If you've noticed blood when wiping your bottom – and your period is nowhere in sight – there are a few things that could be going on. Of course, this is one event that is sure to trigger alarm, and we'll get to the reasons for that, later on. At the same time, there are a few innocuous potential causes.
To get more clued up, WH tapped up gynaecologist Dr Anne Henderson, for her guide to some of the reasons why you might be dealing with this not-so-pleasant issue.
Remember: blood in your poo is a key sign of bowel cancer. If you have any concerns or are experiencing symptoms outside your norm, always book in to see your GP.
6 reasons why you might see blood when you wipe your bottom
You might know these as 'piles.' If you see blood when you wipe after you poo, know that you may be dealing with these (very common) inflamed blood vessels around your anus. They are particularly typical during pregnancy, chronic constipation or diarrhoea, and in those not eating enough high fibre foods.
'Bleeding from haemorrhoids usually occurs with a bowel motion,' says Dr Henderson. 'And can be exquisitely painful. The blood loss is generally minimal and will be bright red in colour as it is coming from the actual varicosities or veins, which are inflamed and leaky.
Fresh blood may also be noticed on the toilet paper.'
Try applying a topical cream, containing hydrocortisone, to the bumps.
If your symptoms of IBS are going through a particularly bad flare up, seeing blood when wiping your bottom might be expected. Otherwise, it really should not.
'It is extremely rare to experience bleeding with IBS, and this should flag up the possibility of co-existing problems which should be investigated by a GP,' says Dr Henderson.
'The only instance where bleeding may occasionally occur is if there is a flare of excessively frequent bowel motions and/or diarrhoea, which may then irritate the back passage.'
3. Anal Fissures
These are tears in the lining of the anus, colon or rectum.
'Fissures can bleed intermittently and not only when motions are passed,' says Dr Henderson.
'The symptoms can be very similar to those of haemorrhoids i.e. significant pain, particularly whenever the fissure is stretched.
'The bleeding can be variable but is usually relatively light and red in colour, as it is fresh loss from the fissure itself. Fresh blood may also be noticed on the toilet paper after passing a motion.'
Reduce impact by promoting smoother bowel movements: a high-fibre diet and warm baths should help. If the fissure is the result of one of the common bowel problems, work towards managing any associated symptoms of your condition.
Diverticulitis is a potentially very nasty illness, which refers to the inflammation of diverticula, small pockets that can develop in the walls of the colon around areas of muscular weakness.
'Diverticulitis can be associated with bleeding from the back passage when there is a flare up and the diverticular pouches within the bowel wall become infected,' says Dr Henderson.
'As this generally affects the large bowel, the blood may not necessarily be bright red, but may be slightly darker in colour as it may oxidise and become altered during transit through the lower bowel.
Again, bleeding will generally be associated with bowel motions rather than spontaneous.'
Your GP will be able to advise on the best treatment for this problem.
Been reading up on the STI symptoms in women and wondering if that blood you’ve seen wiping your butt could be another sign?
'Rectal bleeding is rarely a symptom of STIs unless associated with anal/perineal warts, which can be very vascular, particularly with a fresh attack,' says Dr Henderson.
'Genital herpes can also cause bleeding if the ulcers appear around the anus – very rarely the lesions can spread beyond the anus and actually into the lower bowel where they cause exquisite pain and fresh bleeding.'
6. Bowel cancer
According to Cancer Research UK, bleeding from your back passage is a common symptom of bowel cancer, alongside changes in bowel habits, a feeling of needing to strain, pain in your abdomen or back passage, tiredness and unexplained weight loss.
'The type of bleeding experienced in bowel cancer sufferers depends very much on where the cancer occurs,' says Dr Henderson.
'If it arises within the small bowel, for example, the blood is usually very dark in colour and may actually appear mixed in with the motions which can appear like ‘tar’ i.e. black.
'The technical term for this is melaena. Where the cancer is within the large bowel, the blood is typically mixed in with your poo and a brighter red in colour such as the bleeding you might experience with a skin cut elsewhere on the body.
Read this for more on bowel cancer symptoms.
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