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Blood in Stool

Blood in stool is an unpleasant, bothersome, and even potentially serious condition; and it unfortunately occurs for a variety of reasons. It’s important to identify blood in your bowel movements as quickly as possible to determine a possible cause and then seek medical assistance so treatment can begin promptly.

Identifying Blood in Stool

Several different methods exist for spotting blood related to digestive function. You should become familiar with them so you will be able to recognize the signs and obtain medical help if necessary.

First, look for blood on toilet paper, on underwear, hygiene pads, or bed sheets. However, these signs don’t necessarily a problem requiring medical attention. For example, if you menstruate you may simply be having an irregular period, such as being a little early or late. Furthermore, if you are pregnant, blood on your underwear or toilet paper could signify early implantation bleeding or a threatened or actual miscarriage.

Other signs to look for regarding blood in stool include streaks of blood after you’ve gone to the bathroom, blood coming from your rectum, and dark red or black stool. These signs point to a real problem, although you should keep in mind certain foods and medications can change the color of your stool as well. For example, eating a large amount of beets can turn your stool red and is not an indication of blood or disease. High amounts of iron, particularly from taking supplements, can cause temporary blackness in stools. Also, taking any type of bismuth medication is also known to cause temporary stool blackening.

Causes of Bloody Stool

Bloody stool can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, you could have bloody stool simply from irritations related to bowel movements. Blood in stool can also occur from pressure sores, anal fissures (cuts or tears in the anus), as well as straining too hard during a bowel movement or when attempting to have a bowel movement unsuccessfully. This is particularly true if you suffer from constipation.

Hemorrhoids, enlarged blood vessels around the anus, present another common reason for bloody stool. Hemorrhoids occur more frequently than you might think, and are even fairly common among women who have just given birth.

Other, more serious causes include esophageal varices, a low platelet count, a peptic ulcer (a hole in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or duodenum), an anal ulcer, an ulcer in the bowel, colon polyps (growths within the colon that can become cancerous), Crohn’s disease, diverticulosis (an infection of the colon), or a tumor of the bowel or even cancer—usually within either the colon or stomach.

Treating Bloody Stool at Home

If you have a bloody stool, you can try home remedies to provide some relief. However, seek medical attention if these symptoms continue for more than a couple of days, become painful, or especially if the amount of blood increases. If much blood is being passed, this could indicate a serious digestive disorder such as colon polyps or Crohn’s disease.

Home remedies:

  • Drink plenty of purified water and increase your fiber consumption.
  • Do not take laxatives or use enemas as this will only further irritate the colon!
  • To keep your anal area clean, wash with warm water and mild hypoallergenic soap (one without perfumes or dyes).
  • If the anal bleeding and bloody stools stems from hemorrhoids, a hot sitz bath can work wonders.
  • Avoid inserting anything into your rectum, including a suppository or a thermometer.

Although the existence of blood in stool (or what may appear to be blood in stool) is not enough to denote a serious problem, if you continue to notice blood or especially if pain is involved, it’s important to consult a qualified physician. A doctor specializing in digestive problems can help you monitor your condition, assess the symptoms, perform tests, and then administer appropriate treatment.

Seek emergency medical attention if you are passing large amounts of blood, if the blood loss is accompanied by severe lower abdominal pain, if you feel lightheaded or very weak, or if you are experiencing a rapid heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute. Blood in stool can occur as a one-time symptom due to excessive straining from being constipated or it can occur frequently as an effect of internal digestive malfunction or a disease. So don’t let its appearance prevent you from determining the cause and taking proactive measures to treat it.

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