Rectal bleeding can refer to any blood that passes from your anus, although rectal bleeding is usually assumed to refer to bleeding from your lower colon or rectum. Your rectum makes up the last few inches of your large intestine.
Rectal bleeding may show up as blood in your stool, on the toilet paper or in the toilet bowl. Blood that results from rectal bleeding can range in color from bright red to dark maroon to a dark, tarry color.
Call 911 or emergency medical assistance
Seek emergency help if you have rectal bleeding and any signs of shock:
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness after standing up
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Low urine output
Seek immediate medical attention
Have someone drive you to urgent care or an emergency room if rectal bleeding is:
- Continuous or heavy
- Accompanied by severe abdominal pain or cramping
- Accompanied by anal pain
Schedule a doctor's visit
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have rectal bleeding that lasts more than a day or two, or earlier if the bleeding worries you.
Generally, people younger than 40 who whose rectal bleeding is from an obvious cause, such as constipation, don't need testing. However, many doctors recommend tests such as colonoscopy for people older than 40 to rule out the possibility of also having cancer that's contributing to the bleeding.
Oct. 15, 2016
- Bleeding in the digestive tract. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bleeding/index.htm. Accessed July 29, 2014.
- Strate L. Etiology of lower gastrointestinal bleeding in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 29, 2014.
- Understanding minor rectal bleeding. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. http://www.asge.org/patients/patients.aspx?id=6820. Accessed July 29, 2014.
- Rectal prolapse. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/rectal_prolapse/. Accessed July 30, 2014.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 7, 2014.