Bright Red Blood in Bowel Movement

What causes bright red blood in bowel movement? Go through this article to find out more about the causes of bright red blood in stool along with treatment options for the same.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
The term 'hematochezia' refers to the passage of stools containing blood. Hematochezia could be a result of bleeding in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The color of blood in stool can help in determining the location of bleeding. If the blood is blackish, it is indicative of bleeding in upper gastrointestinal tract. While passing through the ileum and colon, oxidation of iron in the hemoglobin causes the blood to turn black. Under such circumstances, one passes tarry stools. In medical terms, the condition associated with passing blackish or tarry stools due to bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract is referred to as melena. However, if the color is bright red, it is indicative of bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. Since the rectum is the terminal section of the large intestine that stores wastes, hematochezia is believed to be a sign of rectal bleeding. In this article, we would be learning about the circumstances under which one may suffer from hematochezia.
Causes of Hematochezia
Hematochezia is characterized by bleeding in colon, rectum or anus. The closeness of the location of bleeding site to the anus determines the color of the stool. Bleeding around the anus may be the reason behind bright red blood in stool. Gastrointestinal bleeding may be caused due to harmless or life-threatening medical conditions. Here are some of contributory factors for hematochezia.
Hemorrhoids, also known as piles, is one of the common contributory factors. Piles is characterized by pain or discomfort that is caused by swollen veins at or inside the anal sphincter. Those who suffer from chronic constipation are more likely to develop piles. Passing hard stools puts strain on these veins and causes them to swell. When the veins around the rectal area swell up, the anus become inflamed. This condition is most likely to cause bright red blood in bowel movement. Increased pressure over abdomen during pregnancy can make women susceptible to hemorrhoids. Large hemorrhoids could also increase one's risk of developing rectal prolapse. This is a condition wherein the tissue lining the rectum shifts from its place and protrudes through the anal opening. Bloody discharge from the protruding tissue, fecal incontinence and pain during bowel movement are some of the symptoms of rectal prolapse.
Anal Fissures
An anal fissure refers to a tear in the anus or the lining of the rectum. Anything that causes trauma to the anal lining can be responsible for causing an anal fissure which in turn may cause bleeding. Proctitis, which refers to the inflammation of the lining of the rectum, could also occur due to insertion of objects into the anorectal region. Rectal pain and bleeding are common symptoms of proctitis. Anal fissures usually occur when one passes large, dry or hard stools. This causes damage to the tissues in the anal lining. Those who suffer from this condition are likely to experience pain or a stinging sensation during or after a bowel movement. Bleeding could also be caused due to an anal fistula. It is a small channel or a narrow tunnel that develops between the anal canal and the skin near the anus. It can cause pain and bloody discharge during bowel movement.
Bloody bowel movement can also be caused by diverticulosis. Diverticulosis refers to the presence of finger-like pouches in the colon. These may obstruct bowel movement and cause bleeding. Diverticulitis refers to the inflammation of diverticula that may form on the walls of the large intestine. At times, fecal matter can get trapped within these pouches. Inflammation is most likely to occur if these pouches rupture, thereby causing bacteria within the colon to spread in and around the pouches. An injury to the blood vessels located around these pouches could also lead to bleeding. Meckel's diverticulum is a condition wherein a pouch is present on the wall of the small intestine at the time of birth. This congenital defect is likely to cause abdominal pain and hematochezia.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a group of diseases that are characterized by inflammation of a part of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are medical conditions that are categorized under inflammatory bowel disease. While any part of the gastrointestinal tract could get inflamed in case of Crohn's disease, inflammation is limited to the large intestine in case of ulcerative colitis. These conditions are known to cause bleeding. A person suffering from inflammatory bowel disease may have mucus and bright red blood mixed in the stool.
Tumor or Polyps in the Colon
Polyps are abnormal masses of tissue that develop on the inner surface or the lining of the large intestine or the rectum. Inflammatory polyps and adenomatous polyps are two types of polyps that may develop in the colon and the rectum. Inflammatory polyps occur as a result of inflammation caused by inflammatory bowel disease. These types of polyps usually don't turn into cancerous growths. However, adenomatous polyps may turn malignant. Development of tumors or polyps in the colon or the rectum could be contributory factors.
Diagnosis and Treatment
While mild bleeding may not be a cause of serious concern, excessive bleeding must not be ignored. Since rectal bleeding could be indicative of serious medical conditions, one must seek medical help on noticing persistent bleeding. Doctors usually conduct diagnostic tests and procedures such as rectal examination, anoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or barium enema for ascertaining the underlying cause. Since chronic constipation is most likely to cause anal fissures and hemorrhoids, constipation must be treated at the earliest. This can be done by following a healthy diet. You must have foods that are rich in fiber. Excessive consumption of processed foods is one of the most common causes of constipation. It would be best to cut down on your intake of such foods. Make sure that you include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Water helps in flushing out the toxins. One must therefore increase one's intake of water. Since passing hard stools can cause bleeding, using natural laxatives or stool softeners might prove beneficial. Application of rectal ointments or ice packs around the anus can also reduce the burning sensation and will help in easing the discomfort. Sitting for prolonged periods can put strain on the anal area, so take ample rest. Since bleeding in the rectal area can be caused due to various medical conditions, the treatment will depend on the underlying cause. While doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids or antibiotics for treating inflammation or infections, immunosuppressants may be prescribed if inflammation is believed to be an autoimmune response. Surgery might be recommended for removal of abnormal growths in the colon or rectum.
Since serious medical conditions can cause hematochezia, those who have been observing blood in their stool must consult a doctor immediately. Doctors may conduct certain diagnostic tests in order to identify the underlying cause. While drug therapy or other treatments may help to treat the underlying cause, one must also follow dietary guidelines to keep one's digestive system in a good condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.