Rectal Bleeding - WatsonsHealth


Rectal bleeding is a symptom of a problem within the GI tract. The definition is vast because it means that any blood passed rectally; as a result, the blood could come from any area or structure in the GI tract that enables blood to leak into the GI lumen, the place where food and fluid is processed for absorption or elimination as waste.

For instance, a bleeding ulcer in the stomach can have the blood excreted within the feces. Rectal bleeding may be due to problems on the rectum itself or from many different issues that arise somewhere else in the GI tract. Perirectal bleeding is bleeding in an area adjoining to the rectum and may be due to abscesses or fistulas.

The rectum is the last portion of the large intestine that ends before the anus. Bleeding from this area will be mild, serious, or even life-threatening; the presence of rectal bleeding should be carefully checked since it suggests that something is wrong within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Causes of rectal bleeding include:

  • 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
  • Less common causes like upper GI tract problems like ulcers and Mallory-Weiss tears in the esophagus.

Symptoms and signs include:

  • Maroon-colored stools
  • Blood staining the toilet bowl water
  • Bright red blood on or in the stool
  • Blood on the toilet tissue
  • Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract may cause tarry, black stools.

Other symptoms include:

  • Abdominal and /or rectal pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Rectal pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Fainting, palpitations or rapid heartbeat


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.

Tests usually include the following:

  • Anoscopy: A plastic or metal scope placed into the anus allows for quick examination of the rectal vault.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: A flexible tube inserted into the rectum is used to evaluate the rectum and lower end of the colon.
  • Colonoscopy
  • Barium enema X-ray: This study uses liquid barium inserted into the rectum.
  • Nuclear medicine studies: A tagged red blood cell scan may be used to pinpoint areas of slow bleeding.
  • CT scan: May be used to diagnose diverticulitis or tumors in the bowel.
  • Angiography: A contrast dye study is used to evaluate active areas of brisk bleeding.



Treatment of rectal bleeding is based on the underlying reasons; serious rectal bleeding causes like tumors or ulcers may need additional efforts including surgery and other therapy.

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