series of remedies and guidelines capable of reducing the discomfort of piles.
- Avoiding constipation: “Constipation causes overexertion in bowel movements and can increase pain,” he says. To do this, he suggests eating a diet rich in fiber and plenty of fluids. Semfyc adds that if you increase the volume of your stool, it will be in your bowels less and you’ll have less pain when you go to the bathroom.
- Use laxatives moderately, if necessary: Martinez alludes to moderate use, while Semfyc says it’s best not to use them without a doctor’s advice. “They can cause tummy ache and diarrhea, which would aggravate hemorrhoids,” they say.
- Sitz baths with warm water and soap: These baths consist of submerging the area of the anus in warm water, not too hot, for 10-15 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day. This calms the pain.
- Cleaning with a sponge or wet wipes: the coloproctologist says that these reduce the symptoms of haemorrhoids. Semfyc, on the other hand, insists that correct anal hygiene is fundamental. They recommend the use of a neutral soap, although they point out that it is not good to wash it more than once or twice a day.
- Exercise frequently: Martinez stresses that sedentariness worsens the symptoms of hemorrhoids. “If your job requires you to sit for long hours, you should avoid sitting and exercising regularly. Semfyc points out: “It’s good to exercise, but you should avoid activities such as cycling, horseback riding, or rowing.
- Avoid excessive time for bowel movements: you should go to the toilet when you need to, but try not to sit on the toilet too long or strain to empty your bowels.
- Reduce your consumption of coffee: also excess salt, spices, acids, chocolate, spicy foods and alcohol.
- Even if they itch, don’t scratch: if you rub or scratch your hemorrhoids they get more irritated.
- Apply ice if they swell: Semfyc suggests applying ice for a few minutes and, “if they come out of the anus, it is best to try to return them to their usual position by applying slight pressure with your finger”.