What is bleeding of the colon and rectum?
The colon and rectum are part of your lower gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding in the colon or rectum is often a symptom that there are underlying conditions or diseases in your gastrointestinal tract rather than a condition or disease on its own. You may experience anywhere from a slight amount of bleeding which only shows up when examined microscopically to a large, life-threatening haemorrhage (loss of blood), which is considered a medical emergency.
What causes bleeding of the colon and rectum?
Haemorrhoids are a common cause of bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract. Haemorrhoids are enlarged veins in your anal area that can rupture and result in bleeding.
Colitis is a common cause of bleeding in many cases. Colitis occurs due to inflammation or ulceration of the lining of your colon. Colitis may be caused by ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, an infection, food poisoning, parasites, radiation treatment and poor blood circulation in your colon.
Anal fissure which is a tear(s) in the lining of your anus may cause bleeding of the colon and rectum as well. It is a painful condition usually caused by constipation or passing hard stools
Colon polyps are masses that grow in your colon. It may cause bleeding or develop into colorectal cancer which causes bleeding as well.
Diverticular disease can lead to bleeding in your lower gastrointestinal tract. This happens when small sacs form and push outward through the weak parts of your colon wall.
Angiodysplasia is a condition where you have abnormal or swollen blood vessels in your gastrointestinal tract. These blood vessels may become fragile and bleed quickly.
How do I know if there is bleeding from my colon and/or rectum?
Bright red blood in your stools is usually an indicator of bleeding in your lower gastrointestinal tract which is your colon and rectum. However, bleeding from your colon and rectum may not always be visible. Sometimes, you may need a stool test for occult blood loss. If the results are positive, it means blood is present in your stools. You may also experience other symptoms such as:
- Change in colour of stools to red, black or maroon
- Rectal pain
- Diarrhoea or abdominal cramps
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed or confused
- Palpitations or rapid heartbeat
How is bleeding of the colon and rectum diagnosed?
Your doctor may carry out a colonoscopy to diagnose and determine the cause of bleeding of the colon and rectum. During colonoscopy, a small, flexible tube with a camera attached at one end will be inserted into your rectum. This enables your doctor to view your entire colon. A tissue sample of your colon, also known as biopsy, might be taken for further testing.
What is the treatment for bleeding of the colon and rectum?
If there is acute bleeding, the treatment of significant blood loss will start with stabilising the patient’s condition. Oxygen will be provided and the patient’s heart rate will be monitored. An IV will be used to administer fluids to the patient and possibly for a blood transfusion.
Endoscopic therapy may be used for moderate to massive bleeding of the colon or rectum. During endoscopy, clips, chemicals, thermal probe or adrenaline infusion may be directly applied. For instance, an endoscope may be used to guide the needle injecting chemicals into the affected area. Your doctor may also use heat to treat or cauterize the area that is bleeding and the surrounding tissue via the endoscope, or place a clip onto a bleeding blood vessel.
Most cases of bleeding can be treated. Once the cause of bleeding has been identified via colonoscopy, you may be required to undergo surgery to cure the underlying condition which causes the bleeding.