Whether your symptoms are recent, or you have been suffering for a long time, specialist healthcare is available to help reduce, or relieve the pain and discomfort you are experiencing. There are many conditions linked to rectal bleeding and in all cases, expert advice is required to determine the cause of your symptoms. It is important to not feel embarrassed to approach your doctor, as whilst some cases may not be a major cause of concern, other cases may be a sign of a wider medical issue that needs immediate attention. Following diagnosis, symptoms can be treated to help you get your life back on track.
Bright red blood?If the blood is bright red, it generally means that the bleeding is close to the anus, as the blood is fresh. This can be a sign of conditions such as haemorrhoids or a small tear in the skin of your anus, known as an anal fissure.
Dark blood?If the blood is dark in colour, this generally means the bleeding is higher up in your digestive system. Sometimes this type of rectal bleeding makes your stools dark and sticky, and needs prompt diagnosis to determine the location of the bleeding and the cause.
Consultation with a specialist, who can conduct the necessary diagnosis tests, is the first step to better understanding your symptoms.
Bowel cancer. One reason why it is always important to seek diagnosis for rectal bleeding is that it can be a sign of the early stage of bowel cancer.
Invariably treating bowel cancer is significantly more successful when diagnosed in the early stages.
Haemorrhoids. Also known as piles, these are swollen blood vessels in the rectum, which can bleed when you have a bowel movement.
Seeing bright red blood on the toilet paper, in the bowl or in your stools is a common sign.
Whilst they often heal on their own, sometimes they need treatment and diagnosis is necessary to rule out other options.
Anal fissures. The skin of the anus is very sensitive and subsequently can tear easily. These tears are known as anal fissures and can cause rectal bleeding.
Usually these can often heal naturally, but in some cases treatment may be required.
Diagnosis by a specialist will help eliminate other conditions.
Anal fistula. A fistula is often the result of an infection causing abscesses near the anus that can bleed when you go to the toilet.
It can also be linked to Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, so it is important to get it checked.
Gastroenteritis. This is an infection of the stomach and bowel that can leave you feeling pretty unwell for a few days.
A common symptom is diarrhoea, which may contain blood and mucus, alongside stomach cramps and vomiting. If rectal bleeding symptoms persist though, even when you start to feel better, then seek help from a specialist.
Diverticula. The lining of your lower bowel may contain small bulges, called diverticula.
Weak blood vessels inside can burst and cause rectal bleeding. Often this is painless but it can be alarming when there is a lot of blood being passed with your stools.
Bowel polyps. These are small, often tiny, growths that form on the lining of the bowel.
They can be completely harmless but they can also be the pre-cursor for bowel cancer, so it is important to have a Bowel Cancer Screening test if you are over 50 years old, or have a family history of bowel polyps or bowel cancer.
These polyps usually don’t produce symptoms but can cause blood in your stools if aggravated.
Other conditions related to rectal bleeding include:
- Anal cancer
- Ischemic colitis
- Diarrhoea causing anal irritation
- Rectal cancer
- A sore on the wall of the rectum
Other conditions can be treated with creams and medication, to ease the symptoms. The first stage is diagnosis, after which your doctor can discuss all treatment options if necessary.
is natural to feel apprehensive about a rectal examination, however it is more important to get your symptoms checked and your health back to normal.
A rectal examination is a quick and painless procedure that gastroenterologists carry out frequently. The doctor will use a gloved finger to examine your rectum, taking between one and five minutes feeling for abnormities.
If your doctor finds something unusual then you may require further tests, such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, that checks for bowel polyps or bowel cancer.
Natalie has been a consultant gastroenterologist since 2016 and in addition to her private practice she currently holds a post at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, with a specialist interest in gastroenterology and…
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Consultant Gastroenterologist & HPB Physician