Evaluating and Treating Rectal Bleeding

To find the site and cause of your bleeding, you will have a physical exam. You will be asked about your health history. Tests may be done to help confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment.

Man lying on exam table on side. Health care provider is holding end of colonoscope and looking at pictures on monitor. Another healthcare provider is standing next to table.

Tests you may have

Any of these procedures may be done:

  • Stool sample. A small amount of your stool will be checked for blood.

  • Sigmoidoscopy. This test examines your rectum and sigmoid colon using a lighted tube. Most often, sedating (relaxing) medication is not needed.

  • Colonoscopy. This test looks at your rectum and entire colon. You may be given medication through an IV line to help you relax.

  • Barium enema. An X-ray test is done to view your colon. A chalky liquid containing barium is passed through the rectum and into the colon. This liquid enhances the X-ray images taken of your colon.

  • Upper endoscopy. This test checks your esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine. It is done in cases of rectal bleeding with other symptoms like low blood pressure  and rapid heartbeat. This test may also be done if your stools are dark black and tarry.

Your treatment plan

Your treatment depends on the cause of your rectal bleeding. Your doctor will make a plan that’s right for you. Sometimes, rectal bleeding stops on its own. If it does, be sure to see your doctor to check that the problem wasn’t serious.

What you can do

Follow all your doctor’s instructions. Keep working with your doctor after your treatment. Make and keep your follow-up visits. If you have more rectal bleeding, call your doctor. It may be a sign of the same or another health problem.