Rectal bleeding refers to passage of blood through the anus along with the stools. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine and lies right above the anus. The blood may be bright red to dark maroon. Usually, it may occur as a result of constipation and hemorrhoids. The amount of blood that is passed may vary from few drops to large quantities often mixed with stools or blood clots.
The common causes of rectal bleeding are disease conditions which include colon cancer, anal cancer, anal fissure, colon polyp, hemorrhoids, constipation, and Crohn’s disease. Rarely, rapid and severe bleeding from stomach ulcers can cause rectal bleeding.
Common symptoms of rectal bleeding are loss of large amounts of blood associated with other symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, and fainting. Severe bleeding may also cause a state of shock.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Your physician will identify the location and the cause of rectal bleeding as it is important for an appropriate treatment plan. Proper diagnosis begins with a brief medical history and physical examination which is followed by few clinical tests such as anoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, radionuclide scans, angiograms, and blood tests.
The treatment plan for rectal bleeding comprises of the following
- Identification of the cause and location of bleeding: Colonoscopy procedure helps to determine the cause and location of bleeding.
- Treatment of anemia and low blood volume: Administration of intravenous fluids and blood transfusion is done to replenish the lost blood. Iron supplements should be taken for a long term as a treatment of anemia.
- Stopping active rectal bleeding and preventing further bleeding: Mild rectal bleeding such as that in anal fissures and haemorrhoids can be stopped with the use of haemorrhoidal creams and stool softeners. Colonoscopy, apart from being a diagnostic procedure also helps to stop bleeding by cauterization. Cauterization is done with a long cauterizing probe. Visceral angiograms can also be used to infuse medications to constrict the blood vessel and stop bleeding.
Surgery becomes necessary when there is a bleeding polyp or colon cancer to be excised.