Haemorrhoids are a very common problem for many around the world. They occur when veins in the rectum and anus swell, creating itchy, painful lumps which can go on to bleed if left unchecked. They can appear internally (rectum) or externally (anus).
Those who are obese, pregnant, lead a sedentary lifestyle or already suffer from other digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are more at risk from getting haemorrhoids, as are those who are older. Haemorrhoids are bothersome and can seem to last forever for those suffering from them. However, there are a number of approaches which can help those with haemorrhoids cope until the condition has cleared up.
- Try a different position on the toilet
The way in which you sit on the toilet is rarely something you’ll spend much time thinking about… until you have haemorrhoids, or another condition affecting the anus. Try raising your feet up when seated on the toilet – you can use a small stool or pile of thick books to do this. When your knees are raised higher than your hips, your stool has an easier passage out of your body as your rectum is at a different angle. It’s also a good idea to avoid staying seated on the toilet for long periods of time, especially if you’re constipated. Leave your smartphone or magazine behind when you use the loo, and if nothing’s happening after a few minutes, don’t stick around. Trying to force a bowel movement when you’re constipated is one of the best ways to make your haemorrhoids worse.
- Make bowel movements easier on yourself
The easier it is to pass a bowel movement, the less strain your rectal and anal veins will be under, giving your body a chance to heal. Consume plenty of high-fibre foods and drink as much water as you can to soften your stool. You should aim to drink around eight large glasses of water every day to stay hydrated, and it’s a good idea to avoid coffee and alcohol when you have haemorrhoids as these can dehydrate you and make your stool harder. To lubricate your stool, try mixing some mineral oil (about a tablespoon-full) with a glass of prune juice, but don’t overdo it.
- Keep your anal region clean and dry
Keeping your anus clean and dry is vital, especially when you have haemorrhoids. Any excess moisture or dirt can cause increased irritation or even infection, so take the time to clean thoroughly after every bowel movement and pat yourself completely dry afterwards. You can also purchase an irrigation bottle from the local pharmacy (or simply use a squeezable bottle) to help wash down your anus after you use the toilet. Always use a moist toilette or an unscented wipe to clean and dry your anus, and never rub the area as this will only cause yet more irritation – abrasion should be avoided at all costs.
You can also try dabbing certain gels or ointments onto the haemorrhoid to help soothe any itchiness or pain when you’re cleaning your anal region. Aloe vera, coconut oil and vitamin E are all excellent moisturisers and can help reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Loosen things up inside
If your stool remains hard and uncomfortable, you can try cleaning out your rectum using a douche ball or enema bag, which can be bought from the local pharmacy. A douche introduces a stream of warm water into certain cavities in the body for hygienic or medical reasons. They’re usually used to flush out the vagina, but are also effective at clearing the rectum. A douche bag is simply the piece of equipment that holds the fluid used in douching.
An enema, similarly, “is the introduction of liquid, most often mineral oil, through the anus and into the large intestine. An enema may be given to treat constipation, to administer medication or barium, or as part of the procedure to empty the contents of the bowel before a test (such as a colonoscopy). Enemas may also sometimes be given before surgery on the abdomen or during a pregnant woman’s labour, but this is no longer common.” [link: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-an-enema-1942425].
Douches and enemas should be administered with great care, and only water-based lubricants should be used as other lotions or creams can cause further irritation. Give any enemas or douche bags or balls a thorough clean afterwards to avoid infection, or simply throw them out.
- Take steps to reduce swelling and inflammation
Try using a cold or warm compress to bring down swelling around the anal region – this can give you some relief from haemorrhoid discomfort and itchiness. Always ensure that cold compresses (usually made with an ice pack or frozen bag of peas) is covered completely with a towel, as placing them directly onto your skin can cause significant injury.
You can also try using a Sitz bath, which “normally comes as a plastic kit that can be fitted to a standard toilet. It normally consists of a plastic bag, attached to a long tube, leading to a shallow plastic basin. The bag is filled with warm water, and this used to fill the plastic basin. The basin is larger than the toilet seat. It is placed underneath and is securely attached.” [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/312033.php].
A Sitz bath can help reduce swelling and pain in the region where haemorrhoids have appeared. As with a douche, take care to clean a Sitz bath thoroughly after usage to avoid passing on any infection.
- Adjust your sitting style
Finally, if you often sit on a hard or rough surface, try using a cushion or pillow to make yourself more comfortable. The harder the surface, the more pressure that will be exerted on your anus and rectum, making haemorrhoids more difficult to cope with. As with toilet usage, try to avoid sitting for long periods of time – get up and take a quick walk at work, and don’t be embarrassed to bring your cushion to the office with you.
Haemorrhoids can be hard to cope with, so do all you can to make things easier for yourself while you have them.