Did you notice a small amount of blood in the toilet bowl, on the toilet paper, or in your stool?
There are a number of possible causes, of this condition, however, some of them are relatively harmless.
While some conditions may need treatment and some of them need emergency medical care.
In such a case, your doctor or medical health care provider will ask for certain symptoms that you might be experiencing.
They may also order some specific tests that look for changes in your intestines and rectum.
It is important to note that blood in your stool can appear in different forms.
However, in most cases, blood is often not noticeable and you might need tests to detect the presence of blood.
Keep on reading to learn more about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment for blood in the stool.
Color of Stool
The blood in your stool may result from bleeding in the upper or lower gastrointestinal GI tract and its color can help to indicate the source.
Black, Tarry Stool
Such a stool may point to bleeding in your upper GI tract.
As a general rule, the darker the blood in your stool, the higher the source of bleeding.
Moreover, the upper GI tract includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine duodenum.
According to the American College of Surgeons, upper GI bleeding is more common than that in the lower GI.
Additionally, it accounts for about 70% of all GI bleeds.
Bright, Red Blood
Bright, red blood is the sign of bleeds in your lower GI.
This part consists of your large intestines, rectum, and anus.
Now let’s learn about the symptoms you might experience with bloody stool.
Symptoms of Blood in Stool
The signs and symptoms of blood in stool depend on the underlying medical condition, disorder, or disease.
However, the most common symptoms are as follows:
Abdominal pain or cramps, bloating or abdominal swelling, diarrhea, fatigue, and nausea.
Moreover, you may also experience fecal incontinence, poor appetite, rectal bleeding, pain, an urgent need to pass stool, vomiting, and weight loss.
Serious Symptoms that might Indicate a Life-Threatening Condition
In certain conditions, blood in the stool may occur along with other symptoms and may also indicate a serious life-threatening condition.
In such a case, you should call 911 or 988for medical care.
These serious symptoms are:
Change in the level of consciousness, confusion, rapid pulse, and disorientation.
Difficulty breathing, dizziness, fainting, high fever, rigid, board-like abdomen, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, blood or black material, and weakness.
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Causes of Blood in Stool
There are a number of health conditions and factors that can cause or add to rectal bleeding.
Some of the most common causes are as follows:
These are inflamed anal blood vessels and are extremely common.
They often develop on the outsides or insides of your anus, appearing as small bumps, and can also bleed sometimes during bowel movements or while wiping.
It is important to note that straining or passing a hard stool can rupture the veins, thus leading to bloody bowel movements.
These are small, thin tears in the lining of your anus.
Anal fissures may bleed and cause pain during a bowel movement.
It can occur when the tissues in the lining of the anus, colon, or rectum tear down.
It can result in pain and rectal bleeding.
Fistulas are abnormal openings or pockets that develop between two nearby or neighboring organs,
Moreover, fistulas can appear between the anus and rectum, or anus and skin.
Leading to the discharge of while fluid and blood.
Gastroenteritis is an umbrella term for certain conditions that causes an upset stomach.
Most of these cases can result from bacterial or viral infections according to NHS, the National Health Services.
Therefore, depending on the situation and symptoms, it often causes bloody diarrhea.
Your doctor may also refer to the infection like food poisoning or stomach flu.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can also cause bloody stool.
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Other Causes of Blood in Stool
Other causes that can cause blood in the stool are:
Peptic ulcers are open sores that can develop in the lining of your stomach or duodenum.
This type of ulcer forms on a blood vessel can cause bleeding and bloody stools.
Moreover, it can also form due to an infection with Helicopter pylori bacteria or from the long-term uses of NSAIDs.
These are small pockets that can develop inside your colon and are prone to infection and inflammation.
In some cases, they can rupture and bleed.
Medically, these are termed for infection and inflammation diverticulitis.
You may experience GI bleeding while taking certain medications.
These medications are blood thinners like warfarin, enoxaparin, or apixaban.
In such a case, you should immediately seek medical attention.
This condition can lead to blood in the stool and are small growth that could be benign or precancerous.
Cancerous tumors of the GI tracts can weaken the lining of the tissues, causing them to bleed.
