Which symptoms commonly accompany rectal bleeding?

Written by: Dr John Martin
Edited by: Conor Lynch

In this article below, Dr John Martin, an extremely well-regarded, skilled, and trusted gastroenterologist and endoscopist, outlines the most common causes of rectal bleeding, and reveals when one should visit the doctor about rectal bleeding.

What are the most common causes of rectal bleeding?

There are many different potential causes of rectal bleeding. The most common include:



When you see blood in your stool, this might be a sign of inflammation. If you are seeing some subtle changes in your blood habit, this might be due to the development of a polyp or indeed cancer. Diverticular disease or small blood vessels bleeding can also be causes of rectal bleeding.


Can it be a sign of something serious?

Yes. The most important cause of rectal bleeding to exclude would be a polyp or cancer. We would always investigate rectal bleeding to exclude these two possibilities.


Which symptoms commonly accompany rectal bleeding?

If the bleeding is due to some form of inflammation, it will often be accompanied with diarrhoea. The change of bowel habit is also a subtle symptom that patients should monitor.


When should you see a doctor about rectal bleeding?

It’s a good idea to see a doctor as soon as you notice some rectal bleeding. It’s important to have it assessed in order to either rule out or diagnose something serious.


Which tests may be performed to establish the cause of rectal bleeding?

There are quite a few tests that we commonly use to detect the exact cause of a patient’s rectal bleeding. The most commonly used ones are:



If you have recently noticed some rectal bleeding, be sure to make an appointment with Dr John Martin

By Dr John Martin

Dr John Martin is a highly-experienced gastroenterologist and endoscopist based in London and holds an NHS Consultant post at Imperial College (ICL). He is an expert in colorectal cancer screening, therapeutic and diagnostic colonoscopy and has 25 years' experience of managing all aspects of gastroenterology including abdominal pain or discomfort, reflux disease, diarrhoea and constipation, rectal bleeding, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

Graduated from Cambridge University and King’s College Hospital, London in 1990, Dr Martin completed his gastroenterology training within North West London. In 2002, he was awarded an MD from the University of London in bowel cancer screening and became a consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital before joining Charing Cross Hospital in 2006. Dr Martin refined his skills in colonoscopy to ensure they are always safe, high-quality and comfortable for his patients. 

Dr Martin teaches colonoscopy both within the NHS Trust and also at national screening centres. He is a bowel cancer screening accredited colonoscopist and an examiner for BCSP colonoscopy accreditation. He has authored numerous peer reviewed publications.  

Dr Martin is director of the West London Bowel Cancer Screening Centre; he is the national advisor to Public Health England on endoscopy within the Bowel Cancer screening service and chairs the national advisory committee on quality and safety of endoscopy within screening. He forms an integral part of numerous other professional bodies and has been widely published in peer-reviewed journals. 

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