Over-the-Counter Hemorrhoid Treatments
Hemorrhoids occur when the blood vessels surrounding the rectum become inflamed and swollen. Most cases of hemorrhoids will resolve without medical intervention, but the symptoms can be very uncomfortable. Over-the-counter- hemorrhoid treatments can alleviate the burning, itching, pain and discomfort caused by hemorrhoids.
There are many types of over-the-counter hemorrhoid medications available, each addressing different symptoms and causes. Most treatments include multiple ingredients. Understanding the effect of each ingredient will also make it easier for you to choose among the many options.
A protectant is applied on the delicate tissues around the anus, forming a protective barrier. This helps prevent drying and irritation. Examples of protectants include:
- Zinc oxide
- Mineral oil
These medications are designed to shrink blood vessels and tissues. Because hemorrhoids are inflamed blood vessels, vasoconstrictors can actually reduce the size of hemorrhoids. Examples of ingredients found in over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments that are vasoconstrictors include:
- Ephedrine sulfate
Local anesthetics do not cure hemorrhoids, but they can alleviate the burning, itching, and pain associated with the condition. These medications can be applied to the perianal area and lower anal canal and will numb the tissue. Common types of local anesthetics include:
- Benzyl alcohol
Astringents are chemicals that cause the proteins in skin cells to clump together and dry out the skin. Drying out the perianal skin can relieve burning, itching, and pain. Common astringents used to treat hemorrhoids include:
- Zinc oxide
- Witch hazel
Another common ingredient in over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments is 1% hydrocortisone. This is a steroid which, when applied topically, reduces itching and inflammation.
Your doctor or pharmacist can offer guidance on which classification of medicine might be most effective for you.