Hemorrhoids are one of those ailments where patients often avoid seeking medical help due to embarrassment. And yet, they are one of the most common digestive disorders today.
Around 4 million visits to ERs and doctor’s offices each year are due to hemorrhoids. In the states, about 5% of the population currently has hemorrhoids, and they can affect men and women equally.
Normally, the condition is rare in anyone under the age of 20 and will affect people over the age of 45 more frequently. There is surprisingly little research into the causes of hemorrhoids, and very often lifestyle and diet are held responsible.
Treatments vary, and many can be carried out by the patient themselves. But, are they effective, and is a cream or ointment really enough to cure hemorrhoids?
Can an ointment make hemorrhoids disappear?
For most people, a magic cream to make an ailment and its symptoms disappear is extremely desirable. Unfortunately, many conditions require longer recovery times, medication, and in some cases, surgery.
Hemorrhoids though can often disappear without any treatment at all. In some people, they appear for a matter of days, cause some discomfort, and then vanish. In others, they last for considerably longer and affect day-to-day life much more.
It is very common to use creams for the treatment of hemorrhoids and these are often effective. A natural ointment for hemorrhoids may contain a number of properties that aid in pain relief and reducing swelling.
Gels, balms, suppositories, and creams, are all available over the counter or through a doctor’s prescription. The effectiveness of these creams will depend on their ingredients.
What do hemorrhoid ointments typically contain?
One of the most commonly used rectal ointments for hemorrhoids contains hydrocortisone. This corticosteroid helps to remove some of the discomfort associated with hemorrhoids by reducing itchiness, and swelling, and relieving pain to a degree.
It isn’t unusual to see ingredients such as hydrocortisone plus the following in these ointments:
- Benzoic acid
- Mineral oil
The last two ingredients, petrolatum, and mineral oil are protectants. They help to provide comfort to the patient during bowel movements and can relieve some of the symptoms such as itching.
There are concerns in some areas that petrolatum and mineral oil could cause cancer if used over a long period. Petrolatum is classified as carcinogenic in the European Union, although when properly refined should pose no risk. However, there is some belief that in the states, the refining process is not as stringent as in Europe.
It is these concerns that have seen many patients switch to more natural products.
Are natural ointments effective for hemorrhoid treatment?
There has been a big switch in recent decades towards healthier lifestyles as understanding has grown around the importance of diet and exercise. Vegetarianism and veganism are growing in popularity, and whole food diets are being adopted more.
The health and beauty industry has also embraced this, and many products today use essential oils and extol the virtues of avoiding chemicals. The question though is, are natural hemorrhoid creams as effective as traditional ones?
Typical ingredients in natural hemorrhoid cream may include:
- Jojoba oil
- Dill oil
- Patchouli oil
- Cypress oil
- Lavender oil
- Tea tree oil
- Primrose oil
- Juniper oil
Jojoba in particular is partly popular due to its high wax content which contains very few alcohols or hydrocarbons. Jojoba also contains many properties that are important in the treatment of hemorrhoids including being antifungal, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.
Despite the popularity of jojoba being used for skin conditions and other ailments, there is little scientific evidence available as yet, and the FDA has not approved the oil for medical use.
Studies into essential oils and natural ingredients for hemorrhoids
While the FDA has yet to approve the medical use of jojoba oil, there are plenty of medical professionals and patients who have found it to be very effective in a range of areas, including the treatment of anal disorders.
Jojoba is not the only natural ingredient being used to treat hemorrhoids though, and one small study conducted by Hindawi looked into some others. 15 people were treated once a week for 4 weeks with a mixture of beeswax, honey, and olive oil.
The study concluded that the application of these three ingredients was not only safe but clinically effective in the treatment of hemorrhoids. No side effects were reported by the group.
Are other treatments necessary for hemorrhoids?
While ointments and creams can be effective at treating hemorrhoids, a combination approach may prove beneficial to many.
Addressing possible causes for hemorrhoids could help to reduce the likelihood of recurring attacks. Simply drinking more water, and reducing alcohol can help. Consumption of more fiber and less dairy is also recommended.
For managing the discomfort of hemorrhoids, aspirin and ibuprofen can be recommended. However, many people are interested in pain relief without pharmaceuticals. In this instance, sitz baths, aloe vera, and cold compresses can help.
Creams have been used for treating hemorrhoids for decades. Probably the most famous is Preparation H, and it has been available since 1935. Now with the advent of natural hemorrhoid ointments, patients have more options than ever.
Ointments are no doubt effective in treating the symptoms of hemorrhoids, but different patients may require different approaches and treatments. One ointment may work well on one individual, but may not be as effective on another, and others may need additional medication.
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