Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration

Gastrointestinal Bleed, Lower, Discharge Information

What is a lower gastrointestinal hemorrhage?

A lower gastrointestinal (GI) hemorrhage, also called lower GI bleeding or rectal bleeding, is abnormal blood loss from the colon, rectum, or anus (the opening of the rectum). It is usually seen as blood on or in a bowel movement, on the toilet tissue after wiping, or in the toilet bowl water. The blood may be easily seen or it may be hidden, requiring testing of the bowel movements to know it is there.

Common causes of rectal bleeding include tears in the skin of the anus or hemorrhoids. Bleeding may also be from small pockets (diverticula) that form in weak parts of the colon wall and stick out. These pockets or pouches can bleed and may not stop bleeding on their own. Other possible causes include infections of the intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, or bleeding in the upper digestive system.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on the cause of your lower GI bleed, your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and complications you may have. You may need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health and to help keep the lower intestine as healthy as possible, prevent GI irritation, or prevent another lower GI bleed. Some simple lifestyle changes can help the intestines work better, as well as prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticula.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • You may need to stop any medicines that irritate your GI tract.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat GI irritation
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Replace iron lost from bleeding
    • Prevent or treat constipation
  • If you have had surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgical wound clean.
    • If you are told to change your dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Bright red blood in your bowel movement
  • Bright red blood in your vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds

If you have any of these symptoms, do not drive yourself.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Bloating or belly pain
  • Black, tarry bowel movements
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound if you had surgery. These include:
    • The area around your wound is more red or painful
    • Your wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have chills or muscle aches
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-12
Last reviewed: 2015-01-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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