Hemorrhoids are an incredibly common condition—about half of people experience hemorrhoids at least once by the time they reach the age of 50. They can occur in anyone of any gender or age, but they do tend to be more common in older people, pregnant women, people with GI conditions, and those with a family history of recurrent hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in your anus and rectum become swollen. They can happen internally (inside the rectum) or externally (around the anus).
If you have hemorrhoids, you may find yourself asking a lot of questions. How long do hemorrhoids last? What’s the fastest way to get relief? Florida Medical Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. David R. Heiman is here to answer these questions and more.
How do you know if you have hemorrhoids?
The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids are:
- Anal pain/painful bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding (seeing blood after you wipe or in the toilet)
- Swelling around the anus
However, these symptoms could also be a sign of something more serious, like anal cancer or polyps. Hemorrhoids also have many symptoms in common with anal fissures, which occur when the skin around the anus is torn. Anal fissures tend to be much more painful than hemorrhoids, however.
Even if you’re fairly certain you’re dealing with hemorrhoids, it’s still a good idea to go see a doctor to rule out any serious conditions, especially if you’re over the age of 50.
How long do hemorrhoids last?
How long hemorrhoids last will vary from person to person.
In general, small hemorrhoids can go away on their own in a few days. Larger hemorrhoids, particularly ones that cause a lot of pain, swelling, and itchiness, can’t go away on their own and may require treatment from a doctor to heal. Pregnant patients may find that hemorrhoids only go away after they give birth.
It’s possible for hemorrhoids to return after they’ve been treated. A gastroenterologist can help recommend solutions if you find you’re struggling with hemorrhoids that don’t go away or keep coming back.
Prevention Tips & How to Find Relief
There are many different treatment options for patients looking for at-home solutions. Smaller hemorrhoids can be successfully treated at home through a combination of dietary changes and OTC medicines.
- Get more fiber in your diet. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (commonly called ‘roughage’) can help ease digestion. If you have trouble changing your diet, talk to your doctor and ask if a fiber supplement may work for you. Drinking more water can also help.
- Use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and hemorrhoid creams. Oral pain relievers containing acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen can help reduce discomfort. Topical creams (like Preparation H) can also relieve pain and itching.
- Soak in a sitz bath. A sitz bath involves sitting in a warm, shallow bath for 10 to 15 minutes to promote blood flow and keep the perianal area clean. Some manufacturers make sitz bath apparatuses that can be attached directly to a toilet seat, but you can also use a regular bathtub.
- Sit on a donut cushion. Donut-shaped cushions (also known as tailbone cushions) can help reduce the pressure on your tailbone when sitting. Cushions like these can help alleviate anal pain and discomfort, especially for patients who spend most of their day sitting at work.
- Limit your time on the toilet. Sitting on the toilet for too long can increase pressure in the veins in your anus and rectum, which can lead to hemorrhoids. Don’t stay on the toilet for longer than you need to—it may help to keep your phone out of the bathroom and remove any magazines or books that you keep nearby.
When to See a Doctor About Hemorrhoids
You should see a doctor if you notice bleeding during a bowel movement, or if you produce stool that’s red or black. If you know you have a hemorrhoid, you should also see a doctor if the discomfort doesn’t go away after a week with the help of at-home remedies.
Many patients find it to be difficult or embarrassing to talk to their doctor about gastrointestinal issues—but you should know that your doctor is there to help you find solutions to your medical concerns, and you are certainly not the first patient they’ve seen with this problem! Talking openly with your doctor is the best way for you to find long-lasting relief.
How a Doctor Can Help
Doctors can recommend medical treatments and procedures that can reduce or get rid of hemorrhoids. Some of these procedures can be done right in a doctor’s office and involve very little discomfort.
- Medicated creams/ointments. If an OTC hemorrhoid cream isn’t enough, doctors can prescribe stronger creams and ointments.
- Minimally-invasive procedures. There are some minimally-invasive procedures that a doctor can do in their office or in an ambulatory surgery center that typically doesn’t require anesthesia or long recovery times. Some of these procedures include rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy injections, and laser/infrared coagulation treatments.
- Thrombectomy. For severe cases that develop blood clots and cause a lot of pain, your doctor can perform an external hemorrhoid thrombectomy to remove the hemorrhoid. Thrombectomies are most effective when performed no more than 72 hours after severe symptoms emerge.
- Surgery. There are several surgical options available when other treatments and procedures haven’t worked or if you have very large hemorrhoids. If you’ve struggled to find relief, talk to your doctor to learn if surgery is right for you.
Schedule an Appointment Today
Hemorrhoids are incredibly common and can be successfully managed with the right treatments. If you’re concerned you have hemorrhoids or if they’re not improving, schedule an appointment with Dr. Heiman in Tampa, FL, today.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.
About Dr. David Heiman
Dr. David R. Heiman is Endoscopy Medical Director and a gastroenterologist at Florida Medical Clinic’s North Tampa location. He specializes in treating patients with conditions like hemorrhoids, IBS, GERD, and hepatitis, as well as performing endoscopies and colon cancer screenings. Dr. Heiman is dedicated to helping patients find treatment plans that work best for them and that address all of their medical concerns.