Seeing blood on toilet paper or in stool can be alarming, but common. In many cases, the causes of rectal bleeding are not life-threatening and can be easily treated. In other cases, however, rectal bleeding can be a sign of a serious problem.
Rectal bleeding or blood in stool is a common reason patients visit our doctors at Piedmont Colorectal Associates. Here, we explain the common causes of rectal bleeding and blood in stool, as well as when it is a cause for concern.
Common Causes of Minor Rectal Bleeding
Minor rectal bleeding is the passage of a few drops of blood from the rectum. This could appear in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement, on toilet paper or in stool. Common causes of minor rectal bleeding include:
- Hemorrhoids, or swollen blood vessels in the anus and rectum. Treatment options for hemorrhoids include topical creams, in-office procedures and surgery.
- Anal fissures, or tears of skin within the anal canal. Treatment options include topical ointments and surgery.
- Inflammation of the rectum (proctitis)
- Polyps, or growths of tissue on the inside lining of the colon. Polyps are typically pre-cancerous at first and turn cancerous if not removed. Colon polyps can be removed using an array of procedures, including minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery.
- Colon and anal cancers, which are the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Although many cases of colon cancer occur with very few early symptoms, rectal bleeding may sometimes be a symptom.
- Rectal ulcers, which are associated with ongoing constipation and prolonged straining during bowel movement. Minor ulcers can be treated with fiber supplements to relieve constipation while more serious cases may require surgery.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you see blood in stool or on toilet paper after a bowel movement, take note of how much blood there is. If there is a significant amount or continuous bleeding, see your doctor as soon as possible. You should also seek help if your stool appears black, tarry or maroon in color. Because there are many possible causes of rectal bleeding, a thorough evaluation and early diagnosis by a colorectal doctor is essential to determine the severity of the issue and the best treatment option. Serious conditions, including colorectal cancer, can be treated and cured when detected early.
To schedule a personal appointment with one of our board-certified colorectal surgeons, please call (404) 351-7900 or email our Atlanta office today.