What is rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding occurs when you bleed within your GI tract, with the blood then exiting through the rectum. Although you may think of rectal bleeding as the spontaneous passage of bright red blood in the toilet bowl, GI tract blood loss can present as black tarry stool, bright red blood, red clots of blood, maroon stool, or just bright red blood on toilet paper.

What are the causes of rectal bleeding?

There can be multiple different causes of rectal bleeding, including:

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Proctitis (inflammation in the rectum)
  • Diverticular bleeding
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Malformed blood vessels in the colon (arterio-venous malformations)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Esophagitis
  • Esophageal varices (dilated veins that line the esophagus, seen in chronic liver disease)

When should I see a doctor for rectal bleeding

Rectal bleeding needs to be evaluated by a physician, whether it is new or chronic.

When should I go to an emergency room for rectal bleeding?

You should go to an emergency room for further evaluation if you have abdominal pain, light headedness, dizziness, nausea, or are concerned about the passage of blood from your rectum. If your rectal bleeding is a medical emergency, it is best to go to an emergency department.

How does a gastroenterologist diagnose rectal bleeding?

As can be seen above, there are many different causes of rectal bleeding. The evaluation of rectal bleeding first starts with an office visit to discuss characteristics of your rectal bleeding, including onset, frequency and associated symptoms. Further evaluation often includes blood work and endoscopic procedures such as a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.

What are the treatments for rectal bleeding?

Successful treatment of rectal bleeding depends on an accurate diagnosis! It all starts with an office visit, followed by a colonoscopy with specific therapy to treat your cause of rectal bleeding.