Haemorrhoids are a common issue for many people, especially as they get older. They occur when blood vessels in the anus and rectum are put under pressure because of too much straining during a bowel movement, causing painful lumps to appear. These haemorrhoid lumps can be very uncomfortable and itchy for those suffering from the condition. They can also bleed, which can be upsetting. Haemorrhoids are, however, not life-threatening.
Why do haemorrhoids itch?
Haemorrhoids can occur both inside and outside the body. Those that appear internally reside inside the rectum, while external haemorrhoids appear under the skin around the anus. Both are painful for those who find themselves suffering from them.
Internal haemorrhoids can become prolapsed internal haemorrhoids when too much strain during a bowel movement forces them to project themselves through the anus. When this happens, the haemorrhoid brings with it a lot of mucus, which irritates the area around it and causes annoying itching for the sufferer. As long as the haemorrhoid is prolapsed, it continues to draw mucus out onto the sensitive skin around it and cause uncomfortable itching.
To make matters worse, stool mixed in with the mucus produced by the haemorrhoid only adds to the irritation and causes more itching. Other causes of anal itching include yeast infections, anal fissures, build-up of sweat, proctitis, stool leaking throughout the day or night, worm infection (pin, ring or hook), lice, psoriasis, scabies, herpes and, in the worst cases, cancer.
Anal itching can be caused or aggravated further by poor (or excessive) hygiene – an unclean anal region can lead to infection, while an area that is cleaned too vigorously can become dry and cracked. Itching can be reduced by using unscented toilet paper or other products, gentler wiping, looser clothing, and by keeping the region dry at all times.
How to reduce haemorrhoid itching
1. Stay clean and dry
Keeping the rectal and anal regions clean and dry at all times is the best way to reduce itchiness caused by haemorrhoids. Too much moisture in that sensitive area can lead to further irritation around external or prolapsed haemorrhoids, increasing itchiness and the likelihood of developing more significant issues, such as bleeding. If the area is kept clean and dry using unscented products, itchiness will be decreased noticeably.
2. Don’t scratch
Of course, the most difficult aspect of itchiness to overcome is the desire to scratch the area producing the sensation. This is easier said than done, as anyone who’s had chicken pox can attest to. But it’s imperative that haemorrhoids are not scratched, no matter how itchy, or they will simply continue to aggravate the patient further.
3. Try a warm compress
Itchiness can be relieved using a warm compress. This is achieved by soaking a soft clean towel in warm water and holding it against the anus in the exact spot the haemorrhoid is in, for up to 15 minutes. You can do this several times each day to reduce itchiness. Always dry yourself completely afterwards by patting the area down (don’t rub it).
4. Numb the area
Alternatively, you can use a cold compress. This is basically the same as the warm compress method, except you use an ice pack instead of a hot towel. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid it sticking to your skin during treatment. This can be tried several times each day, as with the warm compress, to reduce haemorrhoid swelling. Try using a warm compress immediately afterwards to further reduce itchiness and haemorrhoid pain.
5. Essential oils
Another popular approach to treating haemorrhoid itching is it use essential oils. Oil treatments are straightforward to make – just add two to four drops of essential oil to two fluid ounces of base oil (almond, castor, etc) and apply the mixed product directly to the haemorrhoid. You can use tea tree oil (antiseptic and anti-inflammatory), lavender oil, cypress oil or avocado oil to reduce itchiness and help the irritated skin area heal.
6. Soak the area
Soaking your rectal region in a tub is another effective method to reduce haemorrhoid itchiness. You can do this using a full-size bathtub or a sitz bath, a basin that can be purchased at the local pharmacy. Just fill it with warm water and soak your anus in it a couple of times each day to ease the discomfort associated with haemorrhoid itchiness. Much like a warm compress, the heat and moisture help soothe the affected region. You can also add some baking soda or Epsom salts to the water to aid in the healing process. Always pat yourself dry afterwards – excessive moisture can only aggravate the issue further.
7. Protect the area
If home remedies fail to stop your haemorrhoids itching, your doctor may suggest using a protectant to keep the irritated area separated from stool during bowel movements. Products such as Desitin, Sensi Care, A & D Ointment, Hydraguard and Calmoseptine are useful, creating barriers between the sensitive haemorrhoid-affected region and stool passing it during bowel movements.
8. Try a medicated pad
Similarly, your doctor may advise you to try a medicated pad, which can be bought at the local pharmacy. These are straightforward to use – simply clean the anal region and then use the pad to gently wipe it down. As in every instance concerning haemorrhoids, avoid rubbing the area. These can be used up to six times a day, and should always be used after a bowel movement (once the area has been totally cleaned first).
9. Itch-relieving lotion
Finally, a number of medicated lotions and gels that combat itchiness are on the market. For instance, Aloe Vera or Preparation H gel can greatly reduce the pain or itchiness associated with haemorrhoids, and can be used multiple times every day. You should avoid the use of any gel or lotion containing steroids as these will only aggravate the issue further over time.
If you’re experiencing painful haemorrhoid itching that the methods above can’t ease, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.