History of Hemorrhoid Treatments | Minnesota

Hemorrhoids may be one the oldest conditions known to man. Hemorrhoids is a condition that involves swelling and inflammation of the veins and other vessels surrounding the anal canal. It is surprisingly common, especially among adults above 40. Today, common methods of treatment include infrared coagulation, rubber band ligation, surgical excision, and classic methods of conservative treatments like topical drugs, diet, Sitz baths, etc. The first mention of hemorrhoids were found on Egyptian papyrus dated 1700 BC, which gives the following advice:

“… an ointment of great protection; acacia leaves, ground, triturated and cooked together. Smear a strip of fine linen therewith and place in the anus, that he recovers immediately.”

While it was a very archaic remedy, their thinking was not unsound. Acacia leaves have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, which may have helped relieve pain and swelling in hemorrhoids.

In 460 BC, Hippocrates described what may be the first recorded surgical treatment of hemorrhoids.

“And hemorrhoids in like manner you may treat by transfixing them with a needle and tying them with very thick and woolen thread, for application […] and always leave one behind; and when the patient recovers, let him be put on a course of Hellebore.”

This is essentially a primitive form a rubber band ligation, in which a rubber band is used instead of thread. Hellebore was a poisonous plant used as a laxative by Hippocrates. Galen (AD 129-~AD 200), a famous Greek physician, suggested severing arteries from veins to relieve pain and prevent the spread of gangrene.

In the Middle Ages, a common treatment in Europe involved cauterization of the hemorrhoid with a hot iron or cutting it with a sharp knife, and unpleasant and most likely excruciatingly painful procedure.

In the 19th century, anal stretching was used as a treatment. In the US, Carbolic acid was injected into hemorrhoids. By the 20th century, more contemporary methods like rubber band ligation, hemorrhoidectomy, etc. became commonplace.

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