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New treatment for hemorrhoids

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
January 17, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
The same technology that warms your fast food may quickly treat a common adult medical problem. Just about everybody will have them at some point. Nobody likes to talk about it, but hemorrhoids are a fact of middle-aged life. Doctors are beginning to use a quick and painless treatment option that has some patients feeling better in minutes.

"Just about every woman who has a baby will get hemorrhoids at some point in the process," said M.D. Benjamin Krevsky at Temple University Hospital.

"It just got worse after probably the fourth or fifth child," said a hemorrhoid sufferer.

Hemorrhoids are embarrassing to talk about even though they're very common for both men and women.

With hemorrhoids, the veins of the lower rectum become inflamed, swollen and painful. For patients with moderate pain, doctors are turning to this tool called an infrared coagulator to bring relief.

"It uses infrared light, which is the same sort of light that fast food restaurants use to keep your food warm while you're waiting to buy it," said M.D. Benjamin Krevsky. "Only it's much more focused."

The doctor applies infrared light for a little more than one second to the top of the hemorrhoid. It seals off the blood flow, so the tissue naturally shrinks back.

An alternative is a procedure called rubber banding. Tiny bands are wrapped around the hemorrhoid, cutting off the circulation. Doctors say it works, but can be painful if the bands miss their mark, which is rare.

With the infrared light, patients feel mild warmth -- or nothing at all -- and they're back to normal activities within one day.

"I didn't realize that, with just a few seconds, it would take care of the problem," said the hemorrhoid sufferer.

A little light goes a long way. For mild cases of hemorrhoids, doctors say the best treatment is still hemorrhoidal cream or suppositories. For very severe hemorrhoids, surgery is sometimes the only option.


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