Anal Bleeding: What to Know

Dread filled Gwen's heart at the sight of the bloodied tissue paper she had used to wipe herself. She hurriedly cleaned herself properly and hastily wore some clothes to visit the hospital. There, she was examined and told she had hemorrhoids. 

What is Anal bleeding?

As the name implies, anal bleeding refers to bleeding from the anus, the part of the body through which feces is expelled. The bleeding could be a result of injuries, inflammation, or an underlying illness related to the digestive tract. The digestive tract begins at the mouth, and goes through to the esophagus, stomach, intestines, and anus.

Causes of anal bleeding

Common causes of anal bleeding include:

  • Hemorrhoids: Also known as piles, they are swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus which cause bleeding and discomfort. The rectum and anus constitute the last part of the digestive tract. These veins which contain blood can get strained during bowel movements, pregnancy, or obesity. And excessive strains could eventually cause them to bleed. Not to worry, hemorrhoids aren't a medical emergency and tend to go away on their own or with simple treatment. But, if your hemorrhoids aren't going away, you might need surgery to have them removed.
  • Anal fissure: This refers to splits or tears in the skin around the anus. It usually occurs due to the passage of hard stools, like during constipation. The pressure placed by the stool could make the skin crack open and cause anal bleeding. You might also experience burning sensation during bowel movements. A good thing is that anal fissures usually heal on their own.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This condition refers to the swelling of the bowels (intestines). It is of two principal types; Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. People with IBD may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and bleeding, among others.
  • Ulcers: These are due to damage to the lining of the stomach or intestine that might occur when there is an over-production of digestive acid, certain bacterial infection, or injury from pain killers called NSAIDS. These can also cause you to bleed.
  • Anal polyps: Anal polyp refers to the abnormal growth of tissue from the membrane lining the anus. Large polyps can bleed 
  • Anal abscess: Anal abscess arises from an infection of glands around the anus. These glands generally help in bowel movement. Most cases of anal abscess occur from time to time. Some situations which increase the likelihood of having an abscess include diabetes mellitus, Crohn's disease, and so on. Treating the abscess requires prompt surgical drainage. Anal fistulas, on the other hand, connect the abscess to the skin around the anus. To get rid of fistulas, there is mostly a need for surgical intervention.

Anal cancer: This is the abnormal growth of cells in the tissues of the anus. Most anal cancers are linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This virus is usually gotten through sexual contact. Mostly, the virus could cause anal warts which could bleed out. Anal cancer has no cure but can be treated to relieve the symptoms as much as possible.

Anal bleeding is a common symptom, and not one to ignore. Even if it is just one episode, visit your healthcare provider for careful evaluation and possible treatment. 

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