Bright Red Blood In Stool & Rectal Bleeding

Bright Red Blood in stool can be frightening, whether you discover it while wiping after a bowel movement or from a test ordered by your health care provider. All cases of rectal bleeding should be reported to your primary care doctor, even though many cases are not serious.

What are the Causes of Bright Red Blood in Stool?

Bloody stool is a sign that there is bleeding somewhere along the digestive tract. When rectal bleeding occurs, the blood can range in color from bright red to maroon, and it can even appear tarry and black. Dark blood is an indication that bleeding is occurring higher up in the digestive tract.

The color of the blood can indicate where the bleeding is coming from:

  • Bright red blood usually indicates bleeding in the low parts of the colon or rectum
  • Dark red or maroon blood usually indicates bleeding higher in the colon or the small bowel
  • Melena usually means bleeding in the stomach, such as bleeding from ulcers

Not all rectal bleeding is visible to the eye. In some cases, rectal bleeding can only be seen by looking at a stool sample through a microscope. There is also a test, called a Hemoccult® test that can be done in a doctor’s office.

Do you suffer from painless rectal bleeding or prolapse of anal tissue? If so, this is often associated with symptomatic internal hemorrhoids.

Some of the more common, less-serious causes of bloody stool include:

  • Hemorrhoids – Those who suffer from hemorrhoids may notice bright red blood either in the toilet bowl, on toilet paper, or coating the stool after a bowel movement.
  • Anal Fissures – An anal fissure is a small tear in the lining of the anus, which can cause bleeding and the sensation of ripping, tearing, or burning after a bowel movement.
  • Peptic Ulcers – A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of the stomach, the upper end of the small intestine, or duodenum caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Food poisoning – In addition to other issues, several foodborne organisms can cause bloody stool. A stool sample can help identify which bacteria you have been exposed to and how to treat the infection.

Other more serious causes of blood in stool include:

  • Colon Polyps – Colon polyps are benign growths, or clumps of cells, that form along the lining of the colon. Although usually harmless, colon polyps can grow, bleed and become cancerous.
  • Cancer – Blood in the stool can be a symptom of cancer along the digestive tract. Colon cancer and anal cancer are two types that can cause bleeding; sometimes not noticeable to the naked eye to more severe bleeding. What is Colorectal Cancer?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is a term used to describe two conditions, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. In some cases, IBD can lead to serious, life-threatening complications.

  • Crohn’s disease – Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract lining and can lead to severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  • Ulcerative colitis –Ulcerative colitis causes irritation, inflammation, and ulcers in the digestive tract. This condition affects the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

Blood in Stool Diagnosis

It is important to have a doctor evaluate any bleeding in the stool. Any details you can give about the bleeding will help your doctor locate the site of the bleeding. For example, a black, tarry stool is likely an ulcer or other problem in the upper part of the digestive tract. Bright red blood or maroon-colored stools usually indicate a problem in the lower part of the digestive tract such as hemorrhoids or diverticulitis.

After getting a medical history and doing a physical exam, the healthcare provider may order additional tests such as a CT scan in order to determine the cause of the bleeding.

Forms of additional evaluation include:

Fecal Occult Blood Test

  • This is a lab test to check for blood in the stool. If blood is detected, additional tests will be used to help determine the source of the bleeding.

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)

  • If you experience rectal bleeding, your physician may perform a digital rectal examination to find the source of the bleeding. To perform a DRE, your doctor will put on a latex glove and insert a lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for growths and other abnormalities.

Anoscopy or Proctoscopy

  • An anoscopy or proctoscopy may be done in conjunction with a DRE to inspect the anus and lower rectum. A lubricated instrument that has a light on the end is inserted into the rectum so the physician can examine the area. A proctoscopy uses a slightly longer instrument than an anoscope, so an enema or laxative will likely be suggested before the procedure is done.


  • To examine the colon and remove small growths, a sigmoidoscopy may be suggested. During this procedure, a lighted tube is inserted through the anus. Patients will need to receive an enema or laxative to empty the colon before the test is done.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

  • Your physician can use this to look for the source of the bleeding and may also be used to collect small tissue samples for further testing.


  • If your doctor needs to examine the entire colon, a colonoscopy will likely be completed. This procedure is similar to an EGD except the scope is inserted through the rectum to view and take samples of the colon.

Treatment for Blood in Stool

Most patients only pass from a few drops to a spoonful of blood in their stool, which is referred to as mild rectal bleeding. Usually, mild rectal bleeding can be evaluated and treated in the doctor’s office and does not require urgent treatment or hospitalization. In some cases, individuals suffering from rectal bleeding can get pain relief by sitting in a shallow water warm bath. A warm bath helps relieve pain by increasing blood flow to your anal tissues.

In other cases, patients report repeatedly passing larger amounts of blood that blood clots may accompany. This moderate to severe rectal bleeding can deplete blood supply, causing weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness, or fainting. Moderate to severe rectal bleeding often requires evaluation and treatment in the hospital.

How to Stop Rectal Bleeding

  • Avoid sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods of time
  • Increase fiber in your diet
  • Decrease straining bowel movements
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day

Your doctor will prescribe or recommend treatment based on the diagnosis.

Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology, PC | Urologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA

Adult Pediatric Urology, PC have 7 board-certified physicians and an attentive, dedicated staff. We have served Nebraska and Iowa since 1982 with two locations in Omaha and Council Bluffs. Our Omaha location includes an accredited outpatient surgical center with state-of-the-art equipment and a comfortable waiting area just minutes from Interstate 680. Our physicians successfully perform hundreds of traditional and no-scalpel vasectomies every year.


The attentive, compassionate physicians, providers and staff at Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology are committed to providing innovative, quality patient care in our state-of-the-art facility. From screening and prevention to treatment and recovery, we will be there for you.


At Adult Pediatric Urology & Urogynecology, we don’t want the billing and insurance system to stand in the way of getting the care you or a loved one needs.


We specialize in urological disorders, including conditions, diseases, and urological cancers of the prostatebladder, and kidneyfemale urologypediatric urologysexual medicine, and clinical research.