About Rectal and Vaginal Bleeding in Senior Citizens

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Rectal and vaginal bleeding at any age is a concern, but especially in senior citizens because there’s a greater chance of cancer. There can be many reasons for rectal or vaginal bleeding in senior citizens, but both should be investigated by a doctor right away. According to the online Kaiser Permanente Health Encyclopedia, “rectal bleeding in small amounts is common.” But it also states that, “in a woman who has not had a menstrual period for 12 months, vaginal bleeding is always abnormal and should be discussed with your doctor.”

Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding comes from the anus but can originate anywhere in the intestines. It can be caused by several things. One cause is hemorrhoids, which are swollen blood vessels located inside or outside the anus. Another is inflammatory bowel disease, which often causes rectal bleeding mixed with mucous in loose stools. Polyps, or benign growths, in the large intestine, can cause rectal bleeding. Or, it can be caused by a stomach ulcer, which would probably cause dark stools rather than bright red bleeding. Less commonly, rectal bleeding is caused by cancer.

Treatments for Rectal Bleeding

Hemorrhoids are usually not serious and can be treated with stool softeners, topical ointments or injections. Inflammatory bowel disease is more complicated to treat but usually involves dietary changes and lowering stress. Polyps can usually be treated by surgical removal. Ulcers can be treated with antacids and dietary modifications.

Vaginal Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding in older women can be caused by several things. According to the online Merck Manual of Health and Aging, if a woman is on estrogen replacement therapy, vaginal bleeding can be caused by thickening of the uterus. Thinning of the vaginal walls due to low estrogen levels can cause bleeding, especially after intercourse. Bleeding can also be caused by vaginal or uterine infection, or cancer.

Treatments for Vaginal Bleeding

If a woman is on estrogen replacement therapy, her prescription can be modified to stop the bleeding. For thinning vaginal walls, topical estrogen and lubricants can be used on the vagina before sex. Biopsies of vaginal and uterine tissue and an ultrasound can be performed to determine the presence of other growths or possibly cancer.

Warnings

If you’re experiencing a lot of bleeding or feeling lightheaded, contact your doctor right away. Passing large amounts of bright red blood and clots, darker red blood, or black and tarry stools can, over time, cause low blood pressure and anemia.

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