Ancient scriptures actually speak of entire armies being afflicted with "emerods," a painful inflammation we now know as hemorrhoids. While the topic may be more than a little embarrassing to discuss, an estimated three out of four adults will experience hemorrhoids at least once in their lifetime, and many will seek over-the-counter relief.
An OTC hemorrhoid cream typically addresses the immediate issues caused by inflamed tissue and swollen blood vessels around the anus. A topical anesthetic numbs the pain, while an ointment or cream formula soothes the skin. Other ingredients help shrink swelling or reduce the chance of infection.
Hemorrhoid creams are often used in conjunction with medicated wipes to keep the area clean and moisturized. Some severe cases of hemorrhoids, however, can require professional medical attention or even a surgical procedure.
We have taken a renewed look at our short list of the best hemorrhoid creams on the market and have made a few tweaks based on new developments in the industry. Our top pick still retains its spot, but a familiar brand is now our best value pick and an all-natural formula makes its debut.
Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams and ointments are primarily designed to treat symptoms, not necessarily the underlying cause of the inflammation. Most cases of hemorrhoids do resolve on their own after a few days, but there are some situations that may call for professional medical evaluation and treatment.
Hemorrhoid creams contain a variety of active and inactive ingredients, each with a specific role to play. Hydrocortisone is commonly used to alleviate itching, at least in the short term. For general pain relief and skin protection, many manufacturers include witch hazel in their formulas. Natural analgesics can help to reduce the inflammation, while a numbing agent such as lidocaine blocks pain receptors.
There are a number of common causes for hemorrhoids, from bowel strain to constipation to a low-fiber diet. Some sufferers can also develop painful fissures as a result of swollen tissue. Some hemorrhoid creams and ointments also address fissures and post-natal irritations of the pelvic area. These inflamed tissues and blood vessels can either form inside the anal canal or around the external region.
Because of the inflammation and swelling, many sufferers also find relief through special air pillows or ice packs. The pressure of sitting in a normal position can also be extremely painful, as well as the use of certain fabrics. Some dietary adjustments, such as additional fiber or blander foods, can also help during the healing process.
Most over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams contain the same active and inactive ingredients, so the difference in price is negligible. A less-expensive store brand can be just as effective as a national brand, but consumers should expect to pay $2 an ounce for products on store shelves. Higher-end all-natural products, such as the Dr. Butler's brand on our short list, can cost as much as $30 a tube.
Q. Why do I seem to get hemorrhoids more often than anyone else in my family?
A. There are a number of root causes for hemorrhoids, but you may have a specific issue that triggers inflammation. Your diet may not contain enough fiber, or you may suffer from more frequent bouts of constipation or diarrhea than others.
Q. My doctor recommended something he called a "donut" for my hemorrhoids. How will this "donut" help me?
A. Many hemorrhoid sufferers experience significant pain while sitting in a chair. A hemorrhoid donut is an inflatable pillow that provides relief from the pressure caused by a normal sitting position.
What we like: Formulated with essential oils and organic ingredients. Recommended for postpartum pain relief. Created by a proctologist. Addresses other medical issues.
What we dislike: On the expensive side. Application can be painful at first.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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