Some of the many uncomfortable symptoms of hemorrhoids include burning, pain, tearing, bleeding, and more. Today, we’ll focus on itching, and investigate why hemorrhoids itch and how you can soothe them right now.
What are Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are veins in the rectal region. It’s normal human anatomy to have hemorrhoids, but it’s a problem when they become swollen because a swollen hemorrhoid can quickly become an irritated, itchy hemorrhoid, and that can make daily life a hassle.
If you have an itchy bottom it could be due to an irritated internal hemorrhoid, a thrombosed external hemorrhoid, or another anorectal issue. External hemorrhoids are hemorrhoids that form on the anus, typically when a blood vessel breaks open and forms a clot. They are associated with symptoms such as itching, protrusion, and pain.
Internal hemorrhoids line the wall of the rectum, inside of your anus, and are most associated with bright red blood on toilet paper after a bowel movement. Internal hemorrhoids can become itchy during bouts of irregular, frequent bm’s which create an acidic environment or from eating too many spicy foods. More about this to come later.
Problem hemorrhoids are reported in up to 90 percent of pregnancies, and in up to 50 percent of the general population, making them incredibly common. What makes them so common, so itchy and what should you look for in a butt itch cream? Read on to find out.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Both internal and external hemorrhoids are due to excess pressure and blood flow to the pelvic region. Pregnancy, obesity, constipation and heavy lifting are all sources of this excess pressure and are linked with swollen hemorrhoids in people of all age groups.
What these sources have in common is that they increase the amount of blood flow to the veins lining your rectum and anus. Too much pressure buildup there causes the veins to swell and push out into the anal canal.
Once hemorrhoids are swollen from excess pressure, they can become irritated by passing fecal matter in the case of both internal and external hemorrhoids. External hemorrhoids can be irritated by many things, including rough toilet paper and wiping after a bowel movement.
Why Do Hemorrhoids Itch?
Hemorrhoids itch for multiple reasons. The most common source of itchiness in hemorrhoids is actually acidic fecal residue coming in contact with an enlarged hemorrhoid during bowel movements. Acidity irritates the swollen skin, causing itching. Acidic feces residue can come directly from the diet or from overactive bowel habits and is most likely a combination of the two.
Overactive bowel habits (from Irritable Bowel or diarrhea for example), cause food to move too fast through the GI system. That creates an acidic bowel movement because bile added to the stool earlier on in the digestive process to break down foods remains active long after it shouldn’t. This causes diarrhea to be acidic and irritates enlarged hemorrhoids.
Acidity can also come from food sources. Tomatoes, caffeine, spices, chocolate, and some juices like orange and apple juice are high in it. These foods can directly irritate enlarged hemorrhoids as they make their way to the end of the digestive tract, especially if they get there fast due to an overactive GI tract.
We’ve written about good diets for chronic hemorrhoid sufferers in the past on this blog: Hemorrhoids High Fiber Diet
Between these two mechanisms, either in isolation or in combination, extra acidity can build up in fecal residue and cause itching.
Other sources of itching
Poor Quality Wipes
Wet wipes can sometimes cause itching as well. Poorly made wipes with chemical preservatives and plastic cloth can irritate the lining of the anus or the area towards the outside of the rectum. That irritation can cause itching or pain.
Pro tip: Itching has the same nerve fibers as pain, and is actually just a low-grade level of pain.
Look for a wipe with no chemicals and a cloth made from wood or bamboo fibers, like our organic baby wipes.
If a bowel movement is too loose or too soft, it might be hard to cleanse properly, another source of irritation and itching. Regular toilet paper might not be effective. In this case, you will want to use wet wipes or a bidet, though heed the warnings about wipes in the previous section, as wipes can sometimes make your problem worse.
If your thrombosed hemorrhoids (hemorrhoids that have broken open, like a broken blood blister) have been irritated and broken open, then the itching you are feeling may actually be low-grade pain from the broken skin. Treat this by making lifestyle changes to reduce hemorrhoid flare-ups.
