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Home > Health Library > Rectal Problems
Rectal problems are common. Almost everyone will have some rectal itching, pain, or bleeding at some time. These problems are often minor. They may go away on their own or with home treatment.
Rectal itching (pruritus) usually isn't a sign of a serious disease. At first, the skin of the anal area may look red. Itching and scratching may make the skin become thickened and white. Common causes of rectal itching include:
Rectal pain may be caused by diarrhea, constipation, or anal itching and scratching. Rectal pain caused by these conditions usually goes away when the problem clears up.
Other less common causes of rectal pain include:
Many people have small amounts of rectal bleeding. Irritation of the rectum from diarrhea or constipation, a small hemorrhoid, or an anal fissure can cause a small amount of bright red blood. You may see the bright blood on the surface of the stool or on the toilet paper. Hemorrhoids and anal fissures usually occur after straining during a bowel movement because of constipation. This type of bleeding can cause pain during a bowel movement. It doesn't make the toilet water bloody. It isn't serious if there is only a small amount of blood and the bleeding stops when the diarrhea or constipation stops. Home treatment is usually all that you need.
Bleeding can happen anywhere in the digestive tract. The blood is digested as it moves through the digestive tract. The longer it takes the blood to move through the tract, the less it will look like blood. Often blood that is caused by bleeding in the stomach will look black and tarry. A tarry stool has a black, shiny, sticky appearance. It looks like tar on a road. Blood that has moved quickly through the digestive tract or that starts near the rectum may look red or dark red.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of the stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Blood in the stool can come from anywhere in the digestive tract, such as the stomach or intestines. Depending on where the blood is coming from and how fast it is moving, it may be bright red, reddish brown, or black like tar.
A little bit of bright red blood on the stool or on the toilet paper is often caused by mild irritation of the rectum. For example, this can happen if you have to strain hard to pass a stool or if you have a hemorrhoid.
A large amount of blood in the stool may mean a more serious problem is present. For example, if there is a lot of blood in the stool, not just on the surface, you may need to call your doctor right away. If there are just a few drops on the stool or in the diaper, you may need to let your doctor know today to discuss your symptoms. Black stools may mean you have blood in the digestive tract that may need treatment right away, or may go away on its own.
Certain medicines and foods can affect the color of stool. Diarrhea medicines (such as Pepto-Bismol) and iron tablets can make the stool black. Eating lots of beets may turn the stool red. Eating foods with black or dark blue food coloring can turn the stool black.
If you take aspirin or some other medicine (called a blood thinner) that prevents blood clots, it can cause some blood in your stools. If you take a blood thinner and have ongoing blood in your stools, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Rectal itching is most often caused by dry or irritated skin in the rectal area. It can also be a sign of pinworms, especially in children.
Itching may be more serious if it occurs with a rash or if it does not improve with home treatment.
Home treatment for rectal itching includes things like:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
You can take steps at home to help with rectal problems. Depending on the cause of your problems, you may not use all of these tips.
Gently clean the area with water-moistened cotton balls, a warm washcloth, or premoistened towelettes, such as Tucks or baby wipes. A mild ointment, such as A+D Ointment or Desitin, can be applied lightly. It can help soothe the skin and protect it against more irritation.
Taking a sitz bath 3 times each day and after each bowel movement will help keep the area clean and relieve itching. After the bath, dry the area carefully. You might use a hair dryer set on low.
Scented products may irritate the skin. Colored toilet paper may also irritate the skin.
If you sweat a lot, avoid wearing tight-fitting underwear. Wear cotton undergarments. You may use talcum powder to absorb moisture, but don't use cornstarch. Cornstarch may cause a skin infection. Before you put on talcum powder, dry your rectal area with a hair dryer set on low.
For at least 2 weeks, try not to eat or drink foods like coffee, tea, cola, drinks that contain alcohol, chocolate, tomatoes, and spicy foods. Also avoid taking too much vitamin C. Slowly add the items back to your diet, one at a time, to help find the cause of the itching.
Scratching leads to more itching. Taking an antihistamine at night may help reduce your nighttime itching. These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use them, check the label. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and, in some cases, weight. You may need to check with your doctor about using these medicines.
Apply an ointment that has 1% hydrocortisone. Don't use other steroid creams on this sensitive area of your body. They can cause skin damage. Hydrocortisone cream should not be used for longer than 7 to 10 days without talking with your doctor. Don't use creams or ointments that have antihistamines, such as Benadryl cream.
You will need to check with your doctor first if you need to use the cream for a child younger than age 2 or for use in the genital area.
Rectal bleeding can be caused by constipation, diarrhea, or hemorrhoids. Don't take aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can cause bleeding in the digestive tract. That can increase the amount of blood in your stools. These medicines can also make bleeding hemorrhoids bleed more. If you need to use something for pain, try acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: June 6, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
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