Blood in Stool: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

blood in stool

Do you know that blood in the stool can be a sign and symptom of different conditions?

Blood in the stool can be due to a number of reasons, however, some of them are harmless and do not cause complications.

Moreover, it is important to note that for some conditions, you will need treatment and some of them are medical emergencies.

In this case, you will need to visit your medical healthcare professional as soon as possible, as some of the symptoms can lead to severe complications.

With the help of specific tests, that look for changes in your intestines and rectum, your doctor can diagnose the cause of this condition.

However, blood in stool is not noticeable and you will need these tests to detect its presence.

Learn more about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment in this extensive guide.

Blood in Stool: Understanding the Color

The blood in stool can be due to bleeding in the upper or lower gastrointestinal or GI tract.

Moreover, the color of your stool can help to indicate the source of it.

Bright, Red Blood

Bright red blood in your stool is a sign that there is bleeding in your lower GI. This part consists of:

  • large intestines
  • rectum
  • anus

colorBright, Tarry Stool

Black, tarry stool indicates that there is bleeding in your upper GI tract.

It is important to note that the darker your blood, the higher the source of bleeding.

Your upper GI tract consists of:

  • esophagus
  • mouth
  • stomach
  • the upper part of your small intestine i.e. duodenum.

According to the American College of Surgeons, upper GI bleeding is common than in the lower GI tract.

It also accounts for about 70% of all GI bleeds.

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Blood in Stool: Causes

There are different conditions and factors that can lead to or add to rectal bleeding.

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Certain diseases like Crohn’s disease, and UC, ulcerative colitis can cause blood in stools.

Gastroenteritis

This one is an umbrella term for conditions that causes an upset stomach.

According to the National Health Services, NHS,  most of these often result from bacterial or viral infections.

Thus, depending on the symptoms and situation, it can cause bloody diarrhea.

Moreover, your doctor may refer this infection to food poisoning or stomach flu.

Fistulas

These are abnormal pockets or openings that develop between 2 nearby or neighboring organs.

Fistulas can also appear between the anus and rectum, or your anus and skin.

It can lead to a discharge of white fluid and blood.

blood in stool 1Anal Fissure

Anal issues are small thin tears in the lining of your anus.

Additionally, they may also bleed and cause pain during a bowel movement.

These can occur when the tissue in the lining of your anus, colon, or rectum tears down and can result in pain and rectal bleeding.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are inflamed anal blood vessels and are also very common.

These can develop on the outside or inside of the anus, appearing as small bumps.

They can also bleed during bowel movements while wiping in some cases.

An important thing to understand is that straining or passing a hard stool can rupture the veins, therefore, leading to blood bowel movements.

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Other causes of Blood in Stool

Some of the other causes of blood in stool are as follows:

Diverticula

These are small pockets that develop inside the colon and are often prone to infection and inflammation.

However, in some cases, they can rupture and bleed.

Medically, these are termed for infection and inflammation diverticulitis.

Peptic Ulcers

Peptic ulcers are open sores that often develop in the lining of the stomach or duodenum.

These often form on a blood vessel that can lead to bleeding and bloody stools.

Moreover, they can form due to infection with Helicopter pylori bacteria or from long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs.

Colon Polyps

Colon polyps can lead to blood in stool and are small growth that may be benign or precancerous.

Medications

Certain medications can cause bloody stool and are blood thinners like warfarin, enoxaparin, or apixaban.

In this case, you should seek immediately medical attention.

Cancer

A cancerous tumor of the GI tract can weaken the lining of the tissue causing them to bleed.

Signs and Symptoms of Blood in Stool

The signs and symptoms of blood in stool depend on two factors: underlying medical condition or the disease.

However, the most common symptoms are:

Moreover, you may also experience rectal bleeding, pain, an urgent need to pass stool, vomiting, fecal incontinence, poor appetite, etc.

blood in stool 2Conditions that could be Life-Threatening

In some cases, blood in the stool can come along with other symptoms and this indicates a serious life-threatening condition.

Therefore, you should call 911 or 988 for a medical emergency.

The serious symptoms of blood in the stool are as follows:

Difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting, rigid board-like abdomen, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, black material, weakness, and high fever.

