Red Blood in Stool
Have you ever stood up after going to the restroom only to glance into the toilet and find the unusual sight of red blood in stool? The presence of blood in your bowel movement can be a scary situation. Although it’s not an uncommon occurrence, any form of internal bleeding should be considered serious until you know the exact reason. Also, it’s important to note the actual color of the blood point to what’s going on inside your body.
What Do the Different Shades of Blood Mean?
If the blood in your stool is of a bright red color, it could mean you have hemorrhoids. In most cases, you’ll know you have hemorrhoids even before you have a bowel movement due to the itching, irritation, and swelling of the anus.
Usually, if the blood is seen floating in the water, there’s a good chance one of the hemorrhoids ruptured. Sometimes, bright red blood in stool can result from a scratch or tear inside your colon near the anus. This is called an anal fissure and it usually results from straining to expel very hard stool. You may even notice small blood clots in the water.
Bright Red Blood
The blood is bright red because the wound is near the anus and it didn’t have far to travel before leaving the body. Whether the bleeding is coming from the sigmoid colon or a hemorrhoid on the anus, the sight of red blood in stool can be very alarming to some people. You may want to document the frequency with which you bleed while having bowel movements.
Dark Red Blood
If your body is expelling dark or maroon blood with your stool, or your stool is extremely black and tarry with a foul odor, it can indicate a much more serious problem. Dark red blood in stool is caused by bleeding somewhere higher along the digestive tract, such as within the transverse or right colon areas.
Black, tarry and foul smelling stool, called Melena, results from the blood remaining in the colon long enough for bacteria to begin assimilating it. The blood could be coming from a bleeding ulcer in the stomach, duodenum, or small intestine. In the worst-case scenarios, black blood can be related to the appearance of cancer.
The following is a list of other, more serious conditions that can cause rectal bleeding:
- Stomach Cancer—Each year, approximately 24,000 Americans are diagnosed with stomach cancer.
- Colon Cancer—The third leading cause of cancer in men and the fourth leading cause for women in the world.
- Crohn’s Disease—Approximately 500,000 to 2 million people in the Unites States alone suffer from Crohn’s Disease.
- Diverticulitis—It affects over fifty percent of people over 60 years of age in America.
- Peptic Ulcer—Cigarette smoke causes peptic ulcers and increases the risk of them bleeding.
- Anal Fissure—Between six and fifteen percent of all colorectal surgeon visits result from the development of anal fissures.
- Colon Polyps—Approximately fifty percent of everyone over 60 years of age will experience colon polyps at least once.
Other Causes of Red Blood in Stool
Another cause of red blood in stool is a tear in the esophagus, most likely from severe vomiting, esophageal varices, or gastritis. The last of those three stems from drinking too much alcohol, eating too much spicy food, smoking, or from using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for an extended period.
Many times, a person’s diet can trick them into believing they have produced blood in their stool. This misconception is called “false Melena”. Some typical food items that lead to oddly colored bowel movements include:
- Iron supplements and Iron-containing multi-vitamins
- Black olives
- Black licorice
Similarly, very red blood in stool can occur from eating too much tomato soup or drinking too much tomato juice. Also, if eaten in large amounts, beets and artificially colored red food items such as popsicles, gelatin, and fruit-flavored drinks can cause the appearance of red blood in stool. In most cases, however, it should be easy to determine the difference between blood in the stool and a case of excessive food coloring.
If you notice cramping or abdominal tenderness accompanying rectal bleeding, it’s imperative to see your healthcare provider right away. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor even if you don’t feel pain but are still experiencing noticeable rectal bleeding. Anytime your body is bleeding internally and you don’t know the cause, such as a minor case of hemorrhoids, it’s best to rule out any serious internal trauma. Early detection equals early treatment in almost all negative health conditions.