Ask a Doctor

Q: Are over the counter creams the best treatment to try first?
A: Yes, but only if you start treatment at the earliest sign of symptoms. Creams and ointments can bring immediate relief to the burning and itching and may be all you need if the case is minor. But, these creams just relieve symptoms — they don’t cure the actual hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids may be prevented or alleviated with a high-fiber diet, regular exercise and proper hygiene. People with more serious cases of hemorrhoids may need to consider outpatient procedures or surgery.
Q: I know that fiber-rich foods can help with my hemorrhoids, but I can’t seem to always hit my daily goal. What are some easy ways to boost fiber in my diet?
A: Most people don’t get the recommended dose of 25-30 grams of fiber a day, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. You can take fiber supplements, but getting your daily dose of fiber from your diet is still the healthiest way. Snack on unpeeled fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day, and switch from white bread to whole grain. Toss some beans into a salad at lunch, trade white rice for brown and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Q: I’m pregnant. What’s the best way to treat my hemorrhoids?
A: Pregnant women are especially susceptible to hemorrhoids, and should try to treat hemorrhoids with increased fiber. Natural supplements may also help, but consult with your gynecologist first. Women should also avoid foods that may worsen hemorrhoids, like coffee, red meat and high-fat foods. Instead of turning to creams for relief, try soaking in a warm sitz bath, (sitting in three to four inches of warm water a few times a day) and applying ice packs as needed to alleviate pain and swelling.
Q: No matter what I do, my hemorrhoids keep coming back. Should I be worried about something more serious, like cancer?
A: Hemorrhoids are very common in both men and women, and about half of all people have experienced hemorrhoids by age 50. While it is common for hemorrhoids to recur, any rectal bleeding should prompt you to your doctor for a proper diagnosis. It is possible that bleeding can be caused by a more serious condition like colorectal or anal cancer, so it’s always best to get a check-up.
Q: It seems that a lot of people in my family have hemorrhoids. Are they genetic?
A: While there is very little research available that definitively links hemorrhoids to genetics, it is thought that the lifestyle behaviors that may lead to hemorrhoids, like a low fiber diet and sedentary lifestyle, are passed down in the family.