Antihemorrhoid drugs are medicines that reduce the swelling and relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids (swellings in the area around the anus).
Hemorrhoids are bulges in the veins that supply blood to the skin and membranes of the area around the anus. They may form for various reasons. Frequent heavy lifting, sitting for long periods, or straining to have bowel movements may put stress on anal tissues, which can lead to hemorrhoids. Some women develop hemorrhoids during pregnancy as the expanding uterus puts pressure on the anal tissues. The strain of labor and delivery can also cause hemorrhoids or make existing hemorrhoids worse. Hemorrhoids sometimes result from certain medical problems, such as tumors pressing on the lower bowel.
The main symptoms of hemorrhoids are bleeding from the rectum, especially after a bowel movement, and itching, burning, pain, and general discomfort in the anal area. Over-the-counter antihemorrhoid products can relieve many of these symptoms. The products contain combinations of four main types of ingredients:
- Local anesthetics, such as benzocaine, lidocaine and tetracaine, to temporarily relieve the pain
- Vasoconstrictors, such as epinephrine base, epinephrine hydrochloride, ephedrine sulfate and phenylephrine hydrochloride that reduce swelling and relieve itching and discomfort by tightening blood vessels
- Astringents (drying agents), such as witch hazel, calamine, and zinc oxide. These help shrink hemorrhoids by pulling water out of the swollen tissue. This, in turn, helps relieve itching, burning, and irritation.
- Protectants, such as cocoa butter, lanolin, glycerin, mineral oil, and shark liver oil which soothe irritated tissues and form a protective barrier to prevent further irritation.
Antihemorrhoid drugs are available as creams, ointments and suppositories. Most can be bought without a physician's prescription.
Follow package instructions for using these products. Do not use more than the recommended amount of this medicine every day. For explanations or further information about how to use antihemorrhoid drugs, check with a physician or pharmacist.
Do not use antihemorrhoid drugs for more than seven days in a row. If the problem gets worse or does not improve, check with a physician.
If rectal bleeding continues, check with a physician. This could be a sign of a condition that needs medical attention.
Side effects are rare, however, if a rash or any other sign of an allergic reaction occurs, stop using the medicine.
Some antihemorrhoid drugs should not be used by people who are taking or have recently taken monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors), such as phenelzine (Nardil) or tranylcypromine (Parnate), used to treat conditions including depression and Parkinson's disease. Anyone who is not sure if he or she has taken this type of drug should check with a physician or pharmacist before using an antihemorrhoid drug. People who are taking antidepressants or medicine for high blood pressure also should not use certain antihemorrhoid drugs. Check with a pharmacist for a list of drugs that may interact with specific antihemorrhoid drugs.
Anus — The opening at the end of the intestine through which solid waste (stool) passes as it leaves the body.
Rectum — The end of the intestine closest to the anus.
Uterus — A hollow organ in a female in which a fetus develops until birth.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.