Rectal Bleeding Q & A
What is rectal bleeding?
Rectal bleeding refers to fresh bleeding that typically occurs when you have a bowel movement. You may see bright red blood with your stool, in the toilet, or on the toilet paper. This type of bleeding usually is due to a problem in your colon or rectum.
When bleeding occurs in the upper part of your gastrointestinal tract, it doesn’t appear as bright red. Instead, the blood turns dark as it goes through the digestive tract and causes black or tarry stools.
What causes rectal bleeding?
Haemorrhoids are the most common cause of rectal bleeding, but there are many possible reasons it might occur.
Read on to find out more about why you might experience rectal bleeding and what to do if it happens.
Causes of rectal bleeding
Causes of rectal bleeding can range from mild to serious. Conditions associated with rectal bleeding include:
- Haemorrhoids. Also called piles, these are masses of tissue made up of blood vessels and muscle fibers. Internal haemorrhoids are inside the body. They don’t hurt but can cause bleeding. In some cases, they can pass through the anus.
- Anal fissures. Small tears in the lining of the anus can lead to bleeding and pain when passing stools. Tears can occur because of constipation or during childbirth.
- Angiodysplasia. Enlarged blood vessels develop in the intestine. They can become fragile, break, and bleed.
- Constipation. Hard stool and straining to relieve constipation can lead to anal fissures and haemorrhoids, both of which can result in bleeding.
- Anal or colorectal polyps. Polyps are growths that can appear in many places throughout the body. If polyps develop in the intestine, they can bleed. Polyps aren’t cancerous, but some can become malignant in time.
- Ulcers. An ulcer can form when an erosion worsens in the digestive track. Black, tarry stools may occur if an ulcer is bleeding higher in the gut, but an ulcer further down may produce bright red blood. However, this isn’t always the case, and your doctor will need to investigate.
- Anal cancer or colon cancer. As tumours form, they need blood vessels to grow. The blood vessels in the colon are fragile and can tear, causing bleeding.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This includes ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Bleeding may occur alongside rectal pain and diarrhoea.
- Diverticular disease. Diverticula are small pouches or bulges in the colon where, over time, blood vessels can erode, rupture, and bleed. When there are no symptoms, it’s called diverticulosis, but if inflammation occurs, this is diverticulitis. Together, they’re called diverticular disease.
- Infections. Intestinal infection, or infections caused by bacteria, such as salmonella, can cause bleeding.
- Bleeding conditions. Some conditions can contribute to bleeding because they affect the blood’s ability to coagulate. They include vitamin K deficiency, haemophilia, and a low platelet count, also called thrombocytopenia.
- Damage to the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Tears or other problems in the stomach or even the oesophagus can cause bleeding from the rectum. Bleeding from the upper GI tract is more likely to appear as black, tarry stools.
Less common rectal bleeding causes include allergic reactions to certain food types
What other symptoms accompany rectal bleeding?
The conditions that cause rectal bleeding can lead to additional symptoms. You may experience:
- Anal pain or pressure
- Anal discharge
- Change in your bowel habits
- Bowel incontinence
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Light headedness
Any time you experience rectal bleeding, with or without additional symptoms, you should schedule an examination at Piles Clinic UK.
When should I seek medical help?
Severe rectal bleeding can constitute a medical emergency. You should report to local A&E if you’re also experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- cold, clammy skin
- continuous rectal bleeding
- fainting and dizziness
- painful abdominal cramping
- rapid breathing
- severe anal pain
- severe nausea
- blood in vomit
Make an appointment to see a specialist if you experience less severe but continuous rectal bleeding. seeking treatment in the early stages is important.
How is rectal bleeding diagnosed?
Specialist will start by asking you about your symptoms. Questions may include when you first noticed the bleeding, related symptoms you’re experiencing, and what colour the blood is.
- Visual or physical exam. The doctor will look or feel to check the affected area. This can include inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the anus to check for abnormalities, such as haemorrhoids.
- Endoscopic procedures. The doctor inserts a thin, flexible lighted scope with a camera into the anus. This allows the doctor to view the area. Examples include a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.
- Blood tests. A complete Full blood count (FBC) can help assess the extent of the bleeding and show if anemia is present.
- Stool tests. These (FIT test) can show if there’s bleeding that isn’t visible to naked eye.
- Imaging tests. This could be a CT scan or an X-ray, possibly with a contrasting agent, such as barium.
How is rectal bleeding treated?
Professionals at UK Piles clinic offers comprehensive treatments. Your treatment is tailored for your underlying condition and symptoms. There are many potential treatments, and our professionals will discuss which is best treatment suited to you.
At home, one way to relieve the pain and discomfort of haemorrhoids may be by taking warm baths. Applying over-the-counter or prescription creams can also reduce irritation.
If anal fissures result from constipation, treating the constipation may allow the fissures to heal.
At-home treatments to prevent constipation can reduce the risk of rectal bleeding. These include:
- eating high-fiber foods (unless otherwise directed by your doctor)
- ask a doctor or pharmacist about stool softeners
- exercising regularly to prevent constipation
- keeping the rectal area clean
- staying well hydrated
If home constipation remedies don’t work, ask your doctor about medical and prescription options.
- Haemorrhoids may need more invasive treatment if the pain is severe or the haemorrhoids are large. These include rubber band ligation, laser treatments, and surgical removal.
- Anal fissures may resolve on their own, but a doctor may prescribe antibiotics if an infection develops.
- Colon cancer will require long-term treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, to remove the cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Polyps may need treatment if they’re large, if there are many of them, or if cells changes suggest they could become cancerous. A doctor can remove polyps during a colonoscopy.
To get help for rectal bleeding, book an appointment at Piles clinic UK