Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding is a common concern

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.

rectal bleeding
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Rectal Bleeding Symptoms and Information

Rectal bleeding is extremely common, however many people still suffer in silence and are afraid to talk to their doctor. Remember, that gastrointestinal specialists are accustomed to dealing with these concerns and many other people are experiencing the same symptoms. It is estimated that each year, in the UK, 10% of adults have rectal bleeding for some reason or another – you are not alone. Rectal bleeding usually is noticed first by blood on the toilet paper, in the water of the toilet bowl, or in your stools. Consultation with a specialist, who can conduct the necessary diagnosis tests, is the first step to better understanding your symptoms.

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.

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What Causes Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding can be a sign of many conditions so it is important to not think of the worst-case scenario before you get properly diagnosed.
However, rectal bleeding is one of the main symptoms of the early stages of bowel cancer, so it is equally important not to ignore your symptoms either.

Rectal bleeding can be related to:

 

Bowel cancer
One reason why it is always important to seek a diagnosis for rectal bleeding is that it can be a sign of the early stage of bowel cancer. 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.

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.

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.

Other conditions related to rectal bleeding include:

  • Anal cancer
  • Angiodyslasia
  • Ischemic colitis
  • Proctitis
  • Diarrhoea causing anal irritation
  • Rectal cancer
  • A sore on the wall of the rectum
Rectal Bleeding Treatment

The treatment of rectal bleeding varies significantly. Some conditions will clear up naturally, and diagnosis is simply needed to ensure that there isn’t a more sincere medical issue that needs attention.

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Treatments may include:

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.

Diagnosing conditions related to rectal bleeding
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.

Doctors Who Can Treat Rectal Bleeding
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