8 Possible Causes of Rectal Bleeding

Jan 16, 2024

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It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t developed rectal bleeding at some point in their lives. As a symptom, rectal bleeding can be perfectly normal or signal a larger problem. Let’s take a look.

Finding blood where it shouldn’t be can be disconcerting, such as in your stool. That said, this occurrence is all too common, and almost everyone has developed rectal bleeding at one time or another during their lives.

On its own, a one-time occurrence is typically not a problem, but if you’re experiencing rectal bleeding with some frequency or it comes with other symptoms, it’s time to investigate the issue further.

To get you started, the in-depth team of board-certified surgeons here at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery pulled together a few of the more common culprits behind rectal bleeding.

1. Hemorrhoids

Did you know that about half of adults over the age of 50 have hemorrhoids — a condition in which veins around your anus are swollen? Given that the condition involves blood vessels, it makes sense that rectal bleeding is a common symptom. With hemorrhoids, the blood is typically bright red and can coat your stool, or you may find it on your toilet paper after you wipe.

2. Anal fissure

Another way in which bright red blood can show up in your stool or on your toilet paper is with an anal fissure, which is a tear in the lining of your anus. In addition to the rectal bleeding, these fissures are usually quite painful when you have a bowel movement.

3. Anal fistula

If you’re experiencing a bloody, foul-smelling discharge, this type of rectal bleeding might stem from an anal fistula, which is an irregular tunnel that leads out to your skin from an anal gland. This newly formed tunnel, called a fistula, can trap debris and bacteria, which can lead to an infection and/or abscess.

4. Constipation and hard stools

If you’re constipated or you have hard stool (usually due to dehydration), the lining of your lower bowel, your rectum, and your anus can be damaged as you pass stool, which can lead to bleeding. The blood in these cases would be bright red.

5. Diarrhea

On the other end of the spectrum, if you have moderate to severe diarrhea, this, too, can irritate your bowels, rectum, and anus and lead to rectal bleeding.

6. Ulcerative colitis

Now, let’s move to issues that are farther up in your lower intestinal system, such as ulcerative colitis, which affects about one million people in the United States. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition in your bowels, and rectal bleeding is a common side effect. This blood would be in or on your stool, and you might also encounter a fair amount of mucus.

7. Crohn’s disease

Unlike ulcerative colitis, which only involves your lower intestine, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that can cause inflammation anywhere along your digestive tract, from your mouth down to your anus. Among the many symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal cramping, is rectal bleeding.

8. Colorectal cancer

More than 150,000 colorectal cancers are diagnosed each year in the US, and among the first symptoms is rectal bleeding. This bleeding would be bright red.

As you can see, there are many roads to rectal bleeding; some are more serious than others. If your rectal bleeding is more than a one-off and you’re experiencing other symptoms, it’s a very good idea to have us check it out.

For expert diagnosis and treatment of your rectal bleeding, please contact one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia, to schedule an appointment.