Hemorrhoids on ice?

Last updated: August 2010

"Want hemorrhoid relief without messy creams or gels?" asks a television advertisement for Cryostat. It's a nonprescription, disposable, soft-cloth cold pack that you put in the freezer and, when it's ready, place "between your buttocks and over the affected area," according to the directions. But will Cryostat really extinguish the itching, burning, and swelling, as claimed?

A spokeswoman for Lil' Drug Store Products, maker of Cryostat, showed us sketchy results from a patient-preference study sponsored by the company, but no published, peer-reviewed scientific research on Cryostat's efficacy. So we asked a few medical specialists, who agreed that such a product would probably help relieve hemorrhoid symptoms about as well as applying an ice pack would soothe any swollen, painful area.

But Cryostat's a lot more expensive. It has a suggested retail price of about $13 for a package of six disposable cold packs, so it would cost $65, used as directed, for "a minimum of four treatments per day for the first week." Cryostat's maker advises that if symptoms persist longer than a week, you should stop treatment and be checked by a physician. A doctor can determine whether hemorrhoids are the cause of your discomfort and offer the appropriate treatment.

But it's better to try to prevent hemorrhoids altogether. Though their exact cause is unknown, chronic constipation and straining during bowel movements are the main suspects. Eat plenty of whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables and drink a lot of water. If you find it difficult to eat enough of those high-fiber foods, try a supplement that contains psyllium as the active ingredient (like Metamucil), because that has been studied the most in treating chronic constipation.

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