Rectal bleeding is always alarming when it occurs. Minor bleeding isn’t always dangerous, although it can be. There are several possible causes for rectal bleeding and a complete evaluation and early diagnosis by your doctor is very important. Rectal bleeding, whether it is minor or not, can be a symptom of any type of colorectal or anal cancer, a type of cancer that can be cured if detected early. Rectal bleeding can also be caused by hemorrhoids or many other causes. If you are having blood from your anus or if the blood appears in conjunction with other symptoms, you should consult a doctor or a gastroenterologist like Dr. Khodadadian. It may be a sign of a serious condition.
Symptoms of Rectal Bleeding
Minor rectal bleeding is when you find bright red blood on your stool, on the toilet paper or in your toilet bowl. You may or may not experience any pain when you discover rectal bleeding. If you do feel pain, it can be mild, as with hemorrhoids, or can be severe, as with anal fissures.
If your stool is covered in mucus, it can be a sign that you have proctitis. An inflammation of your rectal lining, it can make you feel like you still have to go, even after you’ve just had a bowel movement. It also can give you a frequent urge to go again.
If your stool looks black, tarry or maroon, you should call your doctor immediately for an evaluation. Rectal bleeding, whether minor or not, can be a sign of colon cancer, which can be cured if detected early.
Causes of Rectal Bleeding
There are several less serious causes for minor rectal bleeding, such as hemorrhoids. Rectal bleeding sometimes can signal other medical conditions, such as the presence of an anal fissure or polyp. Colon cancer can cause a significant volume of blood to pass from your rectum.
Hemorrhoids are veins just below the surface of the skin that have become inflamed or swollen. They can occur on the skin around your anus (external hemorrhoids) or inside your rectum (internal hemorrhoids). Already sensitive, they bleed easily if irritated. If you find bright red blood while suffering from hemorrhoids, it’s often nothing to worry about. Common causes of hemorrhoids are:
- Sitting on the toilet too long
- Straining during bowel movements
- Chronic diarrhea or constipation
- A low-fiber diet
Colon or rectal polyps are benign growths within the lining of your colon or rectum. Some can cause minor bleeding. Polyps usually are the result of abnormal cell growth. Although a vast majority of polyps do not lead to cancer, some do if left untreated, so it’s important to remove them. That’s why most doctors recommend a regular colonoscopy for people over 50.
Solitary rectal ulcer syndrome is a rare medical condition caused by long-running constipation or protracted straining during bowel movements. Ulcers form as open sores or wounds in the lining of your rectum caused by bacteria or certain medications. This condition typically leads to rectal bleeding.
Proctitis is a medical condition that occurs when the lining of your rectum becomes inflamed. This can be a painful condition. Causes include:
- An infection
- Certain medications
- Prior radiation therapy for cancer treatment
- Some forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Tears in the lining of your anus are called anal fissures. Most often, they appear after bouts of constipation, passing hard stools, diarrhea or inflammation. Anal fissures can cause pain during and immediately after a bowel movement.
The second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, colon cancer begins in your large intestine. Since it is a slow-growing disease, it can be effectively treated with early detection. Most cases of colon cancer come from polyps in your colon. Finding polyps through a colonoscopy and removing them reduces your cancer risk. Anal cancer is less common but also curable when diagnosed early.
Diagnosing Rectal Bleeding
During your examination, Dr. Khodadadian has several options to find the source of your rectal bleeding. He may:
- Examine your anus visually
- Feel for abnormalities within your rectum with a gloved, lubricated finger
- Perform a colonoscopy
- Recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Use an anoscope, a short tube with a camera on its tip
Treating Rectal Bleeding
While there are several ways to treat hemorrhoids, Dr. Khodadadian may recommend infrared coagulation as the definitive response to stubborn hemorrhoids. This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive, outpatient option uses infrared light to cause your small, bleeding, internal hemorrhoids to harden and shrivel. The process also may prevent future hemorrhoids. Other treatments for hemorrhoids include topical creams, rubber band ligation, schlerotherapy and surgery.
Other conditions require different treatment options. Polyps found in your colon are removed during a colonoscopy. Treating rectal ulcers involves taking fiber supplements to relieve your constipation. If the ulcers do not respond or are in an advanced stage, you may need surgery. Proctitis treatments depend on the cause. Most anal fissures can be remedied with topical creams, warm baths, fiber supplements or stool softeners. For resistant fissures, Dr. Khodadadian may prescribe medication to relax your sphincter muscles. Surgery remains a rarely used option.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced physician like Dr. Khodadadian can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
As a best in class NYC gastroenterologist, Dr. Shawn Khodadadian provides highly personalized and comprehensive care. His philosophy regarding the doctor/patient relationship is based on trust and has earned him one of the most respected reputations in NYC.
For more information about the gastroenterology services offered or to schedule an appointment with the GI doctor, Dr. Shawn Khodadidan, please contact our Upper East Side NYC office.
Dr. Shawn Khodadadian
983 Park Ave, Ste 1D
New York, NY 10028