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.
Rectal bleeding may occur for many reasons, including constipation and hemorrhoids.
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 the 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 worrisome. If you're under age 40 and your rectal bleeding is from an obvious cause, such as a hard stool, small anal fissure or other identifiable source, you can treat it with an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream or hydrocortisone.
Apr. 30, 2011
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- Bjorkman DJ. Gastrointestinal hemorrhage and occult gastrointestinal bleeding. In: Goldman L, et al. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/191371208-2/0/1492/0.html#. Accessed March 11, 2011.
- 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 March 11, 2011.
- Jutabha R. Etiology of lower gastrointestinal bleeding in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 11, 2011.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2011.