Rectal bleeding is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Some cases of rectal bleeding resolve on their own, while others require medical intervention. If you experience chronic rectal bleeding, consult with your doctor as it may be due to a serious medical condition.
What is Rectal Bleeding?
Patients with rectal bleeding experience blood loss through the anus. The blood may either be present in the stool or on the toilet paper. Sometimes, the bleeding is not visible with the naked eyes and may require a stool test to confirm blood.
The blood loss in may be from the colon or the rectum. The color of the blood in rectal bleeding is bright but may also be dark maroon. The blood color may indicate the site of bleeding. The bright red color indicates bleeding in the lower colon or rectum, while dark red indicates bleeding in the upper part of the colon or small intestine. Blackish or tar-colored stool indicates bleeding in the stomach.
What are the Symptoms of Rectal Bleeding?
Patients with rectal bleeding experience the following accompanying symptoms:
- Rectal pain or pressure: Patients may experience pain in the rectal area due to the underlying cause of bleeding.
- Stools with blood: Patients with severe rectal bleeding notice large amounts of blood during bowel movement.
- Abdominal pain: Some patients may also experience abdominal cramps and pain due to rectal bleeding.
- Blood loss-related symptoms: Patients with severe blood loss may have fainting episodes, confusion, weakness, fatigue, and low blood pressure. In very severe cases, patients may experience shock and require immediate medical intervention.
What are the Causes of Rectal Bleeding?
There are various causes, some of them are:
- Hemorrhoids: These are also known as piles. Patients with this condition have inflammation in the anal blood vessels. Hemorrhoids may result in bleeding. The factors that increase the risk of hemorrhoids are obesity, pregnancy, and chronic diarrhea or constipation.
- Fissures: Rectal bleeding may also be due to tearing of the tissue lining of the rectum, colon, or anus. This condition is known as fissures.
- Colitis: Tissues lining the colon sometimes get inflamed. The condition is known as colitis. Ulcerative colitis may result in bleeding due to the development of ulcers or sores in the colon.
- Fistula: Sometimes, an opening develops between two organs, such as anus and skin or anus and rectum. It may cause bleeding.
- Diverticulitis: When there is a weakness in the muscular layer of the colon, a small pocket develops. The disease is known as diverticulitis. The diverticula may result in bleeding.
- Polyps: Polyps are abnormal tissue growths. Sometimes, polyps may cause bleeding, irritation, and pain.
- Gastroenteritis: Bleeding may also occur in patients suffering from bacterial infections, especially of the colon or stomach.
- Internal bleeding: Injury in the gastrointestinal organs may result in internal bleeding. Internal bleeding, in almost all cases, requires medical intervention.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease: Sometimes, sexually transmitted diseases cause inflammation in the anal or rectal region. It increases the risk.
- Cancer: Patients with rectal or colon cancer may experience rectal bleeding. Rectal bleeding occurs in almost 48% of people with colorectal cancer.
When to See a Doctor?
Never ignore rectal bleeding and other related symptoms. Book an appointment with your doctor if:
- You experience bleeding that lasts for more than 2-3 weeks.
- You notice a sudden change in bowel habits.
- You experience weakness, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
- You have pain in the abdominal cavity.
- You experience nausea and vomiting.
- You feel lumps in the abdomen.
How to Prevent Rectal Bleeding?
There are various ways to prevent rectal bleeding. Some of them are:
- Manage chronic constipation or diarrhea. Book a consultation with your doctor.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet.
- Ensure that you remain hydrated by consuming enough liquids.
- Do not consume foods that irritate the gastrointestinal system, such as spicy and fried foods.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Take precautions during sex to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
- Avoid excessive straining during bowel movements.
How does the Doctor Diagnose Rectal Bleeding?
Doctors have several techniques to diagnose rectal bleeding. Some of them are:
- Comprehensive evaluation: The doctor may perform a complete examination to determine the cause of rectal bleeding. The doctor may also ask you several questions, including your medical and family history.
- Colonoscopy: The doctor may also perform a colonoscopy to evaluate the abnormalities in the colon and rectum. It helps determine the cause of rectal bleeding.
- Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy is a test that looks at the rectum and lower part of the large intestine and can diagnose cancer and abnormalities in bowel movements. The doctors perform it using a sigmoidoscope.
- Fecal occult blood test: The doctor may also ask you to undergo this test to determine the presence of blood in your stool.
- Biopsy: The doctor may also recommend a biopsy if he suspects cancer. For the biopsy, the doctor removes a small tissue from the affected organ for examination.
- Imaging techniques: In some cases, the doctor may also advise you to undergo a CT scan or ultrasound.
What are the Treatment Options for Rectal Bleeding?
The treatment of rectal bleeding depends on its cause. Some treatment options are:
- Bleeding due to chronic constipation and hemorrhoids: Doctors advise patients to follow fiber-rich diets, sitz bath and prescribe medications, such as stool softeners.
- Bleeding due to anal fissures: Doctors manage anal fissures by prescribing medications for constipation. Doctors also advise such patients to wipe the anal region gently after a bowel movement.
- Bleeding due to other causes: If cancer is the cause of bleeding, doctors may recommend chemotherapy or surgery. They may prescribe corticosteroids in patients with Crohn’s disease.
Patients should never ignore rectal bleeding. Various methods prevent bleeding. Doctors determine the cause before suggesting treatments for this condition, and the diagnosis may be through complete examination, colonoscopy, and a fecal occult blood test.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is rectal bleeding an emergency condition?
In most cases, bleeding is not a medical emergency. Patients may make an appointment to visit the doctor. However, in some cases, severe rectal bleeding may require immediate medical attention. If severe rectal bleeding remains untreated, the patient may have difficulty breathing, a reduced level of consciousness, and abdominal pain.
What is colonoscopy, and how does the doctor perform it?
Colonoscopy is an examination procedure that the doctor performs to evaluate the changes in the rectum and colon tissues. Apart from diagnosing several diseases of the rectum and large intestine, it also helps determine the cause of rectal bleeding. The doctor conducts this procedure with the help of a long thin tube with a camera at one end. The doctor inserts the tube and views the rectum and colon internally with the camera.
Is there any cure for colon cancer?
Colon cancer is curable if diagnosed at an early stage. The polyps present in the colon increase the risk of colon cancer. It is necessary to manage these polyps to reduce the risk.