Comprehensive Post-COVID Care Now Available! Click here to learn more.
When To Worry About Blood In Stool

When To Worry About Blood In Stool: Digestive Health Explained

Blood in the stool can be a distressing and alarming symptom that should never be ignored – while it can at times be a harmless occurrence, it can also be a sign of a serious underlying health issue that requires immediate medical attention.

In this comprehensive guide by Manhattan Medical Arts, we will talk about and explain the causes, symptoms, colors, prevention, and treatments for rectal bleeding, along with when to worry about blood in stool.

With this blog, we aim to equip you all with the needed information regarding rectal bleeding, which might occur due to piles or other causes discussed below, with an objective to help you deal with blood in stool the right way, and in a timely manner to maintain optimal health.

Causes of Blood in Stool

Blood in the stool can originate from various sources within the digestive tract. Understanding these underlying causes is very crucial in order to timely diagnose and manage them appropriately.

Here are the possible causes of blood in stool:

  • Hemorrhoids:
    Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels that can develop in the rectum or anus, often due to increased pressure during bowel movements. When they become irritated or inflamed, they may bleed, leading to the presence of bright red blood in the stool. While hemorrhoids can be painful and uncomfortable, they are generally not life-threatening.
  • Anal Fissures:
    Anal fissures are small tears or cuts in the lining of the anus, commonly caused by passing large or hard stools. These tears can lead to rectal bleeding, typically resulting in bright red blood in stool or on toilet paper. Anal fissures are usually painful and may take time to heal, but they rarely require any surgical intervention.
  • Diverticular Disease:
    Diverticular disease refers to the presence of small pouches (diverticula) in the walls of the colon. If these pouches become inflamed or infected, a condition known as diverticulitis, it can lead to rectal bleeding. The blood may be bright red or maroon and may occur intermittently or persistently.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD):
    IBD encompasses chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation and ulceration in the digestive tract. Inflammation in the intestines can lead to rectal bleeding, resulting in blood in stool. This bleeding can range from mild to severe, and individuals with IBD may also suffer from other symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss.
  • Colorectal Cancer or Polyps:
    In some cases, blood in stool may just be an early sign of colorectal cancer or the presence of polyps in the colon or rectum. While not all cases of blood in stool are due to cancer, it is essential to rule out this possibility at first, especially in individuals over the age of 50 or those with a family history of colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of Blood in Stool

Apart from the obvious presence of blood in stool, individuals may also experience other associated symptoms. It is crucial to pay attention to these accompanying signs, as they can provide valuable information to healthcare professionals during the diagnostic process in determining the underlying cause of the rectal bleeding:

Listed below are those symptoms:

  • Abdominal Pain:
    Abdominal pain or discomfort can occur along with blood in the stool. The location and severity of the pain may vary, depending on the underlying cause. It may be a dull ache, cramping, or even sharp pain. Persistent or worsening abdominal pain should never be ignored and requires immediate medical evaluation.
  • Changes in Bowel Habits:
    Blood in stool may be accompanied by changes in bowel movements. This can include diarrhea, constipation, or alternating between the two. Individuals may also notice changes in stool consistency, such as loose or narrow stools. Significant and unexplained alterations in bowel habits should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
  • Unexplained Weight Loss:
    Unexpected weight loss without intentional dieting or exercise can be a worrisome sign. When combined with blood in stool, it may indicate an underlying condition that requires prompt evaluation.
  • Persistent Fatigue:
    Feeling excessively tired or fatigued, even after adequate rest, could be an indication of a more significant health issue. Fatigue associated with blood in stool may be due to blood loss, anemia, or an inflammatory response in the body.

Colors of Blood in Stool

The color of blood in the stool can also provide insights into the source that is causing the rectal bleeding, along with the potential severity of the condition.

Bright red blood in stool is often associated with issues closer to the rectum, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

Dark or tarry stools, known as melena, may indicate bleeding in the upper digestive tract.

Understanding the significance of these color variations can aid in determining the best course of action for diagnosis and treatment.

When To Worry About Blood In Stool

While it is natural to be concerned about the presence of blood in stool, not all instances are cause for immediate alarm. For instance, small amounts of blood due to minor issues like hemorrhoids may resolve on their own.

However, certain signs should prompt urgent medical attention, including persistent or recurrent blood in stool, significant blood loss, or a family history of colorectal conditions. Prompt evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential to rule out serious underlying causes.

Prevention Against Blood in Stool

Taking proactive steps to maintain digestive health can reduce the risk of developing blood in the stool. This includes adopting a high-fiber diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive straining during bowel movements. Routine screenings for colorectal cancer are also vital, especially for individuals with a family history of the disease.

Treatments for Blood in Stool

The appropriate treatment for blood in stool solely depends on its underlying cause. For milder cases, lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, and topical treatments may be sufficient.

However, if the rectal bleeding is due to more serious conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer, medical interventions such as prescription medications, endoscopic procedures, or surgery may be necessary.

Conclusion

Blood in stool is not an issue to be taken lightly, as it can indicate a range of potential health problems. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and colors of blood in stool empowers individuals to recognize when to seek medical attention promptly.

By prioritizing preventive measures and timely treatment, we can safeguard our digestive health and promote overall well-being. Remember, when in doubt, it is always best to consult with our healthcare experts at Manhattan Medical Arts for a thorough evaluation and personalized care plan.

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 07/24/2023

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

Read More
Table of Content