Hemorrhoids, what can I do at home? There are two aspects to home care to consider. The first is the plan that you must have in place at all times to keep your hemorrhoids from getting worse. We've talked about much of this under Hemorrhoids: Can They Be Prevented ?. This care basically has to do with increasing your fiber and water intake, avoiding training or sitting too long which increases pressure in the sensitive anal region, and changing many of your bowel habits.

The second part of home care has to do with easing symptoms when you are having a flare-up of hemorrhoid symptoms. Before we discuss that, please note the following two warnings:

First of all, if you have a sudden sunset of severe pain in the rectal region you should consult your doctor right away. One of your hemorrhoids may have thrombosed. If this has happened you need medical intervention in order to keep the situation from worsening into conditions called strangulation or gangrene

If you experience a marked change in bowel habits or if you are passing stools that are black or tarry or contain blood clots, you need to consult your doctor immediately. These symptoms could indicate bleeding somewhere else in your bowel and need to be checked without delay.

For this discussion though we will talk about how to ease the discomfort of a flare-up that is similar to those you have had before and how to deal with newly diagnosed hemorrhoids: burning, itching, pain on passage of stool. Happily, there are very effective measures you can take on your own.

  • Over-the-counter ointments to reduce itching and swelling
  • Nonprescription pain relievers (Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve or others)
  • Eat more fiber in your diet by including whole-grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, raw and dried fruits, and beans.
  • Minimize foods which contain little or no fiber such as soft drinks, ice cream, cheese, white bread, and red meat.
  • Avoid foods that can be irritating to your bowel. These may include nuts, spices, caffeine
  • Keep a food diary to determine which foods bother you. You are the world's expert on what your system tolerates and and rejects
  • Avoid prolonged sitting on the toilet or elsewhere
  • Try to avoid lifting heavy objects which may cause a hemorrhoid to “pop out” or rupture. If you must lift, do not hold your breath.
  • Blot the tender hemorrhoids with non-perfumed wipes after passing stool. Do not rub!
  • Use non-perfumed soap for cleansing. Do not rub!
  • Soak the anal area in warm water in the bathtub for 15-20 minutes several times per day (this is called a Sitz bath)
  • Alternate ice packs with warm compresses to the area for 15 minutes 2 or 3 times per day
  • Apply a moist, warm towel to the area to ease burning and itching
  • Wear cotton underwear so as to soak up moisture in the anal region
  • Wear loose fitting clothing so avoid irritation to the hemorrhoid area
  • Change positions frequently.
  • Do not use a donut ring to sit on because this causes pressure in the area surrounding the hemorrhoids and may worsen them
  • Lie on your stomach when you can to relieve the pressure and allow the inflammation to subside.

These measures should get you through the crisis. If you do not experience any relief and the symptoms persist, check with your doctor. Next time we'll talk about serious complications of untreated hemorrhoids.