What is rectal bleeding?
Any type of blood that is passed out from the anus or rectum during the passing of stools or fecal matter is called rectal bleeding. The blood may be coming from the rectum or may also be coming from other parts of the gut or inside of the stomach. The color of blood may vary depending on the site of bleeding. It is usually bright or dark red (maroon-colored) in color. In most cases, bright red blood indicates bleeding in the lower intestine or rectum, whereas darker blood is a sign of bleeding in the small bowel or upper area of the gut. Very dark or black-red blood is often associated with bleeding in the stomach or other parts in the digestive system.
What are the common causes of rectal bleeding?
Most common causes of rectal bleeding include:
- Piles or hemorrhoids: Small hemorrhoids are usually painless. The most common symptom is bleeding after going to the toilet. Larger hemorrhoids may cause mucous discharge, pain, irritation, and itch. Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the lower rectum.
- Anal fissure: It is a small tear of the skin of the anus that may be less than a centimeter. It may be a very painful condition. Often, an anal fissure will bleed a little. The blood is usually bright red and stains the toilet tissue but soon stops.
- Diverticula: A diverticulum is a small pouch in the wall of the gut (intestines) (more than one diverticulum is called diverticula). They can develop on any part of the gut. A diverticulum may occasionally bleed, and the patient may pass some blood through the anus. Bleeding is usually abrupt and painless. Bleeding is due to a burst blood vessel that can occur in the wall of a diverticulum, and the amount of blood loss may be heavy.
- Crohn's disease: It is a condition that causes the gut to become inflamed. The disease flares up from time to time. Common symptoms include bloody diarrhea and stomach pain.
- Ulcerative colitis (UC) and other forms of colitis: UC is a disease where inflammation develops in the colon/intestine and rectum. A common symptom includes diarrhea mixed with blood.
- Polyps: A polyp is a small growth that sometimes forms on the inside lining of the intestine or rectum. Polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous) and usually cause no problems. However, sometimes a polyp bleeds and sometimes a polyp can turn cancerous.
- Cancer: Cancer of the intestine and rectum are common cancers in older people. Rectal bleeding is one symptom that may occur. Cancers of other parts of the gut higher up from the colon sometimes may cause rectal bleeding, but these are uncommon.
- Abnormalities of the gut: Various abnormalities of the gut or gut wall may cause rectal bleeding (for example, twisting of the gut).
- Ulcers: An ulcer in the stomach or duodenum may bleed. This can cause rectal bleeding. Stools may turn black- or plum-colored (melaena).
- Infections: Infections of the stomach and intestine are one of the causes that may cause rectal bleeding. Symptoms may include watery stools, pain in the abdomen, and fever.
What should a patient be educated regarding rectal bleeding?
Spotting blood during or after passing stools is common. Most of the causes of such rectal bleeding are not life-threatening. However, the only way to be certain of the cause is to be evaluated by a doctor. Usually, people with minor rectal bleeding may not have cancer or another serious condition. However, it is not possible to know the cause of rectal bleeding without an examination. Precancerous polyps near the end of the colon can mimic bleeding from hemorrhoids. These are generally present in the colon for years before they become cancerous, and they can be removed very safely from the colon, preventing progression to cancer. Polyps and colon cancer become more common with aging, and thus, investigation of bleeding is most important in patients aged above 40-50 years.
What are the common screening tests to diagnose rectal bleeding?
Common screening tests include:
- Rectal examination: A doctor may detect the cause of rectal bleeding with a rectal examination.
- Colonoscopy: It is a procedure in which a doctor examines the entire colon using a flexible camera attached to a tube, usually while the patient is sedated.
- Anoscopy: It allows the doctor to inspect the anus and lower rectum.
- Sigmoidoscopy: During a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor may examine the rectum and most of the lower large intestine. It also can be done without sedation.
Top Blood in the Stool (Rectal Bleeding) in Adults Related Articles
Blood in the Stool (Rectal Bleeding, Hematochezia)Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding (hematochezia) refers to the passage of bright red blood from the anus. Common causes include anal fissures, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, colitis, Crohn's disease, colon and rectum polyps, and cancer. The color of the blood in the stool may provide information about the origin of the bleeding. The color of stool with blood in it may range from black, red, maroon, green yellow, gray, or white, and may be tarry, or sticky. Treatment of blood in the stool depends on the cause.
castor oilCastor oil is an oil extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant, Ricinus communis, which is used as a laxative to temporarily relieve constipation and to clear the colon before colonoscopy. Common side effects of castor oil include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte disturbances, pelvic congestion syndrome, low blood pressure (hypotension), and dizziness. Do not use during pregnancy, as it can cause premature labor. Castor oil use while breastfeeding is generally safe.
