Read below about rectal bleeding, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your rectal bleeding from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Anal bleeding
Bloody bottom

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Rectal Bleeding Symptoms

It may be something of a shock to notice bright red blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet tissue, but rectal bleeding is more common than you might think. Some causes are serious, but most of the time the bleeding is not dangerous and can be readily treated.

Characteristics:

  • There will bright red blood from the rectum, which most commonly appears during or just after having a bowel movement.
  • There may be pressure or discomfort in the rectum at the time of the bleeding.
  • If the blood is coming from higher up in the intestine and is therefore contained within the stools, the stools will appear black or maroon in color.

Duration:

  • An acute episode of rectal bleeding is one that occurs suddenly, with perhaps a large amount of blood evident.
  • Chronic rectal bleeding may happen on and off for months or years, with only a small amount of blood present. It never seems to get better or to get worse.

Who is most often affected by rectal bleeding?

  • Adults over age 40 are probably most often affected.
  • However, anyone can have the symptom of rectal bleeding, including children, especially if there has been severe and chronic constipation or diarrhea.

When is rectal bleeding most likely to occur?

  • Rectal bleeding often begins in the presence of chronic constipation due to the ongoing straining and pressure on the walls of the rectum.
  • Bleeding may also occur when there is chronic diarrhea, because of the irritation and inflammation that this causes in the tissues.

Is rectal bleeding serious?

  • An occasional and very small amount of blood, especially in the presence of hemorrhoids and/or constipation, is most likely not serious.
  • However, if there is rectal pain or bleeding that become chronic, especially if these occur along with other symptoms of intestinal illness, you should see your medical provider so that tests can be done and treatment can be given.

Rectal Bleeding Causes Overview

Many conditions can have rectal bleeding as a symptom. The most common are those involving constipation and hemorrhoids. However, bowel diseases, sexual activity, sexually transmitted infections, and tumors of the rectum or anus can also cause bleeding.

Most common cause types:

  • Fissures, or tearing and bleeding, of the rectal or anal tissue.
  • Hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins either inside the rectum or beneath the outer skin of the anus. These enlarged veins can bleed easily under additional pressure, such as when you are having a bowel movement.

Less common cause types:

  • Bowel diseases, many of which cause irritation and inflammation of the lining of the intestines.
  • Polyps, which are benign growths in the wall of the intestine and can become malignant if not removed.
  • Sexual activity of any kind that causes trauma to the anus and/or rectum, including infection with sexually transmitted diseases that damage these tissues.

Rare & unusual cause types:

  • Rectal ulcers, which are sores within the lining of the rectum. These are most often due to chronic, ongoing constipation and the subsequent straining.
  • Proctitis, which is any inflammation of the lining of the rectum.
  • Colon, rectal, or anal tumors, as well as the radiation therapy that may be used to treat them.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Rectal Bleeding

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced rectal bleeding. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Hemorrhoids

    Hemorrhoids are a very common condition that affects more 50% of the population, typically after the age of 30. Hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels in the anus that can bleed or clot.

    Chronic and can worsen with time. But, 90% of people are successfully managed with non-surgical treatments.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, rectal pain, rectal bleeding, pain when passing stools, anal itching
    Symptoms that never occur with hemorrhoids:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Chronic or Recurrent Hemorrhoids

    Hemorrhoids are a very common condition that affects more 50% of the population, typically after the age of 30. Hemorrhoids are the "varicose veins of the anus and rectum" - enlarged, bulging blood vessels in the anus that can bleed or clot.

    Chronic hemorrhoids can worsen with time. But, 90% of people are successfully managed with non-surgical treatments.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal bleeding, rectal pain, pain when passing stools, anal itching, painless rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic or recurrent hemorrhoids:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Anal Fissure

    Anal fissures are splits or tears in the part of the anus closest outside of the body. They're very common and typically affect the young and middle-aged and both genders, equally. 11% of people will have an anal fissure in their lifetime.

    Conservative treatment leads to 50% healing rate. More aggressive treatments are needed for those with chronic anal fissures.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal pain, pain when passing stools, painful rectal bleeding, hard stools, mild rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with anal fissure:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding

    The digestive, or gastrointestinal (GI), tract includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. Lower gastrointestinal bleeding refers to internal bleeding from the large intestine, rectum, or anus, usually caused by hemorrhoids, ischemic bowel disease, or inflammatory bowel disease.

