People can promptly treat hemorrhoids and ease symptoms at home. Options can include lifestyle changes, pain medications, creams, and ointments.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that develop inside or outside the rectum, causing pain, itching, or bleeding. Home treatment usually helps to resolve a person’s hemorrhoids. However, surgery may be an option in severe cases.

This article discusses the different treatment options for hemorrhoids and their associated side effects and risks. It also considers the outlook for people living with hemorrhoids.

Pills by a glass of water.Share on Pinterest
robert reader/Getty Images

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) lists the following self-care tips to help alleviate hemorrhoid pain:

According to the University of California San Francisco, foods rich in fiber can soften the stools and lead to regular bowel movements. It is important to note that a person should drink plenty of water when increasing their fiber intake. Fiber draws water into the bowel, so adequate water intake is necessary to prevent dehydration.

A doctor or pharmacist may recommend taking an over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve hemorrhoid pain. These medications also help alleviate inflammation and swelling. Examples include:

Possible side effects

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that NSAIDs can cause the following side effects:

Factors that can increase the risk of side effects include:

  • taking prolonged high doses of NSAIDs
  • being older
  • having a chronic underlying health condition

Although rare, NSAIDs can also cause issues with the liver, kidneys, or circulatory system. A 2016 study notes that kidney problems are more likely to occur in people older than 65 years.

A person can ask their pharmacist for an OTC cream or ointment to help treat and soothe hemorrhoids. Examples include:

  • Anesthetic: Topical anesthetic creams provide an instant numbing effect when a person applies them to the skin. Examples include lidocaine-based cream (LMX5 or Recticare) and dibucaine (Nupercainal).
  • Hydrocortisone: This cream contains 1% hydrocortisone, a corticosteroid that helps to relieve swelling and itching. People can apply the cream up to four times per day, ideally at the same times each day.
  • Glyceryl trinitrate: This ointment widens blood vessels around the anal area to help improve blood circulation. People typically use this to help treat pain from anal fissures, which are small tears in the lining of the anus. People may also use the ointment to alleviate pain from acute hemorrhoid inflammation or hemorrhoid surgery.
  • Petroleum jelly: People can apply petroleum jelly to their anal area to reduce itching. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) explains that petroleum jelly helps with the following:
    • keeping the skin moist
    • assisting scar healing
    • preventing further skin damage or tears

Possible side effects

Below are some potential side effects of the above creams and ointments.

Anesthetic cream

Common side effects of lidocaine skin cream include itching or tingling on the application site. The skin may also appear paler than usual, with redness or mild swelling.

A person should speak with a doctor or pharmacist if the side effect does not disappear.

Hydrocortisone cream

People should consult a doctor if they develop one or more of the following side effects when using hydrocortisone cream:

  • burning
  • dryness
  • white or red bumps
  • unwanted hair growth

Glyceryl trinitrate ointments

According to a 2021 study, headaches are the most common side effect of glyceryl trinitrate ointments, affecting around 43% of people who use products with a 0.2% strength.

Anyone who experiences headaches after using a glyceryl trinitrate ointment should consider reducing the dose for several days. The NHS advises applying a pea-sized amount of ointment five or six times per day rather than a larger amount twice per day.

Petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly is an emollient, meaning it creates a physical barrier on the skin that helps trap moisture.

Some people may experience one or more of the following side effects when using emollients:

  • a burning or stinging sensation that persists for several days
  • folliculitis, which is the medical term for blocked or inflamed hair follicles
  • boils resulting from folliculitis

Healthcare professionals may recommend in-office procedures to treat larger hemorrhoids. These usually take place in a hospital or a surgeon’s office.

Examples of in-office procedures include:

  • Rubber band ligation (RBL): This involves tying a rubber band around the hemorrhoid. Doing so prevents blood flow to the hemorrhoid, causing it to shrink. Treatment consists of 2–4 sessions across 6–8 weeks.
  • Sclerotherapy: This involves injecting a hardening agent into the hemorrhoid to destroy its blood vessels. The lack of blood supply then causes the hemorrhoid to shrink.
  • Infrared coagulation: This involves using a small probe to deliver infrared light to the blood vessels supplying the hemorrhoid. The light damages the vessels, causing the hemorrhoid to shrink and recede.

Possible side effects

Below are some potential side effects of the above in-office procedures.

Rubber band ligation

Complications from RBL are rare. However, some people may experience the following:

  • a feeling of tightness
  • mild pain
  • bleeding

A 2016 study states that people sometimes receive a local anesthetic to reduce the likelihood of pain following RBL.


According to a 2019 study, people who undergo sclerotherapy may experience the following:

Infrared coagulation

A 2022 study compared the effectiveness of infrared coagulation versus hemorrhoid removal surgery. The authors concluded that infrared coagulation was associated with a reduced risk of serious complications, as well as reduced postoperative pain and secondary bleeding.

Surgery may be necessary for people with chronic painful hemorrhoids that do not respond to home remedies, OTC medications, or in-office procedures.

The NIDDK outlines the following surgical procedures for hemorrhoids, both of which require anesthesia:

  • Hemorrhoidectomy: Doctors usually recommend this surgery for individuals with protruding or internal hemorrhoids that persist despite RBL. Hemorrhoidectomy involves surgically removing the hemorrhoid with a scalpel.
  • Hemorrhoid stapling: This surgery may be an appropriate option for people with anal bleeding or prolapsed internal hemorrhoids. It involves using a stapling device to remove an internal hemorrhoid or staple a prolapsing hemorrhoid back inside the anus.

Possible side effects and risks

A 2022 review notes that surgery is typically an effective treatment for hemorrhoids and that recurrence rates are low. They add that bleeding can occur following hemorrhoid surgery and individuals may take pain medications to relieve postsurgical pain.

A person should seek immediate medical care if they experience any of the following symptoms after hemorrhoid surgery:

  • increased pain or swelling in the area
  • increased warmth or redness in the area
  • red streaks leading from the area
  • pus drainage from the surgical site
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • inability to pass stools or gas
  • signs of deep vein thrombosis, such as:
    • pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin
    • redness and swelling in the leg or groin

In many cases, hemorrhoids will resolve following appropriate home care. If hemorrhoids persist, a person should contact their doctor for further advice.

The National Library of Medicine states that surgery can be effective if medications do not work and that the likelihood of hemorrhoids returning after surgery is low.

People who undergo surgical treatment for hemorrhoids should follow the doctor’s instructions regarding postsurgical care. These may include:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • following a high fiber diet
  • taking pain medications

It is possible for hemorrhoids to cause complications, such as:

A person should inform a doctor if symptoms worsen or if they notice blood in their stool.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that develop inside or outside of the rectum. Symptoms may include pain, itching, or bleeding from the anus.

The treatment for hemorrhoids depends on the type and severity. Conservative treatment options include dietary changes, OTC medications, and in-office procedures. Surgery may be necessary for severe hemorrhoids that do not respond to conservative treatment.

In most cases, hemorrhoids resolve with appropriate home treatment. When surgery is necessary, the results are typically long lasting. A person can talk with a doctor regarding suitable treatment options.