What is rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding indicates the passage of blood from the anus. The bleeding may arise from any part of the gastrointestinal tract, including the rectum. Therefore, rectal bleeding can be caused by any number of gastrointestinal difficulties. Typically, bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract manifests as black or tarry stool known as melena. The black color develops because of chemical changes that occur as the blood passes through the digestive tract. The passage of bright red blood from the anus is known as hematochezia and usually results from bleeding from sources that are closer to the anus and rectum.

Digestive Problems Spotlight

Common causes of rectal bleeding are hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and diverticulosis. The severity of rectal bleeding varies among individuals depending on the cause. Most often, people experience rectal bleeding that is mild, is caused by minor problems such as hemorrhoids, and resolves on its own. People who have severe bleeding may see a large amount of blood after a single bowel movement, which, if it continues, can result in significant blood loss. Symptoms of blood loss include lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, and difficulty breathing.

While rectal bleeding can be minor, it can also result from severe conditions that are characterized by prolonged bleeding. In these cases, serious complications such as shock can develop. Rectal bleeding can also occur from cancers in the digestive tract.

Left untreated, severe rectal bleeding can result in a life-threatening loss of blood. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as pale skin or pallor and difficulty breathing, severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood or black material, or change in level of consciousness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding is a symptom of a disease originating in the digestive tract. A number of different conditions can cause bleeding. Many causes of bleeding are related to conditions that can be cured or controlled, such as ulcers or hemorrhoids. Some causes of bleeding may be life threatening.... Read more about rectal bleedingsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding can be the result of any condition of the digestive tract, particularly the lower gastrointestinal organs. The rectum itself may bleed due to hemorrhoids or anal fissures. Other common causes for rectal bleeding include inflammation or infection of the colon or weakening of the intestinal blood vessels.... Read more about rectal bleedingcauses

TREATMENTS

How is rectal bleeding treated?

Treatment for rectal bleeding begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. Diagnostic procedures, such as endoscopy, colonoscopy or angiography, may be done to pinpoint the source of the bleeding.... Read more about rectal bleedingtreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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