Understanding Rectal Bleeding
Rectal bleeding is when blood passes through your rectum and anus. It can happen with or without a bowel movement. Rectal bleeding may be a sign of a serious problem in your rectum, colon, or upper GI tract. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any rectal bleeding.
The GI Tract
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. The food you eat is digested as it passes through the GI tract. Solid waste leaves the body through the rectum.
Rectal bleeding and GI problems
The cause of rectal bleeding may be found in any region of the GI tract. The colon or rectum may be the site of your bleeding problem. Or, bleeding may be due to problems farther up the GI tract, such as in the small intestine, duodenum, or stomach.
Causes of rectal bleeding
Rectal bleeding causes include the following:
Hemorrhoids (swollen veins in the rectum and anus)
Fissures (tears in or near the anus)
Diverticulosis (inflamed pockets in the colon wall)
Ischemia (low blood flow)
Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
Ulcers in the upper GI tract and inflammation of the large intestine
Abnormal tissue growths (tumors or polyps) in the GI tract
A bulging rectum (also called a rectal prolapse)
Abnormal blood vessels in the small intestine or in the colon
Common symptoms include the following:
Rectal pain, itching, or soreness
Belly pain or epigastric pain
Minor occasional drops of blood that appear on the stool or toilet paper, to greater amounts of stool that appear black or tarry
Rectal bleeding can also happen without pain.
March 21, 2017
World Gastroenterology Organization Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in 2010. Bernstein C. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. 2010;16(1):s112-24.
Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN,Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.,Lehrer, Jenifer, MD