Hemorrhoids aren’t something you typically discuss, but they’re an extremely common condition affecting one in 20 Americans. In fact, about one-half of all adults over age 50 have hemorrhoids

One common & effective procedure to eliminate this condition is called rubber band ligation. But what is rubber band ligation, and how effective is it treating hemorrhoids? 

Let’s find out.

What is a Hemorrhoid?

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins located in your anus and lower rectum. Hemorrhoids cause a number of symptoms that can alert you to the condition, including:

  • Irritation, pain, burning, or discomfort in the anal region
  • Itching and swelling around your anus
  • Bleeding

The condition can occur inside the rectum (internal hemorrhoids) or under the skin around the anus itself (external hemorrhoids). 

You can’t typically see internal hemorrhoids inside the rectum but straining when passing a stool can cause a few symptoms such as bright red blood in the toilet bowl. External hemorrhoids may bleed, itch, or burn. You may also suffer from a thrombosed hemorrhoid that causes a hard lump near your anus with pain and inflammation.

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

When the veins near your anus stretch during the pressure of a bowel movement, a hemorrhoid can develop. If you sit for long periods of time on the toilet or have chronic constipation or diarrhea, a hemorrhoid can occur. Pregnancy, sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time, even regular heavy lifting, can all cause hemorrhoids.

As you age, the risk of hemorrhoids increases because the veins in your anus can weaken and stretch over the years.

How Are Hemorrhoids Treated?

The pain from hemorrhoids can be very uncomfortable. Your doctor may suggest a combination of several treatments such as a warm bath followed by an ice pack several times a day. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone suppositories or hemorrhoid creams can provide some relief. Your doctor may also recommend a procedure called rubber band ligation.

What is Rubber Band Ligation for Hemorrhoids?

In rubber band ligation, your doctor limits the blood supply of the hemorrhoid at the base with a rubber band. This reduces the circulation of blood to the hemorrhoid, effectively causing it to shrink. This procedure is only available for internal hemorrhoids that occur within the rectum itself. The procedure is done as an office treatment and does not require sedation, pain medications, or a hospital stay.

During the rubber band ligation, the doctor will insert an anoscope, or small hollow tube equipped with a light into your anus. This is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require sedatives. The anoscope is lubricated and typically easily tolerated. The doctor will use this tool to grasp the hemorrhoid then slip a rubber band around its base. The hemorrhoid shrinks and falls off painlessly in a few days.

Are There Any Side Effects or Risks from the Rubber Band Ligation Procedure?

The rubber band ligation is an extremely successful procedure with few risks. These risks may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Fever
  • Infection 
  • Problems urinating
  • Pain
  • Recurrence of  hemorrhoids with time

Rubber band ligation is a generally painless, effective way to handle an uncomfortable problem.  If you have several hemorrhoids, you will need more than one treatment to take care of all of them.

What’s it Like to Recover from Rubber Band Ligation?

Healthcare is always an individualized process. This means your experience with rubber band ligation may be different from someone else’s. Typically, most people can return to their regular routine almost immediately, although they may be restricted from heavy lifting for a few days. 

There may be some pain for a few hours after the rubber band ligation procedure. Your doctor may suggest acetaminophen for pain relief. You can also sit in a shallow tub of warm water for 15-minutes at a time to ease the discomfort of the procedure.

You may feel a full sensation in the abdomen,  constipation,  or some cramping.

Patients should avoid taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for the five days leading up to the procedure, and for an equal amount of time afterwards. 

This office procedure is typically highly successful. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says, “Rubber band ligation is one of the most important, cost-effective and commonly used treatments for internal hemorrhoids.” 

How Can I Avoid Hemorrhoids? 

Eating healthy foods and staying hydrated are always good for your health. You should drink at least six glasses of fluids each day (and no, coffee and alcohol don’t count because they dehydrate you). Adding more exercise can keep your bowels functioning properly so you don’t have to strain when using the restroom. Too much sitting is bad, so get up and get moving at least once an hour while you’re awake. Even if your mobility is limited, there are all kinds of seated exercises that can stimulate your body. 

Constipation is a major contributor to hemorrhoids, so adding more fiber into your diet can help. Whole grains, fresh fruits, and plenty of vegetables can soften your stool and help keep it moving through the intestinal tract. 

If you’re on a medication, that could be causing constipation, so talk with your doctor about the issue.

Hemorrhoids are the body’s way of telling you that you need to change your habits to improve your health. If you’re suffering from painful hemorrhoids, talk with our team.