Bleeding in a Child’s Stool
It is important to note that blood in the stool is common in infants and some of the causes are:
Food Allergies: Allergies to proteins in food or milk can cause gastroenteritis.
This can lead to intestinal bleeding.
Structural Gastrointestinal Abnormalities: Certain issues that cause the intestines to become twisted can lead to bleeding.
These issues are intestinal malrotation and volvulus.
Necrotizing Enterocolitis: A serious condition that causes inflammation and tissue death within the large intestines.
It often affects premature or newborn babies.
The disease can also cause bloating, vomiting bile, and blood in the stool.
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When to Visit a Doctor
Occassionaly minor to mild rectal bleeding is very common and will usually not need medical attention or treatment
However, severe chronic or painful bleeding may be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
Therefore, you should seek immediate medical attention and assessment by the doctor.
Moreover, you might notice bleeding in the stool when you see streaks or drips of blood, in the toilet bowl or when wiping.
In some cases, you might also find blood in the toilet water that appears reddish-pink after you go to the bathroom.
Additionally, it can also cause a bad smell, dark, tarry stool mixed with dark red to black blood.
Reasons to See a Doctor
Some of the reasons you need to visit your doctor are:
- Bleeding that lasts longer than 2 to 3 weeks
- blood in your child’s stool
- unexpected weight loss, fatigue, or weakness
- painful, swollen, or tender abdomen
- stool that is thin, long, or soft than normal for more than 3 weeks or more
- lumps in your abdomen
- nausea or vomiting
- long-term constipation or changes in your bowel habits
- uncontrolled leakage from the anus.
Some of the reasons to seek medical emergency for rectal bleeding are:
Vomiting or coughing up blood, blood from nose, eyes, or ears, deep red or black bleeding, abdominal or lower back pain.
Moreover, bloody diarrhea, loss of consciousness or confusion, etc are some of the reasons.
Tests and Diagnosis
In case the bleeding is due to an already diagnosed medical condition, your doctor will discuss certain ways to manage, reduce, and track your symptoms.
However, if the cause of bleeding is unknown, your doctor will ask certain questions about the symptoms and medical history.
Moreover, depending on the severity, frequency, and symptoms related to your condition, your doctor may also order other tests.
In some cases, they may also refer you to a gastrointestinal or colorectal specialist.
Some of the common tests are:
Physical examination and analysis of a stool sample.
Your specialist may also order additional tests and are:
Colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy where they will examine the colon by the insertion of a tube with a camera.
Anoscopy where they will insert a device into the anus to examine the tissues.
Biopsy or tissue removal for examination
CT scan that provides 3-D images of your GI tract.
Treatment of Blood in Stool
The best treatment approach to this condition depends on the cause and source of bleeding within your GI tract.
If the cause of bleeding is an ulcer, infection, or inflammation, your doctor may prescribe medications.
However, in some cases, you may need surgery to prevent further bleeding.
They may also perform surgery with the help of endoscopy or colonoscopy.
These procedures involve:
- injecting medications to stop the bleeding
- cauterizing the area using a heat probe, electric current, or laser
- closing off the affected blood vessel using a band or clip.
Preventing Blood in Stool
There is no real way to prevent minor cases of rectal bleeding, however, some factors can worsen the conditions.
Common prevention tips are: Eating a balanced diet that is high in fiber, drinking enough water, not straining while visiting the washroom.
Treating chronic or prolonged constipation with OTC medications, and maintaining healthy body weight.
Moreover, getting treatment for chronic diarrhea, avoiding spicy, rich, fatty, processed, and refined foods.
Avoiding overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs.
Take a long and frequent bath if you experience symptoms following a treatment plan by your doctor for related medical conditions.
Should you Worry?
A few drops or streaks of blood in your stool occasionally is often nothing to worry about.
In some cases, you may avoid consulting your doctor about this condition due to embarrassment and anxiety, even in moderate or severe cases. However, rare, chronic bleeding can cause serious blood loss or can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
Therefore, you should seek emergency medical treatment for bleeding if you experience symptoms like vomiting, coughing blood. Moreover, if bleeding lasts for more than a few minutes along with other symptoms like pain, fever, or weakness, seek immediate medical help.