Regardless of the source of itchiness, you should treat the underlying condition causing your hemorrhoids to make sure they don’t continue to be prone to itching! We do have fast relief suggestions below if you’re looking to stop itching right now.
Other Causes of an Itchy Bottom
Here are two other common conditions which cause anal itching:
- Anal tears, aka fissures
- Pruritus ani, a condition affecting the exterior surface of the skin caused by various dermatological conditions (poor hygiene among them), not caused by an underlying anorectal condition like hemorrhoids.
People frequently confuse discomfort from a fissure or Pruritus ani with hemorrhoid discomfort. Many of the relief methods we go into below can help reduce itching due to these two conditions, though treating the underlying condition will be different for each problem. Fissures should heal as long as you keep them clean, avoid re-tearing and treat the underlying cause such as an internal hemorrhoid, etc.
Pruritus ani typically clears up with better hygiene, though you should speak to a dermatologist to make sure. Here is more information on the condition from the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
3 Ways to Find Relief from Itchy Hemorrhoids
If you need itchy bottom relief right away, here are the remedies that can help.
Numbing your nerve endings will reduce the itchiness of your hemorrhoids. Do this by finding a hemorrhoid cream with Lidocaine, which is an analgesic pain reliever. As we learned above, itchiness is actually low grade pain, so a pain relieving cream will help to soothe itch as well.
Our Original Hemorrhoid Cream contains 4.0% Lidocaine, the most potent analgesic ingredient you can get in an OTC hemorrhoid cream to ease some of the itchiness as your irritated hemorrhoids heal.
You can also use treatments containing astringents like Witch Hazel in high concentrations to reduce swelling and itching. Our Hemorrhoid Spray does just that.
Because acidic fecal residue irritates enlarged hemorrhoids, using a topical protectant ointment can prevent irritation. The FDA states that a protectant is a drug that provides a physical barrier, forming a protective coating over skin or mucous membranes.
By blocking irritants like acidic food or fecal residue from contacting your sensitive skin, you’ll be helping it heal. Glycerin is a commonly found protectant, and it’s in our Advanced Hemorrhoid Ointment because of how well it works to protect sensitive skin from further irritation.
A sitz bath treatment, either taken in a bath tub or in a special sitz bath device that fits over your toilet bowl, can be helpful in soothing sore bottoms. A sitz bath treatment is simply a warm water soak for your bottom. Fill up a bath to your hips and soak for 10 to 20 minutes after every bowel movement if you don’t have a specialized device.
A warm water soak helps with itchiness primarily because it cleans away any irritating residue left over from a bowel movement. Pour epsom salt into the water to add calming ingredients to the treatment. These soaks are incredibly helpful in soothing hemorrhoid symptoms.
Final Advice on Treating Itching Hemorrhoids
Because Doctor Butler’s is proctologist-run, we are going to advise you to treat the conditions causing your enlarged hemorrhoids to flare up in the first place. Fortunately, things that you do to help prevent hemorrhoids can also help to stop your hemorrhoids from itching.
If you have a sudden bout of acidic diarrhea, short term over-the-counter medications can be helpful in addition to eating foods that help slow the digestive process like banana, cucumber, white rice, toast and watermelon, combined with staples like grilled chicken or fish can help. These foods will regulate bowel habits, and the more regular you are, the less acidic your bowel movements will be.
Also be sure to avoid direct irritants like wet wipes with plastic cloths and chemicals as you attempt to clean away fecal matter and acidic residue. Clean properly with a bidet, a sitz bath or a naturally sourced wipe.
Instant itch relief is important as well, so that you don’t scratch your hemorrhoids. Use a numbing or protecting ointment, like our Advanced Hemorrhoid Cream with Lidocaine , which does both. If you have any questions about your itching hemorrhoids, don’t hesitate to contact us; you’ll be one step closer to Leaving the Pain Behind!