The bright red blood sprayed in the toilet after having a bowel movement looks straight out of a horror movie, but we know it is a sign of hemorrhoids. Fortunately, there are a lot of prescription and over-the-counter medicines available for treating or reducing the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Unfortunately, they come with their own sets of side effects.
What exactly are side effects, one may ask. They are all unwanted or adverse reactions caused after using a medicine. Hemorrhoid medicines are generally categorized as safe drugs. However, as with all medications, there is the potential for a few side effects. Not all of them are serious, though. Most are mild, although some medicines do cause serious side effects. It is important to know these side effects in advance, so you have a plan of action in place if you experience them.
Please note that even though all medicines can cause side effects, not everyone experiences them. The intensity of the symptoms varies from patient to patient as well.
Medicines for Treating Hemorrhoids
The first option for quick symptomatic relief is the usual list of home remedies: taking sitz baths, applying witch hazel, treating constipation by increasing fiber and fluid intake, and icing the rectal area. But what happens when the go-to treatments stop working? That’s when people opt for actual medication. They either choose over-the-counter drugs or prescription-based drugs.
The majority of medicines available to treat hemorrhoids are in the form of creams, ointments, or suppositories. These medicines aim to reduce the resultant itch that comes with hemorrhoids and shrink the swollen tissue.
1. Over-the-Counter Medicines
OTC medicines include topical creams, ointments, pads, and suppositories and are used for treating mild cases. They help in temporarily relieving the pain and itching. Witch hazel, phenylephrine, lidocaine, or hydrocortisone are some of the primary ingredients present in them. Commonly available brand names include RectiCare, AneCream, Xylocaine Jelly, and Preparation H.
Over-the-counter creams and gels may cause a slight increase in burning when you first apply them, but it gets better within a few minutes.
More serious issues to look out for when using OTC medications are:
- Increased blood pressure
- Rectal irritation or bleeding
- Skin irritation, redness, or itching
- Headache, dizziness, and nausea
- Fever or other signs of infection
2. Prescription Medications
Higher doses and stronger medicines are required when the hemorrhoids are particularly painful or larger than usual. Your doctor may treat you with prescription-strength steroids and numbing agents such as hydrocortisone and pramoxine topical preparations. Commonly marketed drug names include Mezparox, Lidocaine, Analpram-HC, and Proctocort.
If your medicine contains steroids such as hydrocortisone, you should only use it for a week. Using it longer than a week may result in thinning the skin around your anus, causing skin damage on the site of application.
High doses or long-term use of steroid-based medicines can lead to:
- Easy bruising
- Changes in body fat (especially in your face, neck, back, and waist)
- Increased acne or facial hair
- Reddish purple lines on the arms, face, legs, trunk, or groin
- Burning, itching, and pain in hairy areas, or pus at the root of the hair
- Menstrual problems
- Impotence, or loss of interest in sex.
More serious side effects may include:
- Severe headaches, ringing in your ears, pain behind your eyes
- Allergic reaction, resulting in rash, hives, itching; swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever
- Redness and scaling around the mouth
- Tightness in the chest or throat
- Trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking
- Unusual hoarseness
- Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Rectal bleeding or pain
- Dryness or skin changes around the rectum
What to Do When Side Effects Occur or Get Worse?
Please note that if your symptoms worsen or you start facing any serious health issues, you should immediately seek medical advice and treatment from your doctor or healthcare specialist.
Your doctor can tell you about some ways to prevent or reduce these side effects. You may require modification in the dosage, or you may be allergic to some ingredients in the medicine, so your doctor will likely replace it with another one.
When Medicine No Longer Helps
When all else fails, the last resort is a surgical procedure to remove the pain-causing hemorrhoids. But it, of course, comes with its own sets of challenges. “The surgery is simple, but the recovery is miserable,” Dr. Alexis Grucela, M.D., the chief of colorectal surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York, says. “Before we go down that road, we make sure we’ve maximized every other option.”
Foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes ensure high fiber intake and keep everything moving smoothly. Adequate fluid intake is also equally important for keeping the bowels soft. It is therefore essential to adopt a healthy lifestyle to prevent painful hemorrhoids from occurring in the first place.
According to Dr. Grucela, a good bowel routine is also equally important for the treatment of hemorrhoids. Limiting time spent on the toilet, not bringing reading materials, and leaving the phone at the door are the ways you can prevent hemorrhoids.
This was a list of the most usual and unusually occurring side effects after using hemorrhoid medicines. If the home remedies have stopped working, do not hesitate to get a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible because chances of recovery are stronger than the chances of experiencing these side effects!
Have you ever suffered from a side effect that was not mentioned in this article? Let us know by mentioning the name of the medicine and the resultant side effect in the comments below!