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What Does Rectal Bleeding Indicate?

Rectal bleeding can seem frightening. Rectal bleeding is a symptom of common ailments such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcers, and colorectal cancer. 

You may notice rectal bleeding on toilet paper after a trip to the bathroom. It may also be present in your stool. If you notice unusual bleeding, head to the doctor, as it may indicate a more serious condition.

The specialists at Colorado Colon & Rectal Specialists in Parker, Colorado, can be your first line of defense if you’re experiencing rectal bleeding. Dr. Lisa Perryman, MD, FACS, FASCRS, is board-certified in colon and rectal surgery and can diagnose and treat rectal bleeding.

What blood color indicates

The color of your rectal blood can indicate where the bleed is coming from. This is an important step to help diagnose and treat rectal bleeding.

Bright red blood usually means the bleeding is low in your colon or rectum. Dark red usually means the bleeding is coming from the small bowel. Dark or tar-like colors (melena) often mean stomach bleeding or ulcers.

Take note of what color you see to help the doctor determine where it may be coming from.

What causes rectal bleeding? 

Several conditions can cause rectal bleeding, including:  

Anal fissure 

An anal fissure is a small tear in the anal canal. An anal fissure may occur when you pass hard or large stools during a bowel movement. Often, a fissure will cause bleeding and pain with bowel movements. 

Hard stools

Hard stools typically occur when you are dehydrated or do not have a well-versed diet. Hard stools make bowel movements particularly hard to pass and can even lead to hemorrhoids.


Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed tissue in your anus or rectum. A hemorrhoid is usually accompanied by hard stools, rectal bleeding, and general discomfort in the anal area.

There are a variety of reasons you may be experiencing rectal bleeding. More serious conditions, include:

Anal cancer

Anal cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and accumulate in the body. Eventually, cancerous tumors develop in the anal area. 

Colon cancer

Colon cancer is a common form of cancer. The first symptom is generally rectal bleeding. Colon cancer begins in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. Both of these organs are a part of your digestive system. 

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is a series of conditions representing a group of intestinal disorders.  IBD may be inflammation in the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. 

How is rectal bleeding diagnosed? 

Rectal bleeding can be observed after a trip to the bathroom. That’s your first indication that something may be wrong. For a formal diagnosis, Dr. Perryman performs a physical exam of your anus. A scope may be required to view the inner structures of your digestive tract. This will allow any abnormalities to be diagnosed. 

The fear of unknown bleeding can be scary. Dr. Perryman can diagnose and treat rectal bleeding. If you’re experiencing rectal bleeding, visit the specialists at Colorado Colon & Rectal Specialists. Call us or book your appointment online.

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