Blood in Stool

Discovering blood in your stool can be very alarming.  While blood in the stool can be a sign of a serious problem, it isn’t always.  Some people discover blood in there stool while wiping after a bowel movement or the blood may be visible in the toilet bowl.  Other people discover it from a test that is ordered by their doctor.  This is called a fecal occult test.  Having blood in your stool means that there is bleeding somewhere in your digestive tract.  If the stool appears black or tarry it may mean that there is bleeding somewhere higher in the digestive tract.  If the blood is bright red or maroon-colored, it usually signals that the bleeding is lower in the digestive tract.  Some people who experience rectal bleeding do not notice any other symptoms.  Other people with rectal bleeding may experience abdominal pain, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, palpitations, and weight loss.

There are many possible causes of blood in the stool.  Common causes of rectal bleeding are hemorrhoids or anal fissures.  An anal fissure is a small cut or tear in the tissue lining the anus.  Anal fissures are usually caused by passing large, hard stool.  Other causes may be colitis (inflammation of the colon), peptic ulcers, colon polyps or cancer, or esophageal problems (such as varicose veins or tears in the esophagus).

If you experience blood in your stool it is important to be evaluated by your doctor as soon as possible.  It is important to provide your doctor with as much details as possible about the bleeding in order to help them locate the site of the bleeding.  Your physician will likely also get a medical history and do a physical exam to help assist them in determining the cause of bleeding.  Your doctor may also order tests if the need further information.  Possible tests that might be ordered are: colonoscopy, EGD, barium x-ray, or a stool study.  Treatment for the rectal bleeding will depend on what it found by your physician.

1. “Blood in Stool.”  Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  January 19, 2012.  Web 12 April 2013.
2. “Blood in Stool.”  WebMD.  WebMD Medical Reference.  August 31, 2010.  Web 12 April 2013.