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Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding can be caused by a variety of issues. In most cases it is nothing to worry about, but you should still seek advice because it can also be indicative of a more serious problem.

What is rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding is the expression used to describe the symptom of any blood that is expelled from your anus. The commonest sites that are responsible for the bleeding are inside your anus, rectum or lower colon.

What are the symptoms of rectal bleeding?

Most often, rectal bleeding is noticed because you see blood on the toilet paper. You may also experience:

  • Blood in the toilet bowl
  • Blood streaks on your stool
  • Blood in your stool or diarrhoea
  • Stool that is darker or smells stronger than usual

What causes rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding can have a variety of causes, most of which are not particularly serious, but some are.

Less serious common causes of rectal bleeding include:

  • Haemorrhoids
  • Anal fissures
  • Gastroenteritis

More serious causes of rectal bleeding include:

  • Anal, bowel, rectal or colon cancer
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Proctitis
  • Polyps in the colon or bowel
  • Anal fistula

How is rectal bleeding assessed?

If you have been experiencing rectal bleeding, you should speak to your consultant.

At your appointment, your consultant will ask about your symptoms, family history and is  likely perform a physical or visual examination of your tail end. By doing this, they might be able to identify a probable cause for your rectal bleeding (e.g. if you have haemorrhoids or anal fissures).

If more investigation is needed to determine what is causing your rectal bleeding, your consultant may also recommend that you undergo:

  • A sigmoidoscopy
  • A colonoscopy
  • A virtual colonoscopy
  • Blood tests
  • Other investigations

How is rectal bleeding treated?

The treatment for rectal bleeding depends upon what is causing it. For example, if you have haemorrhoids, your consultant may recommend that you use creams to help manage the symptoms or if they are severe, you may need to undergo surgery. If your rectal bleeding is caused by anything more sinister, you and your consultant will decide upon a treatment plan.

You and your consultant can discuss how best to treat your rectal bleeding.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Professor Richard Cohen  ›

Richard Cohen is a Colorectal Consultant at King Edward VII’s Hospital.

Find your specialist in rectal bleeding at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have rectal bleeding and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading colorectal specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Professor Richard Cohen  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal surgery (+ 11) more
Mr James Kinross  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 7) more
Mr Alexander Von Roon  ›
Special interests include:
Colorectal cancer (+ 30) more

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