Let’s be honest: Hemorrhoids are embarrassing and uncomfortable. Many hemorrhoid sufferers don’t want to discuss it, even if they’re in pain.
But the truth is, hemorrhoids are extremely common and treatable. Three out of four Americans, men and women, will deal with hemorrhoids at some point in their life. And while all hemorrhoids are unpleasant, most people experience no complications during treatment. But for those extreme cases involving intense pain, out-patient surgery and weeks of healing, cannabis can be an effective treatment before and after surgery.
Simply put, hemorrhoids are swollen or bulging veins in the anus. Think a varicose vein, but in an extremely sensitive and active part of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, hemorrhoids can be caused by many factors including:
There are three distinct types of hemorrhoids, each with varying degrees of pain and discomfort.
Test your knowledge
Internal: Internal hemorrhoids are found inside the rectum. These are usually the mildest type of hemorrhoid, typically not causing much discomfort. But occasionally, an internal hemorrhoid can undergo straining or irritation, which can lead to bleeding. In the most extreme cases, straining can cause internal hemorrhoids to protrude out of the anus. If this happens, there can be a lot of pain and discomfort.
External: External hemorrhoids are found under the skin around the anus and can generally be seen and felt. These can be pretty painful and extremely sensitive to the touch, which can make it hard to sit, walk and go to the bathroom. External hemorrhoids are often treated with some sort of topical pain treatment.
Thrombosed: If there’s one type of hemorrhoid you want to avoid, it’s a thrombosed one. These occur when an external hemorrhoid forms a blood clot. They often become swollen, hard, turn purple or blue and run the risk of bursting. A doctor should examine thrombosed hemorrhoids as soon as possible to determine the best path forward. Sometimes, in minor cases, patients may just have to wait it out. In more extreme cases, it may need to be removed by the doctor in an out-patient surgery.
We spoke with HelloMD’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Perry Solomon, about hemorrhoids and how their symptoms can be managed with cannabis. Dr. Solomon noted that while he’s never heard of any medical research on cannabis as a hemorrhoid treatment, he does say marijuana can be part of an effective regimen for dealing with the pain and inflammation that often come with hemorrhoids.
But what type of cannabis product would be best for managing hemorrhoid-related symptoms?
“If you’re using [cannabis] for pain relief,” says Dr. Solomon, “I would suggest a tincture. The reason being that smoking or vaping could result in coughing, which could make the hemorrhoid larger and more painful. I might also try a topical placed on the hemorrhoid itself, which might help with the itching.”
Because of its highly effective anti-inflammatory properties, cannabis applied directly on the hemorrhoid could help alleviate some of the swelling, itching and pain. Taking a tincture, especially one tailored for pain relief, can help relax the body and alleviate the painful aspects of hemorrhoids. For less extreme cases, marijuana suppositories for hemorrhoids could be enough to help treat any associated discomfort.
When dealing with more extreme hemorrhoids, doctors may suggest a quick out-patient surgery in which the doctor removes the hemorrhoid. They typically do the out-patient surgery in an exam room with local anesthetic; this can be extremely painful.
Unfortunately, opioid painkillers aren’t only highly addictive, but they can also cause constipation, which can exacerbate the hemorrhoid issue. As a result, many doctors forego writing painkiller prescriptions and opt to give patients a high dose of Tylenol instead.
High-dose Tylenol doesn’t always provide enough relief to patients who’ve just had a hemorrhoid removed. This is where cannabis can step in to provide an added boost of anti-itch and anti-inflammatory pain relief.
We also sat down to speak with someone who has firsthand experience using cannabis to battle intense hemorrhoid pain. Allison, in her mid-40s, is a working mother with a long history of dealing with hemorrhoids. Unfortunately for her, these often end up external and thrombosed, two of the most painful types.
Allison has undergone multiple out-patient hemorrhoid removals and describes the process as “almost barbaric.” She explains that the local anesthetic did little to stop the pain of the removal and an extra strength Tylenol didn’t do much for her either. Because hemorrhoids are in such a delicate area, the healing process can be hard. The anus must continue to be used, wiped and stretched—all things that can reopen wounds and complicate healing.
During a particularly challenging external thrombosed hemorrhoid, Allison’s friend suggested using cannabis in the days leading up to and following its removal. Her friend, who Allison lovingly refers to as her “cannabis angel,” dropped off some cannabidiol (CBD) salve.
After consulting with her doctor about applying it directly to the site of the hemorrhoid, she began using the topical a couple days before her surgery to help manage the pain. She was stunned by how effective it was, so she kept using it during her recovery.
After her surgery, Allison continued to apply the CBD salve directly to the affected area. Its anti-inflammatory properties helped alleviate pain better than any other treatment she used in her 20 years of dealing with hemorrhoids. Allison also used her Dosist Calm CBD pen, which she’d historically used to help her sleep, to calm her nerves after surgery. Because she doesn’t like the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD vape pens and topicals were the perfect options for her.
Allison was so shocked by the effectiveness of cannabis in treating the pain of hemorrhoids that she had to tell her doctor about it. She encouraged her doctor to suggest CBD for anyone dealing with hemorrhoid pain and swelling.
If you’re reading this and currently suffering from hemorrhoids, cannabis could be the key to ending the pain and swelling. Consult with your doctor about using a CBD topical to alleviate inflammation and a tincture or vape pen to help numb the pain.
Photo credit: ANMOL