Digestive System Home > Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding is not an actual disease. Rather, it is a symptom of a disease -- which one depends on how the bleeding appears. Most cases are caused by hemorrhoids; however, some causes are more serious and even potentially life-threatening. Treatment options range from medications to endoscopy to surgery. The treatment prescribed will depend on where the bleeding is located, its cause, and its severity.

What Is Rectal Bleeding?

Rectal bleeding is a symptom of a disease rather than a disease itself. It can occur as the result of a number of different conditions, some of which may be life-threatening.
 
The most common cause of rectal bleeding is hemorrhoids. However, more serious causes are possible. So while the cause may not turn out to be serious, it is still important to locate the source of the bleeding.
 
It is important to see your doctor if you have rectal bleeding and:
 
  • You are older than 50
  • You have a family history of colon or rectal cancer
  • Bleeding occurs between bowel movements
  • The blood is dark red or maroon
  • You have tar-like, black stools.
     

The Link Between Rectal Bleeding and the Digestive Tract

The digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the:
 
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Large intestine (colon)
  • Rectum
  • Anus.
     
Rectal bleeding can come from one or more of these areas. For example, bleeding may come from a small area, such as an ulcer on the lining of the stomach, or from a large surface, such as an inflammation of the colon.
 
Rectal bleeding can sometimes occur without the person noticing it. This type of bleeding is called occult, or hidden, bleeding. Fortunately, simple tests can detect occult blood in the stool.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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