Blood in Stools

BLOOD IN STOOLS

It can be scary to see blood in the toilet or when you wipe after a bowel movement. Fortunately, most of the causes of rectal bleeding are not life-threatening. Most people with minor rectal bleeding do not have colon cancer or another serious condition. However, the only way to be certain of the cause is to be evaluated by a specialist. For this reason, if you ever notice blood in your stool or bleeding from your rectum, you should contact your health care provider as soon as possible. They can give you advice about whether and when you should be examined or schedule tests. You should also seek medical care if you notice a change in the frequency or consistency of your bowel movements, have abdominal pain, or feel very tired or weak.

Causes of blood in stool

  • Hemorrhoids or piles
  • Anal fissure
  • Precancerous polyps
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
  • Proctitis (inflammation of the rectum),
  • Diverticular disease
  • Angioectasias (abnormal blood vessels in the gastrointestinal tract)
  • Rectal ulcers.

Bleeding from higher in the digestive tract, such as the stomach, can cause black, tarry-looking bowel movements; this is because stomach acid turns blood black. In other cases, however, upper gastrointestinal bleeding appears bright red in color.

Tests for rectal bleeding

The best approach to determining the cause of rectal bleeding depends upon your age, symptoms, and medical history. History about your bleeding (including frequency, amount, and appearance), bowel habits, whether you have other symptoms such as pain, and your family history may help to determine the cause of the pain.

Physical examination — Sometimes the cause of rectal bleeding can be determined with a rectal examination. This typically involves inspecting the outside of the anus and inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or other abnormalities. An anoscopy may be done at the same time. During an anoscopy, the clinician uses a rigid tube to inspect the anal canal and lower rectum. This can be done in the office and does not require sedation.

Diagnostic tests — There are several tests that allow a provider to examine the inside of the colon, rectum, and anus. These procedures are performed using specialized instruments called “scopes”:

Sigmoidoscopy — During a sigmoidoscopy, a clinician can examine the rectum and most of the lower large intestine

Colonoscopy — A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a clinician examines the entire colon.

While the recommended tests may be different for different people, the important thing is to see a specialist for evaluation. This is the only way to figure out for sure what is causing your rectal bleeding and get you the care and treatment you need.