The Toilet Paper Mistake You Never Knew Could Worsen Hemorrhoids (Especially If You're Over 50)

Turning 50 is a celebrated milestone. While middle age may come with a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, it also marks the year we become more susceptible to hemorrhoids, or piles. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), roughly half of adults who have entered their 50s and beyond experience hemorrhoids. Unfortunately, these painful, swollen veins that sit around the anus or within the lining of the lower rectum can become further aggravated depending on our bathroom habits. If you're wiping too harshly with dry toilet paper, for instance, you may be taking your situation from bad to worse.

Straining while pooping, not eating enough fiber, chronic constipation, or sitting on the toilet for too long can all cause hemorrhoids to develop in the first place. However, leaving hemorrhoids untreated can increase the risk of complications, including strangulated hemorrhoids or anemia. Those with external hemorrhoids, specifically, also run the risk of blood clots, skin tags, or infection. To help piles heal properly, ditch the dry toilet paper, and opt for more hemorrhoid-friendly wiping alternatives instead.

Using dry toilet paper can aggravate hemorrhoid tissue

Even if you're actively treating hemorrhoids, wiping with dry toilet paper can derail any improvements. Hemorrhoid tissue is sensitive to begin with, and raking the area with a handful of dry toilet paper may prompt itching, bleeding, or burning sensations, according to Advanced Hemorrhoid Specialists. The greater the irritation, the longer hemorrhoids are likely to stick around. "Usually when people wipe, they wipe over and over and over again causing irritation and prolonging the ailments," Miki Agrawal, founder of the bidet brand Tushy, told the Daily Mail in a discussion on how toilet paper can worsen hemorrhoids and other health conditions.

As your hemorrhoids are on the mend, you'll want to implement some different methods for cleaning the anal region. Still, if toilet tissue is the only option at your disposal, consider purchasing a can of toilet paper cleansing foam. The product moistens dry toilet paper, thereby making it less abrasive on the skin. If possible, however, it's best to rule out toilet paper entirely. Here are two tushy-cleaning techniques to use instead.

Use unscented baby wipes or a bidet instead of toilet paper

Experts at Advanced Hemorrhoid Specialists suggest that individuals with hemorrhoids should avoid scented toilet paper and instead purchase high-quality, non-scented, moistened baby wipes. Although hemorrhoid-specific wipes are commercially available for adults, it's best to also avoid these products, which are sometimes made with fragrance. In a 2020 research article published by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in the journal Dermatitis, researchers looked at the relationship between different kinds of products and various types of contact allergies. Toilet paper/wet wipes were found to be among the list of cosmetic products identified as having induced cases of allergic contact dermatitis from fragrance ingredients.

Your best bet is to use a bidet with a heated air-dry feature. Warm-water bidet toilet seats are not only more hygienic but are also more gentle on the area after going number two. Just be aware that a bidet can worsen hemorrhoids if you set the water pressure or water temperature too high (per Los Angeles Colon & Rectal). Low water pressure settings are best to start with before progressively working your way up. 

If you're concerned about hemorrhoids, reach out to your doctor who can suggest additional at-home relief methods or medical treatment options.