    Bleeding may stop by itself in 85% of patients, but sometimes this condition is life-threatening.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal bleeding, severe rectal bleeding, moderate rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service

    Rectal Bleeding Checker

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  5. 5.Colonic Neoplasm

    Colonic neoplasm is a disorder of the large intestine. It often causes abdominal pain, cramping, changes in bowel habits, and fatigue.

    The treatment & prognosis for colonic neoplasm are variable and dependent on the disease severity.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, stool changes, diarrhea, constipation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Chronic Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), pain when passing stools, rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic constipation:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Intestinal Inflammation (Diverticulitis)

    Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the colon, or large intestine. Diverticulitis is a condition where the pouches become inflamed or infected, a process which can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation.

    Likely to recover within months to years without requiring surgery.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with intestinal inflammation (diverticulitis):
    pain below the ribs, pain in the upper right abdomen
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.New Onset Crohn's Disease

    Crohn's disease is a disorder caused by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The damaging inflammation causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition.

    Not expected to reduce life expectancy

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Diverticulosis

    Diverticulosis is a condition where small pouches bulge outward through the large intestine (colon). It increases with age, with up to 50% of people over the age of 60 having developed it. Most people don't have symptoms. Eating fiber is shown to reduce the risk of diverticulosis, with vegetarians reducing their risk by half.

    Diverticulosis does not typically go away; however, the risk of complications can be reduced with a better diet

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, incomplete evacuation of stools
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Rectal Bleeding Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • A significant amount of blood suddenly appears from the rectum, whether this happens during a bowel movement or not.
  • You also have severe abdominal pain or cramping.
  • You feel cold, nauseated, dizzy, or lightheaded, or actually faint, while symptoms of rectal bleeding are occurring. This may indicate that a large amount of blood is being lost internally.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Rectal bleeding that happens on a regular basis, even if there seems to be only a small amount of blood.
  • Stools that appear, tarry, black, or maroon. These colors indicate larger amounts of blood being present.
  • Bleeding that occurs on its own and not while you are having a bowel movement.
  • Ongoing pain in the anus and rectum, often with mucus discharge.

Remedies that you can try at home:

  • Easing constipation through improved diet and exercise, drinking more water, and taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement.
  • Trying warm baths and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for the hemorrhoids.

FAQs About Rectal Bleeding

Here are some frequently asked questions about rectal bleeding.

Does rectal bleeding stop on its own?

Rectal bleeding (hematochezia) may stop on its own depending on the cause. A hemorrhoid or injury of the anus, like an anal tear, will usually stop bleeding on its own. If you have rectal bleeding that has not been examined by a medical professional, you should seek examination and treatment.

Can rectal bleeding cause anemia?

Yes, bleeding from the rectum (hematochezia) can cause anemia if it is uncontrolled acutely or chronically. There are many causes of rectal bleeding, the most common are hemorrhoids and anal fissures, but cirrhosis or liver failure from alcohol can also increase the risk of bleeds as can diverticulosis or an outpouching of the colon.

Can rectal bleeding be caused by stress?

Generally no, rectal bleeding (hematochezia) is not caused by stress. Stomach ulcers can be caused by stress, but the enzymes and hormones that cause a stomach ulcer do not affect the rectum similarly. If you are experiencing rectal bleeding you should seek medical care.

Why does rectal bleeding occur after a bowel movement?

Rectal bleeding (hematochezia) may occur after a particularly large or hard bowel movement, especially if associated with straining, from an anal tear or anal fissure. Less commonly, stool that has an abrasive substance like nuts or undigested whole grains can tear the anal mucosa and cause bright red blood on the toilet paper or in the bowl.

Why does my rectal bleeding come and go?

Rectal bleeding (hematochezia) can come and go for a variety of reasons. It can be caused by hemorrhoids as well as anal fissures, certain types of inflammatory bowel disease, deformations or changes of the rectum and cancers. Most of these causes can produce intermittent bleeding so you should seek medical evaluation to determine the cause. Intermittent bleeding is often caused by intermittent clotting or blockage of a bleed with firm stool.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Rectal Bleeding

  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?
  • Q.Do you have a history of constipation?
  • Q.Is your bleeding painful or painless?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our rectal bleeding symptom checker to find out more.

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Rectal Bleeding Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced rectal bleeding have also experienced:

    • 11% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 8% Diarrhea
    • 4% Nausea
  • People who have experienced rectal bleeding had symptoms persist for:

    • 33% Less Than a Day
    • 29% Over a Month
    • 23% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced rectal bleeding were most often matched with:

    • 33% Hemorrhoids
    • 33% Chronic or Recurrent Hemorrhoids
    • 33% Anal Fissure
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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