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. Sometimes, blood in your stool is not a big problem, but you should still tell your regular doctor about it.

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. At times, rectal bleeding can only be seen through a microscope. A Hemoccult® test is another examination that can be conducted in a physician's clinic.

Do you suffer from painless rectal bleeding or prolapse of anal tissue? If so, this can be associated with symptomatic internal hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

More common, Less Serious Causes of Blood in Your Stool Include:

    • Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus. They can cause bright red blood in the toilet bowl, on toilet paper, or the stool after a bowel movement.
    • Anal Fissures – An anal fissure is a small tear in the lining of the anus. Causing 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. Occurring in the upper end of the small intestine, or duodenum caused by a bacterial infection.
    • Food poisoning – Foodborne organisms can cause bloody stool. Analyzing a stool sample identifies the bacteria you have been exposed to. Also, how to treat the infection.

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. Leading to severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.
    • Ulcerative colitis –Ulcerative colitis causes irritation, inflammation, and ulcers, in the digestive tract. This may also come with stomach pain. This condition affects the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum

Blood in Stool Diagnosis

Always 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. This may include hemorrhoids or diverticulitis.

After getting a medical history and doing a physical exam, the healthcare provider may order additional tests. Doctors perform tests such as CT scans to determine the cause of the bleeding. That being said, the sooner you get a diagnosis, the less worry about blood in your stool you will have.

Additional Evaluations 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 done 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 perform a DRE, your doctor will put on a latex glove and insert a lubricated finger into the rectum. This is 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 allowing the physician can examine the area.

A proctoscopy uses a slightly longer instrument than an anoscope. An enema or laxative is done before the procedure.


To examine the colon and remove small growths, a sigmoidoscopy can be done. During this procedure, a lighted tube is inserted through the anus. In this case, patients need to receive an enema or laxative to empty the colon before performing the test.

Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)

Your doctor can use this to look for the source of the bleeding. It is also 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 resembles an EGD, however, it involves inserting the scope 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. Doctors consider this mild rectal bleeding. In most cases, mild rectal bleeding can be evaluated and treated in the doctor’s office. Therefore, does not require urgent treatment or hospitalization.

In some cases, individuals suffering from rectal bleeding can get pain relief by sitting in a shallow warm bath. A warm bath helps relieve pain and increases blood flow to your anal tissues.

In other cases, patients report repeatedly passing larger amounts of blood that blood clots may accompany. As a result, moderate to severe rectal bleeding can deplete the blood supply,  resulting in 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
  • 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.


Prevention strategies play a crucial role in managing and reducing the risk of bright red blood in stool and rectal bleeding. By adopting healthy habits and undergoing appropriate screening, individuals can lower their chances of developing conditions that cause these symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

  • Encouraging a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can promote regular bowel movements and reduce the likelihood of developing hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
  • Adequate hydration is also essential to maintain soft stools and prevent straining during bowel movements.
  • Avoiding prolonged sitting on the toilet and practicing good anal hygiene, such as gentle cleaning with moist wipes or warm water, can help prevent irritation and inflammation in the anal region.

Screening for colorectal cancer

Regular screening for colorectal cancer is recommended for individuals over the age of 50, or earlier for those with a family history of the disease or other risk factors. Screening methods may include

  • colonoscopy
  • fecal occult blood tests (FOBT)
  • fecal immunochemical tests (FIT)
  • stool DNA tests

Early detection through screening can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and reduce mortality rates associated with colorectal cancer.

When to See a Doctor

Recognizing when to seek medical attention for rectal bleeding is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment of underlying conditions. While occasional bright red blood in stool may be benign, persistent or severe bleeding warrants immediate medical evaluation.

Individuals experiencing bright red blood in their stool should pay attention to accompanying symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits (diarrhea or constipation), fatigue, weakness, or unexplained weight loss. These symptoms could indicate more serious underlying conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal infections, or colorectal cancer.

In cases of profuse or prolonged bleeding, dizziness, fainting, or severe abdominal pain, it's essential to seek emergency medical attention immediately. These symptoms may indicate a medical emergency requiring urgent intervention to stop bleeding and stabilize the patient's condition.

Even if rectal bleeding appears minor or resolves on its own, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider for an evaluation. A thorough medical history, physical examination, and possibly diagnostic tests such as colonoscopy or imaging studies can help identify the cause of bleeding and determine appropriate treatment.

By promptly addressing rectal bleeding and associated symptoms, individuals can receive timely medical care and interventions to manage underlying conditions effectively, improve outcomes, and enhance their overall digestive health.

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.


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