Why You Should Never Ignore Blood in Your Stool?
It is likely because of rectal bleeding when you see bright red blood on the tissue or the toilet. The blood is frequently a dark and tarry look in your stool. If the colon or digestive system bleeds higher, it gives the stool a dark hue. You should call your doctor whenever you observe blood or suspect there might be blood in your stool.
Causes of Blood in Stool
stool, Credits: pixabay
It may look alarming, but in most cases seeing blood in your stool isn’t serious. The following are the most common causes.
Hemorrhoids are extremely common and a typical cause of blood in stool. They occur when the cluster of veins lining the lower part of the rectum become swollen and distended. Think of them like varicose veins.
The most common causes of hemorrhoids are being overweight, straining during bowel movements, and increased pressure during pregnancy. When you visit our office, your gastroenterologist will conduct a physical exam and gather medical history to diagnose or rule our hemorrhoids as the cause of the blood in your stool.
Ulcers are another very common condition that can lead to blood in your stool. The ulcers are inflamed sores that develop somewhere along the gastrointestinal tract, such as in the stomach, intestinal lining, or rectum. The sores can bleed and then blood ends up in your stool. Typically, the substances in your digestive system mix with the blood, causing it to turn black. A thorough evaluation is necessary to diagnose ulcers.
In some people, the lining of the digestive tract develops weak spots where small pockets form. This is called diverticulosis. The pouches most often form in the lower part of the large intestine. Diverticulosis is more common as you age, and we don’t usually see it in people under the age of 40.
In patients with this condition, the small pouches can become inflamed and irritated. When this happens, it’s referred to as diverticulitis, and it can cause blood in your stools. If we find that you have diverticulosis, your doctor is likely to first recommend increasing your fiber intake. If it has progressed to diverticulitis, treatment with antibiotics may be necessary.
Inflammatory bowel disease
A group of conditions collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease can cause blood in your stool. The two most common, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are characterized by bouts of chronic inflammation that causes stomach pain, cramping, constipation, and rectal bleeding, among other symptoms. IBD requires proper diagnosis and expert management.
Intestinal blockage is a serious situation that can occur for a variety of reasons, including as a complication of diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Without prompt diagnosis and treatment, serious problems and even death can occur.
Each year more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer and over 44,000 are diagnosed with rectal cancer. The chances of survival are higher when colorectal cancer is diagnosed at the earlier stages.
While not everyone with blood in their stool has colon cancer, it’s an important warning sign. Changes in stool consistency, abdominal pain, and cramping are other warning signs.
We recommend that adults start screening for colon cancer at age 45. You should start screening sooner if you have a family history of colon cancer.
How Can You Tell What’s Causing Blood in Your Stool?
diagnostic tests, Credits: pixabay
Identifying the underlying issue that’s causing the bleeding starts with an exam and detailed discussion of your symptoms, including the characteristics of the blood you’ve noticed.
Bright red blood that coats your stool and drips into the toilet bowl, for instance, may indicate bleeding from hemorrhoids or an anal fissure. Maroon-colored stools may be related to diverticulitis. Dark, tarry stools are sometimes caused by bleeding ulcers or other problems in your upper digestive tract.
Depending on the nature of your symptoms, we may recommend diagnostic studies such as:
Often referred to as an “upper endoscopy,” we insert a flexible tube with a small camera on the end (endoscope) through your mouth and down your esophagus to your stomach and duodenum.
The camera provides a real-time look at the lining of your upper GI tract and helps us identify the source of your bleeding. We can also collect small tissue samples during the endoscopy that we typically investigate further via biopsy for cancerous changes and other concerning issues.
As with an upper endoscopy, this study utilizes a small camera and a flexible tube. In a colonoscopy, it’s inserted through your rectum and used to investigate the colon. It’s an invaluable cancer screening tool and also offers us the ability to remove polyps before they become cancerous and/or repair bleeding sites during the study.
Other studies we may recommend include stool studies to identify occult (hidden) blood and/or X-rays using a contrast material (barium) to get a closer look at how your digestive system is functioning.