Whether as a symptom of a problem or an ongoing, serious condition, no one wants to experience bloody stools. Nonetheless, becoming knowledgeable about blood in waste can make it possible for you to treat it properly.
Blood in your stool can occur for a variety of reasons, which is why it’s absolutely vital to speak with your doctor about this condition so they can pinpoint the cause and begin a course of treatment. Even if you’re experiencing bloody stools for less serious reasons, it’s still important to discuss it with a qualified health-care professional. Although blood in your waste in small amounts is statistically common, it’s not considered normal.
Causes of Blood in Stool
Some of the more common causes of blood in bowel movements include:
- Hemorrhoids (enlarged, swollen, and painful blood vessels)
- Anal sores or fissures (tears or cuts of the anus).
- Straining during a bowel movement
- Minor bowel irritations
- Rough wiping
In some of these minor cases, the blood simply “joins” the stool after the fact. In other cases, the blood is already in the stool before it leaves your body, which can indicate a more serious situation.
Serious reasons for blood in stool include:
- Ulcers (peptic, anal, or bowel)
- Colon polyps (growths in the colon that can become cancerous)
- Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory disease of the bowel)
- Stomach cancer
- Colon cancer
Bloody diarrhea is another variation of bloody stool, and it may be caused by:
- Gastroenteritis (an acute inflammation of the stomach or intestines)
- Crohn’s disease
- Colitis (an inflammation of the colon)
- An infection of the digestive tract
- Food poisoning
- Celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder characterized by intolerance to gluten)
Rectal or bowel bleeding is closely linked to bloody stool as well. Rectal bleeding is a type of gastrointestinal bleeding (internal bleeding of the digestive tract) and can be caused by injury (such as insertion of a foreign object), hemorrhoids, or anal fissures. Bowel bleeding generally refers to blood flowing outside the body from the anus and this may or may not be related to bloody stool.
Causes of bowel bleeding may include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Colon polyps
Stomach bleeding is also linked to and is a major cause of bloody stool, particularly dark red or black blood in the stool.
Specific causes of stomach bleeding may include:
- Gastritis (an inflammation of the stomach lining)
- Stomach cancer
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Remember—just because you have what appears to be blood in your stool doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something serious going on with your health. For example, taking certain medications can produce stool that looks reddish or black (which is generally an indication of blood). Bismuth medicines are a prime example. Furthermore, consuming certain foods or drinks can simulate the appearance of bloody stool, when it’s really just tainted red. Beets, in particular, can cause this phenomenon. Other dark red or purple foods and drinks can sometimes create this effect as well.
Some medications, however, can produce blood within the digestive tract as a side effect. High doses of aspirin, certain antibiotics, arthritic medications, and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents are some examples of drugs causing blood in waste. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you are producing blood as a side effect of any medication.
Whatever the reason for your bloody stool, it almost always indicates you are not well. Even if the appearance of blood is not chronic, you aren’t experiencing pain, or you think it might be due to hemorrhoids or a minor anal tear, you still should seek medical advice from your doctor if the condition persists.