first aid

What is rectal bleeding?

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Rectal bleeding is often noticed as minimal traces of bright-red blood on a toilet paper or a few droplets in the toilet. Generally, bright-red blood originates from somewhere close to the anus and an indication of hemorrhoids or fissures in the anal skin.

Even though these are common issues, a doctor should be consulted. Rectal bleeding should be assessed to rule out other serious causes. If the blood is sticky and dark in appearance, the bleeding might originate up in the digestive tract. This form of bleeding can turn the stool black which is considered as a medical emergency that requires assessment by a doctor.

What are the common causes?

The doctor should assess the individual to determine the cause of rectal bleeding using a rectal exam.

Some of the common causes of evident rectal bleeding among adults include:

  • Hemorrhoids – this is characterized by inflamed blood vessels in and around the rectum. During a bowel movement, they are likely to bleed and leave behind streaks of bright red blood in the stool and on the toilet paper. In addition, it triggers itchiness around the anus.
  • Anal fistula – this is a small channel that forms amidst the end of the anal canal and skin close to the anus.
  • Anal fissure – this is a small-sized tear in the anal skin that can become painful.
  • Gastroenteritis – this is a bacterial or viral infection of the stomach and bowel
  • Diverticula – small protrusions in the lining of the lower bowel
  • Bowel cancer

How is rectal bleeding diagnosed?

The doctor should assess the individual to determine the cause of rectal bleeding using a rectal exam. During this test, a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum. This procedure is performed quickly and relatively painless.

The exam generally takes 1-5 minutes depending on whether the doctor finds anything irregular. The individual might be referred to a healthcare facility or specialist if further testing is required.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on rectal bleeding is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this sudden medical emergency by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.

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