Rectal bleeding is a condition characterized by blood coming from the anus, rectum, or colon, which are the final parts of the digestive system. The color of the blood can vary and indicate the location of the bleeding. Bright red blood typically suggests bleeding in the lower part of the colon or rectum, while darker red blood can be a sign of bleeding in the small intestine or upper colon. Very dark or black blood is often associated with bleeding in the stomach or other organs of the digestive system. In this article, we will explore 11 common causes of rectal bleeding, along with their associated symptoms. Additionally, we will discuss the situations in which it is necessary to seek medical attention for rectal bleeding.
Hemorrhoids are inflamed blood vessels in the anal area and are a prevalent condition. They can occur externally or internally and may cause small bumps that bleed during bowel movements or when wiping. Hemorrhoids can affect individuals of any age, and certain risk factors, such as pregnancy, chronic constipation, straining during bowel movements, prolonged sitting on the toilet, obesity, and a low-fiber diet, can contribute to their development. Over-the-counter creams and suppositories containing hydrocortisone are often effective in treating hemorrhoids. Managing the condition can also involve taking warm baths, consuming a fiber-rich diet, and using stool softeners to alleviate discomfort.
Fistulas form when an abnormal opening or pocket develops between adjacent organs. Fistulas that develop between the anus and rectum or between the anus and the skin can result in the discharge of white fluid and blood. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat fistulas, but surgery may be necessary in more advanced cases.
Fissures occur when the tissues lining the anus, colon, or rectum tear, causing rectal pain and bleeding. Warm baths, a diet high in fiber, and the use of stool softeners can help alleviate fissure symptoms. In severe cases, creams or surgery may be recommended to treat the condition.
Diverticulosis refers to the formation of small pouches (diverticula) on the colon walls in weakened areas of the muscular layers. While these pouches are common, they may occasionally bleed, but the bleeding usually stops on its own. Diverticula do not typically cause symptoms and may not require treatment unless they become infected, leading to a condition known as diverticulitis. Infected diverticula are painful and can cause rectal bleeding, usually characterized by a moderate flow of blood for a few seconds. Treatment for diverticulitis involves antibiotics and, in severe cases, surgery.
Proctitis or Colitis
Proctitis refers to the inflammation of the rectum's tissues, often resulting in pain and bleeding. Colitis, on the other hand, occurs when the colon's lining becomes inflamed. Ulcerative colitis, a type of colitis, can lead to the development of ulcers, which are open sores prone to bleeding. The treatment for proctitis and colitis varies based on the underlying causes and may range from antibiotics to surgical intervention.
Common causes of proctitis and colitis include infections, certain diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease, specific medications such as anticoagulants, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, anal sex, decreased blood flow to the colon or rectum, and obstructions in the colon or rectum.
Bacterial infections can cause inflammation in the colon and stomach, resulting in diarrhea that may contain mucus and blood spots. Viral gastroenteritis typically does not cause bloody diarrhea. Treatment for gastroenteritis generally involves rest, fluids, and the use of antibiotics or antivirals as needed.
In conclusion, rectal bleeding can be caused by various factors, including hemorrhoids, fistulas, fissures, diverticulitis, proctitis or colitis, and gastroenteritis. Determining the underlying cause of rectal bleeding requires medical evaluation. It is important to seek medical attention if rectal bleeding is persistent, severe, accompanied by other concerning symptoms, or if there is a personal or family history of colorectal cancer. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help manage the condition effectively.