Hopefully a bleeding rectum or bleeding during bowel movements is an obvious clue to you that there could be something seriously wrong in the GI tract.
If you are worried about it, you should be. This is not because I wish you any more stress than you already have. I simply hope you will do the research necessary to determine what the origin of the bleeding is.
Bleeding from the rectum is not always an indicator that you are in serious trouble. There are numerous reasons why this could be happening. They range all the way from relatively insignificant to extremely serious depending on the source of the bleeding.
On our page about hematochezia, we briefly looked at some of the reasons.
Listed below are some clues to help determine the origin and causes of bleeding from the rectum.
Blood in the stool primarily comes from one or two places. That can be the stomach and duodenum commonly referred to as the upper gastrointestinal tract or the colon, rectum, and anus area commonly referred to as the lower gastrointestinal tract.
Although it may be a source of blood in the stool, compared to the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts, the small intestine is not often the source of bleeding during bowel movements.
Most people think of blood in the stool as meaning that the stool contains red blood, but this is not always true.
The location of the bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract often determines the color of blood in the stool.
Generally speaking, if the bleeding originates closer to the anus, the brighter red the blood will be.
This means that if the bleeding is coming from the upper parts of the colon it will have more of a tendency to be dark red or maroon.
If blood in the stool is red or maroon, it usually is referred to as rectal bleeding.
Bleeding from even further up in the GI tract like the stomach and duodenum where the blood is exposed to acid or is in the small intestine forms a black, "tarry" (sticky) and foul smelling stool called Melena.
Melena also may occur with bleeding from the colon if the transit of the blood through the colon is slow, and there is enough time for the intestinal bacteria to break the blood down into chemicals like hematin that are black.
Blood from the sigmoid colon, rectum and anus usually does not stay in the colon long enough for the bacteria to turn it black.
On rare occasions Intense bleeding from the right colon, from the small intestine, or from ulcers of the stomach or duodenum can cause rapid movement of the blood through the gastrointestinal tract and result in bright red bleeding from the rectum.
In these situations, the blood is moving through the colon so rapidly that there is not enough time for the bacteria to turn the blood black.
Another origin of blood in the stool is occult blood.
Occult GI blood loss refers to a slow bleed into the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract that does not change the color of the stool or result in the presence of visible bright red blood.
In the laboratory, this type of blood is tested for using a fecal occult blood testing procedure.
Occult blood in the stool has many of the same causes as rectal bleeding, and may result in the same symptoms as more active bleeding.
One example of this might be slow bleeding from ulcers, colon polyps, or cancers which cause small amounts of blood to mix and be lost within the stool.
This type of bleeding is often associated with anemia that is due to loss of iron along with the blood (iron deficiency anemia).