Colon Cancer SlideshowColorectal cancer (colon cancer) is the cause of many cancer deaths. Learn about the warning signs, symptoms, screening process, stages, and treatment related to colorectal cancer.
Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
How Can I Stop Blood in My Stool?Bloody stools should be addressed, but there are many reasons for rectal bleeding that don’t warrant an emergency visit to the doctor.
Is Bright Red Blood in the Stool Serious?The presence of blood in the stool needs to be evaluated by your doctor. In most cases, the bright red blood in stools is not an immediate threat to life. The most common causes are piles, anal polyps, anal fissures and colitis (inflammation of the large bowel).
lactuloseLactulose is a synthetic sugar derived from lactose, the sugar found in dairy products. Lactulose is used to relieve constipation and to prevent and treat portal systemic encephalopathy (PSE). Common side effects of lactulose include abdominal distention, abdominal cramping, excessive bowel activity, diarrhea, gas (flatulence), belching, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, high sodium levels (hypernatremia), and low potassium levels (hypokalemia). Use with caution in patients with diabetes (lactulose contains sugars). Use with caution in nursing mothers and during pregnancy.
lidocaine rectalLidocaine rectal is a local anesthetic applied on the anal area to relieve pain, itching, and burning from hemorrhoids. Common side effects of lidocaine rectal include rash, itching, swelling (edema), abnormal sensation, central nervous system excitation and/or depression, dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, nervousness, anxiety, tremors, convulsions, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), blurred or double vision, vomiting, and others. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
magnesium hydroxideMagnesium hydroxide, also known as milk of magnesia, is used to relieve occasional constipation and to treat heartburn and acid indigestion. Common side effects of magnesium hydroxide include diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stools, rectal bleeding, dehydration symptoms (dry mouth, extreme thirst, reduced urination, dizziness, electrolyte imbalance), and high magnesium in blood (hypermagnesemia). Occasional use of magnesium hydroxide in recommended doses during pregnancy and breastfeeding is generally considered safe.
psylliumPsyllium is a dietary fiber used to relieve occasional constipation and to maintain regularity of bowel movements. Psyllium is used to treat constipation, diarrhea, fecal incontinence, hemorrhoids, ulcerative colitis, and hyperlipidemia. Use psyllium with caution in elderly patients. Common side effects of psyllium include constipation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, esophageal obstruction, intestinal obstruction, and allergic reaction in people sensitive to inhaled or ingested psyllium. Psyllium is generally safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
sennaSenna is a stimulant laxative medication available over the counter used to treat occasional constipation and bowel movement irregularity in both adults and children. Senna is also used for cleansing the colon before colonoscopy in adults. People also use senna for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hemorrhoids, and weight loss. Common side effects of senna include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps or pain, gas (flatulence), urgent and frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, urine discoloration, kidney inflammation (nephritis), rash, low potassium level (hypokalemia), melanosis coli, finger clubbing (with chronic use), wheezing, and severe allergic (anaphylactoid) reaction. Avoid chronic use of senna; may lead to laxative dependence and electrolyte imbalance. Use senna with caution during pregnancy. Consult your doctor if planning to use senna while breastfeeding.
sorbitolSorbitol is a sugar alcohol used orally or rectally to relieve occasional constipation and irregularity in bowel movements. Common side effects of sorbitol include excessive bowel activity, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, dehydration, fluid and electrolyte losses, dry mouth (xerostomia), high glucose levels in blood (hyperglycemia), swelling (edema), and lactic acid buildup in blood (lactic acidosis). Sorbitol overdose can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Stool Color, Changes, Texture and FormStool color changes can very from green, red, maroon, yellow, white, or black. Causes of changes of stool color can range from foods a person eats, medication, diseases or conditions, pregnancy, cancer, or tumors. Stool can also have texture changes such as greasy or floating stools. Stool that has a uncharacteristically foul odor may be caused by infections such as giardiasis or medical conditions.
What Can Blood in the Stool Mean?Blood in the stool can be caused by a variety of health conditions. Find out more about what it can mean if you have blood in your stool.
What Is the Main Cause of Esophageal Varices?Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the food pipe (esophagus). This condition develops in people with liver disease.
When Should I Be Concerned About Blood in My Stool?Blood in the stool can be a symptom of many disorders, some of which may be serious. Learn the signs of blood in the stool, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it. The normal color of the stool is brown, although green or greenish stool is also considered normal. The most common reasons stool turns green are eating green veggies, ingesting green food coloring and taking iron supplements.