What Causes Rectal Bleeding?
Even though rectal bleeding is fairly common, only a third of those that have it, seek treatment. It’s symptoms develop quickly and most causes aren’t serious and easily treatable. In certain cases, rectal bleeding be a sign of a serious disease such as colorectal cancer. Which is the reason why any rectal bleeding should be reported to your primary care physician. A colonoscopy or other rectal examinations can help determine the cause of the bleeding.
Causes of Rectal Bleeding:
- Anal fissure
- Anal abscess or fistula
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Large polyps
The Most Common Cause of Rectal Bleeding
Hemorrhoids are the most common cause of rectal bleeding. They are swollen veins located either in the rectum or the anus. The common cause of hemorrhoids, also called piles, is chronic straining at stools or constipation, work strain, pregnancy, obesity, or anal intercourse. To treat hemorrhoids, you first need to address the cause, such as treating the straining habits or constipation. In certain cases, surgical treatment is required and may include one of the following methods:
- Sclerotherapy: the injection of a chemical solution around the blood vessel shrinks the hemorrhoid.
- Rubber band ligation: a rubber band placed around the base of the hemorrhoid, cutting off circulation to the hemorrhoid and causing it to wither away.
- Hemorrhoidal arterial ligation: uses a Doppler probe to locate and tie the blood vessels feeding the hemorrhoid, shrinking it.
- Laser: a precise laser beam is used to burn away small hemorrhoids.
- Hemorrhoidectomy: surgical removal of the hemorrhoid.
- Procedure for prolapsed hemorrhoids (PPH): puts hemorrhoids that have come out of the anal canal back into their original positions.
What Is an Anal Fissure?
An anal fissure is a tear or split in the lining of the anus, causing burning pain or bleeding after bowel movements. Most common cause is the passing of a hard stool. A spasm of the sphincter muscle is what makes you feel pain. This is a protective measure used by your body when a stool passing through, expands the tear. Fissures are sometimes misdiagnosed as hemorrhoids. They often go away on their own, but if not, applied medication or ointments can help to relax the muscles and relieve the pain. For chronic or recurrent fissures, surgery may be required.
What Is a Perianal Abscess?
Inside the anus, there are small glands which open, to help with passing stool. If one of these glands become blocked, an infection may occur. This will result in a pocket of pus, an abscess. It can be drained in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Drainage of large abscesses will require anesthesia. About 33% of all perianal abscesses will develop into an anal fistula.
What Is a Fistula?
The consequence of an infection in the perianal area is an anal fistula. It’s the connection between the rectum or anus to the skin around the anus. Fistulas commonly start as infections in the anal gland, which are naturally present in the anus. Surgery is required in order to fully heal. Other causes of fistulas are tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, or radiation.
What Are Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis?
The development of diverticulosis is caused by small pouches (diverticuli) forming in the weakened sections of intestine lining and protrude through the bowel wall. Diverticuli are common in older people in Western societies and are discovered when seen on a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Diverticulosis is a benign disorder but infection and bleeding may occur and are related complications. Diverticuli usually don’t have any symptoms, unless they are infected or become blocked, leading to diverticulitis. Diverticulitis symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, and a sudden change in bowel habits. Treatment include antibiotics, special diets, or surgery.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?
IBD is an inflammation of the large or small intestine and it comes in two types. The first type is Crohn’s disease, patches of inflammation appearing anywhere in the digestive tract. Colitis is the other type of IBD, marked by inflammation in the large bowel. Some other types of colitis include:
- Radiation colitis (following radiotherapy, usually for prostate, rectal, or gynecological cancer)
- Infectious colitis (caused by an infection that attacks the large bowel)
- Ulcerative colitis (ulcers/sores in the large intestine lining)
Ischemic colitis (the result of a poor blood supply to the colon)
IBD symptoms may include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Intestinal blockage
- Abdominal pain or cramping
Treatment of IBD is crucial and can involve medication, special diet to reduce inflammation, and/or surgery.
What Are Ulcers?
Ulcers are small sores in the first section of the small intestine or stomach lining. They are caused by an imbalance of digestive stomach fluids and the duodenum. The most common symptom of ulcers is abdominal pain, but many ulcers have no symptoms at all. Ulcers bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract can cause black stool, often with a tar-like appearance. Ulcers can be treated without the use of surgery, and successful treatment can prevent new ulcers from forming again. Methods of treatment include:
- Special diet
- Medications which strengthen gastric acid resistance in the duodenum and stomach
- Medications which reduce or neutralize gastric acid.
What Are Polyps, and How Are Polyps Related to Colorectal Cancer?
Since rectal bleeding is one of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, it should never be ignored. Colorectal cancer, if diagnosed and treated early enough can be cured. It develops when the normal division and growth of the cells lining the large bowel goes out of control, which will first result in the formation of polyp(s). When polyps grow to a certain size, they may bleed. Most polyps aren’t cancerous, but certain types are regarded precancerous and if left untreated can develop into cancer.
Therefore, it’s recommended to remove polyps before they develop into cancer. To locate and remove polyps in preventing colorectal cancer, physician use colonoscopy. People with a family history of colorectal cancer or those who previously had cancer are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer. The treatment for colorectal cancer may include:
Colorectal cancer in its early stages doesn’t usually show any symptoms. That’s why regular screening is crucial, especially for those who are at increased risk.