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Child’s Bleedy Stool

Blood in stool of your infant or child can be a cause of concern and some of the common causes are:

Food Allergies: Food allergies especially to proteins in the food and milk can cause gastroenteritis and can lead to intestinal bleeding.

Structural Gastrointestinal Abnormalities: Issues that cause the intestines to become twisted can lead to bloody stool.

Necrotizing Enterocolitis: This one is a serious condition and can cause inflammation and tissue death within the large intestines of children.

It often forms in premature or newborn babies and can cause bloating, vomiting bile, and bloody stool.

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Visiting a Doctor

In some cases, mild rectal bleeding is common and may not need medical attention or treatment.

However, in case of severe chronic or painful bleeding you will need to visit a doctor as it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Thus, you should seek medical attention and assessment by the doctor as soon as possible.

If you notice bleeding in the stool, either in the form of streaks or drips of blood in the toilet bowl or while wiping on the toilet paper, consult your doctor or call your doctor.

In some cases, you may notice blood in the toilet water that appears reddish-pink after you go to the bathroom.

It can, in some cases, cause a bad smell, dark tarry stool mixed with dark red to black blood.

Some of the reasons you may need to visit the doctor or contact your doctor are:

Bleeding that lasts longer hen 2 to 3 weeks, your child’s bloody stool, fever, lumps in your abdomen, nausea, or vomiting.

Moreover, unexpected weight loss, fatigue, weakness, painful, swollen or tender abdomen, thin, long, and soft stool for more than 3 weeks, long-term constipation, changes in bowel habits, and uncontrolled leakage from the anus.

On the other hand, some of the reasons to seek medical emergency for rectal bleeding are:

  • vomiting
  • coughing up blood
  • nose bleeds
  • bleeding from eyes, or ears
  • deep red or black bleeding
  • abdominal or lower back pain.
  • bloody diarrhea
  • loss of consciousness or confusion

Therefore, in the above condition, seek medical attention immediately.

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Diagnosis and Tests

If the blood in your stool is due to an already diagnosed medical condition, your doctor will discuss the way to manage, reduce, and track your symptoms.

However, if the blood in your stool is not known, your doctor will ask you questions. They will also ask about the symptoms and your medical history.

Depending on the severity, frequency, and symptoms of your condition, your doctor may order tests that are specific to the GI tract or intestinal tract diagnosis.

In some cases, however, they may refer you to a gastrointestinal or colorectal specialist.

tests and diagnosisSome of the common tests are:

  • Physical examination
  • analysis of a stool sample
  • colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, where your doctor will examine your colon by inserting a tube that contains a camera
  • biopsy or tissue removal for examination
  • CT scan that provides 3-D images of your GI tract.

The above test will help your doctor to determine the cause and make a diagnosis based on the test results.

Treatment Options

The medical treatment of the bloody stool depends on the cause and the source of bleeding within your GI tract.

If the cause of bleeds is ulcer, infection, or inflammation, your doctor will prescribe medications.

However, in some cases, you may need surgery to prevent further bleeding.

Your doctor may perform surgery with the help of endoscopy or colonoscopy.

The procedure includes injecting medications to stop bleeding, cauterizing the area with the help of a heat probe, electric current, or laser.

By the end of the procedure, they will close off the affected blood vessel by busing a band or clip.

Preventive Measures for  Blood in Stool

You cannot prevent minor cases of rectal bleeding, however, it is important to note that some cases can worsen the condition.

Common preventive tips are:

  • eating a balanced diet high in fiber
  •  drinking enough water
  • not straining while visiting the washroom

In case of chronic or prolonged constipation, you will need to take OTC medications and maintain healthy body weight.

Getting treatment for chronic diarrhea, avoiding spicy, rich, fatty, processed, and refined foods can avoid.

Moreover, avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs in excess.

Frequent and long baths along with following the treatment plan by your doctor can help for related medical conditions.

The TakeAway

A few drops or streaks of blood in the stool is nothing to worry about. If you avoid consulting your doctor due to embarrassment or anxiety, you should not.

Moreover, it is important to note that in rare cases, chronic bleeding can cause serious blood loss or can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Therefore, you will need treatment. Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms like vomiting, coughing blood, pain, fever, or weakness.

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