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Gastroenterology Blog

What Causes Rectal Bleeding: Understanding Your Symptoms

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 @ 1:59 PM

rectal bleedingBlood seen in the toilet or after wiping can be alarming.  Your mind may begin to race, wondering what is causing the bleeding and if it could be something serious.  Fortunately, the cause behind most cases of rectal bleeding is benign and easily treatable, so there is often no need to panic. Still, this is a symptom that should never be ignored and requires evaluation by a qualified physician to determine its source and treatment.  In the majority of patients, rectal bleeding will ultimately be attributed to one of the following three causes:

Bleeding Due to Anal Fissures

Anal fissures are tears in the lining of the anus. They can be caused by chronic diarrhea, straining during bowel movements, childbirth, and hardened stools. Symptoms of anal fissures include visible skin tears around the anus, pain during and after bowel movements, itching, irritation, and of course, rectal bleeding.  In rare cases, fissures can be an indicator of something more severe such as HIV or anal cancer.  If a physician suspects these conditions, further testing will be needed.

Bleeding Due to Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are blood vessels that are swollen and create a lump in the lining of the anus or lower rectum. The lumps can be visible depending on their location and cause discomfort, irritation, swelling, and itchiness, as well as rectal bleeding. Nearly three-fourths of adults will experience hemorrhoids throughout their life.  These can typically be attributed to factors such as low-fiber diet, straining during bowel movements, being pregnant, or sitting on the toilet for too long.

Bleeding Due to Constipation

When stool has become hardened and not enough water is being absorbed in the digestive process, constipation is a likely result.  Constipation is typically defined by having fewer than three bowel movements over the course of a week.  This can cause rectal bleeding through straining as well as hardened stool tearing the lining of the rectum or anus during a bowel movement.   

While the above conditions are often isolated, like rectal bleeding, they too can be a symptom resulting from a separate condition.  The only way to definitively determine the source is to see a medical professional such as a gastroenterologist.  Often, simple treatment methods such as increasing fiber intake, changing diet, or using medicated ointments are enough to resolve the issue.  For others, more in-depth testing or treatment protocols may be needed.

If you are experiencing frequent rectal bleeding, it is imperative that you discuss the situation with your healthcare provider. They will likely recommend a visit with a specialist such as those at Gastroenterology Associates where your symptoms can be diagnosed, treated, and monitored by a licensed gastroenterologist. Call today or schedule an appointment.

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