Hemorrhoids are more commonly known as piles, and they affect one in 20 Americans. If you’re currently dealing with piles, you probably want a quick, effective method to alleviate the issue.
While several treatment options are available, a popular home remedy is a cold compress, such as an ice pack. This treatment is easy to use and handy for anyone with a freezer.
We’ll discuss whether a cold compress works for hemorrhoids, and there's a quick guide on other ways to manage hemorrhoids below.
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Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins that appear as lumps in the lower rectum and anus. There are two types of hemorrhoids: External and internal.
External hemorrhoids occur under the skin around the entrance of the anus.
The symptoms of external hemorrhoids are:
Itching around the anus
Hard and tender lumps around the anus
Anal pain when sitting or going to the bathroom
Internal hemorrhoids form internally within the lining of the rectum. As a result, their symptoms are slightly different.
Symptoms of internal hemorrhoids are:
Bright red bleeding from the anus after a bowel movement (pooping)
Typically painless unless they have prolapsed (bulging out of the anus)
When your hemorrhoids persist longer than a week, it’s best to seek further advice from your doctor. Don’t hesitate to see your doctor if the pain or swelling worsens before then.
It's essential that you get the correct diagnosis for hemorrhoids. If the swelling or pain worsens and doesn’t improve, it's unlikely to resolve itself.
If that's the case, you could have severe hemorrhoids or another condition, such as a perianal abscess. This type of abscess can sometimes mimic the symptoms of hemorrhoids during the early stages.
To diagnose hemorrhoids, your doctor will need to examine the area. For some people, this can feel invasive and embarrassing, but it will help your doctor determine which treatment is best. The sooner you receive treatment, the faster you’ll feel comfortable again.
You can use two types of compresses: A warm or cold compress. Depending on your symptoms and the severity of your hemorrhoids, both types could potentially help. Here's an overview of each one.
A cold compress is typically an ice pack or frozen gel pack. However, some people use a cold, damp cloth instead, depending on the application. With ice packs, the intensity of the cold can be too much to handle. It’s best to wrap a cloth or paper towel around the ice pack until it’s comfortable enough to hold against your skin. Never apply ice directly to the skin, as this can cause ice burns.
A warm compress is heated slightly. Common examples include a wheat pack or a heated gel pack. However, there is the potential for burns when you use these. If the heat pack is too hot to touch, don’t use it until it has cooled down.
Both types of compresses have varying effects and benefits.
A cold compress reduces blood flow to the applied area. You may notice that it eases pain by numbing the affected area.
Cold compresses can also reduce:
So if your hemorrhoids are quite sore, a tiny ice pack wrapped in a cloth or paper towel could numb the pain while reducing the swelling and inflammation.
However, this effect could be temporary, and symptoms may return after you stop using a cool pack.
A warm compress works differently from a cold compress: Instead of reducing blood flow to the affected area, it increases blood flow.
The main benefit of increased blood flow is that it may assist the healing process by moving more oxygen and nutrition to that area. The heat may have a soothing effect too.
Overall, we need more research on the benefits of warm or cold compresses for hemorrhoids. Nonetheless, compresses are a versatile, relatively safe home remedy when you keep a careful eye on the temperature.
You could experiment with both to see which works best for you. However, while compresses are a quick and accessible method to try, they don't always fix the underlying problem.
You can try either a warm or cold compress, as both offer benefits that may help. However, a cold compress is likely to be more effective because it can numb the pain and reduce swelling.
At-home treatments and remedies:
Try an over-the-counter laxative or stool softener to reduce strain while you’re on the toilet.
Try an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream or suppository for pain and swelling.
Use over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and swelling.
Try a sitz bath—a warm tub of water with Epsom salt.
Other things you can try to prevent or manage hemorrhoids are:
Eat foods high in fiber.
Drink more water.
Avoid sitting on the toilet for too long.
Switch to flushable wet wipes instead of toilet paper.
You should visit your doctor if your symptoms persist after trying at-home remedies and treatments. From here, your doctor may offer a prescription treatment for you or suggest surgery.
When hemorrhoids are painful and swollen, you’ll want instant relief. A cold compress, such as an ice pack, could reduce the swelling and numb the pain. However, you may need further treatment as the effects of a cold compress could be temporary.
Hemorrhoids | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)