A wide variety of haemorrhoids treatments exist (many of which we’ve already discussed in detail), but what exactly do we mean when we use the phrase ‘topical anaesthetics’, for instance? Let’s break down what each form of haemorrhoid treatment actually is.
Fibre supplements, first of all, are a subgroup of dietary fibre that helps increase the amount of fibre in the body’s digestive system, making bowel movements easier and reducing the likelihood of constipation. Numerous forms of fibre supplement are available, and can be consumed in the form of powders, tablets, or capsules. They can variously help improve dietary intake, lower blood cholesterol, assuage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lower the risk of colon cancer, and improve feelings of satiety.
Excessive fibre intake, however, can result in dehydration, fluid imbalance, mineral deficiencies, and other medical problems. Mayo Clinic explains in more detail:
“Fibre has a number of health benefits, including normalizing bowel function and preventing constipation. It’s best to get fibre from food, because supplements don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that fibre-rich foods do. But fibre supplements can contribute to the recommended daily intake.
“Fibre supplements can cause abdominal bloating and gas, at least initially. If you have intestinal problems, such as a history of a bowel blockage or Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor before adding a fibre supplement to your diet. It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether fibre supplements interact with any medications you take.
“Fibre supplements can decrease the absorption of certain medications, such as aspirin, carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol, others) and others. Fibre supplements can also reduce blood sugar levels, which may require an adjustment in your medications or insulin if you have diabetes.” Click here for more
Topical anaesthetics are local anaesthetics used to numb the surface of a particular body part. Any area of the skin can be numbed with topical anaesthetics, as well as the front of the eyeball, inside of the nose, the ear or throat, the anus, and the genital area. They can help relieve haemorrhoid discomfort and discourage sufferers from scratching the affected area. Topical anaesthetics come in the form of creams, ointments, sprays, aerosols, lotions, and jellies; you can purchase them under the names benzocaine, butamben, dibucaine, lidocaine, oxybuprocaine, pramoxine, proparacaine, proxymetacaine, and tetracaine.
Topical anaesthetics can relieve a variety of pain types and discomforts around the body, including itching caused by sunburn or minor burns, insect bites or stings, poison ivy/oak, poison sumac, and minor cuts and scratches. They are effective at providing relief from haemorrhoid itchiness, though they do not act as a cure for the condition itself.
Laxatives and stool softeners
One of the root causes of haemorrhoids is constipation. When too much strain is placed on the blood vessels in the rectum and anus during bowel movements, the vessels can become inflamed and swell, creating haemorrhoids in the region. It’s important to ensure that your bowel movements are easy and devoid of excessive strain, and the best way to do this is to keep your stool soft.
Laxatives, purgatives, and aperients can be used to loosen stools and improve bowel movements. They are commonly used to help individuals both avoid and treat constipation and, in turn, prevent haemorrhoids from occurring.
Laxatives can produce a variety of side effects in the body. Specific brands of stimulant, lubricant and saline laxatives help evacuate the colon ahead of rectal and bowel examinations – these can also be supplemented with enemas, if required. Too many laxatives can, of course, cause diarrhoea. They can be administered orally or rectally, and some often have multiple ingredients.
Stool softeners, which are also known as emollient laxatives, are anionic surfactants that encourage water and fat to absorb into stool, making it more straightforward to pass. Stool softeners typically take 12–72 hours to take effect. They are more often used to prevent constipation than treat chronic constipation.
Anti-inflammatories are substances that help reduce uncomfortable inflammation and swelling, and are particularly useful for those suffering from haemorrhoids. Anti-inflammatories tackle pain by reducing inflammation rather than block pain signals in the central nervous system, as in the case of opioids. According to the NHS:
“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medicines that are widely used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and bring down a high temperature. They’re often used to relieve symptoms of headaches, painful periods, sprains and strains, colds and flu, arthritis, and other causes of long-term pain. Although NSAIDs are commonly used, they’re not suitable for everyone and can sometimes cause troublesome side effects.”
NSAIDs help ease pain by offsetting the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme, which synthesizes prostaglandins, generating inflammation in the body. NSAIDs stand in the way of this synthetisation process, effectively reducing or eliminating the pain. Some NSAIDs used every day by the general public are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
There are, however, some significant side-effects to anti-inflammatories. According to Versus Arthritis
“Standard NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen work by blocking enzymes called COX 1 and COX 2, which are important in causing inflammation but can also affect the stomach. Newer NSAIDs (often referred to as coxibs) only block COX 2 enzymes and were designed to reduce side-effects, particularly on the digestive system.”
Studies have suggested that all NSAIDs are linked in some way with increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so avoid them if you’re a heavy smoker or if you’ve ever had “heart disease, a heart attack or stroke, peripheral vascular disease (circulation problems in the limbs, usually the legs), high blood pressure or cholesterol levels or diabetes.” (Versus Arthritis)
Anti-inflammatories are effective at reducing haemorrhoid pain and discomfort, but be careful to use them as directed.
So, while a wide variety of treatments are available for haemorrhoids, not all of them will suit every sufferer. Always consult your doctor before trying any over-the-counter medication, and make sure to keep within the prescribed dosage as you combat that painful anal condition.