Rectal bleeding happens when one passes blood through the anus. Passage of blood during bowel movement usually means there is bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract. Sometimes the amount of blood that is passed with the stool is so less that it can only be detected by tests (which checks for hidden blood in the stool). Bleeding that usually happens higher up in the digestive tract makes the stool appear to be black and tarry. A person with blood in the stool may be unaware of bleeding and experience no symptoms. On the other hand, they may also have abdominal pain/cramping, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, palpitations, fainting, and weight loss depending on the cause, location, length, and severity of the bleeding
Some common causes of Rectal Bleeding may be:
- Diverticular disease – Diverticula are small pouches that protrude from the colon. They usually do not cause any problems, but sometimes they can bleed and become infected. Treatment may include a special diet, antibiotics, or surgery.
- Anal fissure – A cut or a tear in the lining the anus similar to cracks that occur in chapped lips or a paper cut are referred to as Anal fissure. They are generally caused by passing a large, hard stool and are very painful.
- Colitis – Inflammation of the colon due to infections in the inner lining of the colon.
- Angiodysplasia – Bleeding which happens due to fragile, abnormal blood vessels
- Peptic ulcers. They are open sore in the inner lining of the or the duodenum, the upper end of the small intestine. They are infections caused by bacteria called Helicobacter pylori ( pylori). Such ulcers are generally caused by long-term use or high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
- Polyps or cancer – Polyps are usually benign growths which can grow, bleed, and become cancerous. Colorectal cancer often causes bleeding that is not noticeable with the naked eye.
- Esophageal problems – Varicose veins of the esophagus or tears in the esophagus can also lead to severe blood loss.
An accurate diagnosis of the location and the cause of rectal bleeding is very important for proper treatment, and to prevent further bleeding. Diagnosis can be done based on physical examination, anoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, radionuclide scans, angiograms, Video capsule and small intestine endoscopy and blood tests.
Can rectal bleeding or blood in the stool be prevented?
Most diseases that cause rectal bleeding may be prevented by following these steps:
- Hemorrhoids can be avoided with proper diet so that there is no constipation and straining to pass stool. Sometimes normal pregnancy increases the risk of hemorrhoid formation as does the acute diarrhoeal illness.
- Avoiding constipation is believed to decrease the risk of diverticulosis, protrusions in the lining of the colon, and the risk of a diverticular bleed.
- Alcohol abuse increases the risk of rectal bleeding in a variety of ways, from directly irritating the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, to decreasing clotting capabilities of blood.