There are diverse reasons as to why blood may appear in the stool, some of them benign or relating to diet. However, more serious, even life-threatening, causes also exist. Genetics, physical health, and nutrition are factors that influence digestive system health. Anyone who notices blood in their stool should call a doctor, as it may indicate internal bleeding. However, in most cases, blood in the stool is not this serious.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting pain and other symptoms in the digestive system. The disease can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth all the way to the anus. The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and fatigue. It can also cause bloody stools due to irritation of the digestive tract.
Colon polyps are a type of growth in the intestines which may cause abdominal pain, a change in the color of the stool, or blood in the stool. Polyps are often non-cancerous, but some can develop into cancer.]There are three different types of colon polyps: hyperplastic, inflammatory, and adenomatous. While most hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are noncancerous, adenomatous polyps are considered pre-cancerous and they can turn into cancer if left untreated. In some cases, you may notice dark stools, which indicate bleeding in the digestive tract.
Another condition that may cause bloody stools is angiodysplasia, which mostly affects the elderly due to age-related weakening of the blood vessels and lower overall health. Angiodysplasia is a vascular abnormality that causes deformities on the colon walls. In most cases, it causes blood in the stool, as well as anemia due to low levels of hemoglobin in the blood. This secondary condition is associated with fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath and fast heartbeat.
One of the most common causes of blood in the stool is an anal fistula. This condition causes a small tunnel between the anus and the skin near the anus. This fistula is usually a complication of a rectal abscess, a pocket of puss in the nearby tissue. As a result of this opening, some people develop blood in the stool. If the source of the bleeding is near the anus or in the lower part of the digestive tract, the blood is usually bright red, fresh blood. However, if the stool appears dark brown or black, the source of bleeding is likely from the upper part of the digestive tract -- the stomach.
Hemorrhoids are a common problem that affects millions of people, and in many cases, they are harmless. If no complications develop along the way, hemorrhoids usually improve within a few days, although some larger growths require surgery. Hemorrhoids are caused by swelling of the veins in the anus and the rectum. Symptoms most often associated with hemorrhoids include pain and itchiness around the affected area. The most characteristic symptom of hemorrhoids is painless bleeding during bowel movements, and often the blood will be visible on the toilet paper. Anyone experiencing this symptom for more than a few days should contact a doctor.
A large variety of infections — caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites — mainly affect the stomach and small and large intestine. One of the most frequent is gastroenteritis or the stomach flu. This condition develops through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramps. Many people also report bloody diarrhea with a mucous-like substance, as well as fever, vomiting, and severe headaches. A person experiencing diarrhea should take care to remain well hydrated. In most cases, symptoms will improve after a few days. If further complications develop, contact a doctor.
People with ulcerative colitis often experience bloody stool. Like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, characterized by the presence of small ulcers in the colon. Inflammation and pain are almost always present. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are autoimmune diseases. If you suffer from ulcerative colitis, you may notice blood in the stool. Fatigue, abdominal pain and cramps, and weight loss. While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, dietary changes may help alleviate symptoms.
In addition to short-lived or manageable conditions, some more serious ailments can cause bloody stool. One such disease is bowel cancer. Bloody stools are one of the earliest symptoms of bowel cancer, which can appear in the rectum and colon, but most cases affect the latter. Bloody stools are not the only sign; other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, gas, bloating, cramping, stool that looks narrower than usual, and loss of appetite. Sudden pain in the abdomen combined with these other symptoms indicates a need to see a doctor.
Anal fissures, small cuts on or near the lining of the anus, can lead to bloody stool. Most cases of anal fissures are nothing to worry about, and often resolve on their own within a few days. The main symptoms include bloody stools and sharp pain in the anal area during bowel movements. Following a bowel movement, the individual may experience a burning sensation in and around the anus. Hardened stools — constipation — can worsen symptoms, so eating plenty of fiber can help. As with other ailments of the digestive system, drinking plenty of water can help the body digest food more easily and fully, and prevent constipation.
Peptic ulcers are open sores in the lining of the stomach and duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine) that and can cause blood in the stool. Some develop due to H.pylori or long term use of anti-inflammatory medications. The most frequent symptoms of peptic ulcers are pain, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, bloating, lack of appetite, and bloody stools. Any combination of these symptoms should prompt a doctor's visit, as they could be the result of ulcers or a more serious condition.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.