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Rectal Bleeding

Rectal Bleeding Quick Overview

  • The rectum is the last portion of the large bowel that ends just before the anus. Bleeding from this area can be mild, serious, or even life-threatening; the presence of rectal bleeding must be carefully checked because it indicates something is wrong somewhere in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
  • Causes of rectal bleeding are numerous and varied;
    • common anorectal causes are hemorrhoids, and anal fissures (tears in the rectal tissue);
    • diverticula (diverticulitis);
    • infections (bacterial and other pathogens);
    • inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis),
    • angiodysplasia (fragile blood vessels),
    • tumors,
    • polyps,
    • bowel trauma, and
    • less common causes like upper GI tract problems like ulcers and Mallory-Weiss tears in the esophagus.
  • Symptoms and signs of rectal bleeding are frequently noticed as
    • maroon-colored stools,
    • bright red blood on or in the stool,
    • blood on the toilet tissue, or
    • blood staining the toilet bowl water red.
  • Bleeding from further up in the gastrointestinal tract may result in black, tarry stools. Other symptoms include
  • Children may exhibit abdominal pains, vomiting and rectal bleeding; folding or telescoping of the bowel (intussusception) is a common cause.
  • Pregnant females often develop hemorrhoids during their second and third trimester. If a female has rectal bleeding during pregnancy she should contact her health-care professional for evaluation of the cause.
  • Seek medical care to evaluate the source of bleeding; rectal bleeding with black or maroon-colored stools, large blood loss, rectal trauma, rapid or irregular heartbeat and/or fainting or confusion is a medical emergency.
  • Diagnosis of rectal bleeding depends on the cause; some causes are diagnosed by the patient's history and physical exam while other causes require blood tests, scope exams of the bowel and/or CT scans, angiography or nuclear medicine studies.
  • Treatment of rectal bleeding is dependent on the cause; simple treatments (some hemorrhoids, for example) can be done at home, but other more serious causes (tumors or ulcers, for example, may require much more effort like surgery and other therapy).
  • Minimal rectal bleeding can be treated at home if the cause is known to be minor, but if it does not improve quickly or the person is 40 years of age or older, seek medical care.
  • Follow-up is important in case the treatment is not effective or rectal bleeding starts again.
  • The prognosis of rectal bleeding depends on the cause and the person's response to treatment; in general, those people that loose a small amount of blood do better than those who loose large amounts of blood (usually the elderly people with other medical problems).

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