Blood in stool is quite a common condition, which many of us experience as a symptom of some underlying medical problem. Many times, it is also observed in infants and children, wherein, the primary cause is an anal fissure due to constipation. Other reasons, especially in children, are rectal bleeding and severe bowel problems. For adults, there are many causal reasons, which we will discuss in this article. However, before we jump to the causes, let's take a look at the basic information regarding bloody stools.
Based on the color of the stools (bright red or blackish), a quick diagnosis can be made whether the bleeding originated in the upper or lower gastrointestinal tract (GI). In case of an upper GI bleeding, the blood passes through the ileum and colon, where oxidation of the hemoglobin takes place, resulting in blackish or tarry stool. Such a dark-colored bloody stool is called melena. On the contrary, hematochezia refers to bright red-colored blood in stools. This signifies bleeding in the lower GI tract, somewhere in the colon or rectum.
Seeing such a stool can be a scary experience. Do not mistake the dietary pigments that may be present in the feces after having food like, beets, red licorice, and chocolate. Also, administration of iron supplements and various other medicines may cause red-colored stool.
Rectal Bleeding: Rectal bleeding is the most common reason. In this condition, bleeding occurs either in the sigmoid colon or rectum. Health conditions that cause rectal bleeding are, passing very hard stool, constipation, and hemorrhoids. Such underlying problems can be handled with effective treatment approaches.
Ulcer Diseases: Bleeding ulcers either in the stomach or duodenum portion, are also probable reasons for blood in stool. In such conditions, color of the blood ranges from dark red to blackish red. Bloody stool is also a sign of gastritis or inflammation of the stomach lining.
Diverticulitis: It can also happen due to diverticulitis, a medical problem, in which, bulging pockets and weak spots are present in the walls of the large intestine or bowel. Increased pressure in the bowel can lead to diverticular bleeding, resulting in bloody stool. Treatment involves consuming fiber-rich diet and proper medication prescribed by the doctor.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Another possible reasons are inflammatory bowel diseases, such as, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Associated symptoms of ulcerative colitis are mild to severe abdominal pain, cramps, and at times, fever. Limited blood flow (ischemia) in the large intestine can also cause bloody feces.
Internal Injury: Internal injury or damaged blood vessels anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract can result in blood in feces. Tearing followed by bleeding may occur in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Proper diagnosis is essential to identify the location of the injury and/or bleeding.
Colon Cancer: In some patients, colon cancer is identified as the major reason. If the physician suspects any cancer related problem, he may conduct a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test in order to rule out other severe causes. Individuals past 40 years of age are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer than others.
In addition, malfunctioning of the blood vessels can result in bloody feces. Even though some of the reasons for blood in the stool, are mild and treatable, others may be life-threatening, if left untreated for a prolonged period. Hence, in case you are experiencing this condition, do not delay in getting it diagnosed by a qualified physician.