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 is usually bright red in color, but occasionally can be dark maroon.
Call 911 or emergency medical assistance
Seek emergency help if you have significant 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 an emergency room if rectal bleeding is:
- Continuous or heavy
- Accompanied by severe abdominal pain or cramping
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 hemorrhoids, don't need testing. However, many doctors recommend tests such as a colonoscopy for people older than 40 to rule out any possibility of also having cancer that's contributing to the bleeding.
Jan. 11, 2018
- Strate L. Etiology of lower gastrointestinal bleeding in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 30, 2017.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastrointestinal-bleeding. Accessed Jan. 26, 2017.
- Strate LL, et al. ACG clinical guideline: Management of patients with acute lower gastrointestinal bleeding. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2016;111:459.
- Understanding minor rectal bleeding. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. http://www.asge.org/patients/patients.aspx?id=6820. Accessed Jan. 30, 2017.
- MacGilchrist A, et al. The gastrointestinal system. In: MacLeod's Clinical Examination. 13th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier. 2013. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 26, 2017.
- Tsai MH, et al. Colonoscopy screening among U.S. adults aged 40 or older with a family history of colorectal cancer. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2015;12:140533.
- Litin SC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 30, 2017.