Over-the-Counter Medications for External Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen blood vessels in the rectum and anus. This painful condition can occur inside and outside of the body. Symptoms of external hemorrhoids include pain, itching and rectal bleeding. Risk factors for developing this condition include anything that places extra pressure on the area, such as straining during a bowel movement, pregnancy and obesity. Treatment for external hemorrhoids include over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain and swelling associated with the condition.

Tube with ointment. (Image: simarik/iStock/Getty Images)

Topical Steroids

Hemorrhoids cause swelling and inflammation to the anus. Applying topical steroidal medication directly to the skin helps shrink the tissue and provide relief from itching. Several different over-the-counter medications containing the steroid hydrocortisone are available for hemorrhoid therapy. These preparations come as a rectal cream, ointment, pad or suppository. Avoiding urinating and having a bowel movement for at least three hours after applying the hydrocortisone rectal cream is important to allow the medication to have time to work. Consult a physician before using the medication for longer than a week because of possible side effects such as thinning skin and skin irritation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Serious side effects from using hydrocortisone rectally include swelling of the feet and ankles, rapid weight gain, stomach pain and seizures. All adverse reaction require medical attention.

Oral Pain Relievers

Hemorrhoids cause pain during conditions such as periods of prolonged standing or straining during a bowel movement. Taking over-the-counter pain medications containing acetaminophen helps relieve the discomfort associated with external hemorrhoids. This medication, available as an oral tablet, helps decrease pain, but does not help decrease symptoms such as itching. Following the package instructions is important to avoid possible complications, such as liver damage, from taking too much acetaminophen.

Topical Anesthetics

Relieving the pain at the site of the external hemorrhoids is possible by using medications containing skin-numbing ingredients. Pramoxine and lidocaine are common ingredients found in products specifically for anal pain. These medications help block pain signals from the hemorrhoids and numb the affected area. These anesthetic medications are available over-the-counter as ointments and creams to soothe hemorrhoids. Following the package directions for instructions and dosage amounts is important for avoiding possible adverse reactions. Serious reactions may occur from overdose, especially from using products containing lidocaine, including seizures, respiratory failure and coma, according to Drugs.com.

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