Bloody Stools

by Sam Malone

The presence of blood in stools or on the toilet paper after you are done can be quite a frightening experience for just about anybody. This symptom is usually an indication of an injury or bleeding in the digestive tract, which could range right from the mouth to the anus. Bloody stools may be of different types, depending upon its cause and severity:
  • At times, the amount of blood present could be so small that you may not be able to see it with the naked eye; in such instances, the blood is detected by a fecal occult blood test.
  • In some cases, you may see streaks of bright red blood on the tissue paper when you wipe yourself after a bowel movement.
  • It is also possible for your stools to appear blackish or tarry, because of the presence of blood in them. This usually occurs when the bleeding is in the upper part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, perhaps in the stomach or the esophagus. After being exposed to digestive juices in the intestines, blood begins to appear like tar.
  • In case the stools are maroon colored, or you can see bright red blood in them, it means that the bleeding is in the lower part of the GI tract like the rectum or the anus. In some instances, heavy bleeding in the stomach could also cause reddish stools.

Bloody Stools Causes

There are several different factors that could lead to bloody stools in adults and children. Some of the most common causes of bloody, black or reddish stools include:Anal fissures
  • Bowel ischemia, the lack of adequate blood flow to the intestines
  • Colon cancer or colon polyps
  • Consumption of black licorice, lead or blueberries
  • Diverticulosis or abnormal pouches in the colon
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Gastritis or inflammation in the lining of the stomach
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Intestinal infections like bacterial enterocolitis
  • Long-term use of certain medication
  • Mallory-Weiss tears or tears in the esophagus, because of violent vomiting
  • Overgrown and widened veins in the stomach and esophagus
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Presence of a foreign body in the digestive tract
  • Trauma to the area
  • Vascular malformation or abnormal blood vessels
It is not uncommon for children to pass a small amount of blood with their stools. This usually occurs because of milk allergies or constipation. While this is not a serious problem, it should be checked by a doctor, just to rule out the possibility of a more serious underlying condition.

Some of the causes of bloody stools are quite serious and require immediate medical attention. Therefore, it is essential that you visit your doctor as soon as you notice traces of blood or changes in the color of your stools.

Bloody Stools Symptoms

You may experience bloody stools with or without other signs and symptoms. In addition to stool stained with blood, you may notice symptoms like:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Bloating sensation in the abdomen
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive gas
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Vomiting blood
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
Consult your doctor immediately, in case you happen to experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.

Bloody Stools Diagnosis

Your physician may need to perform a few tests to determine the exact cause of bloody stools. Some of the diagnostic tests suggested for this purpose include:
  • Abdominal x-rays
  • Angiography
  • Barium studies
  • Blood studies
  • Colonoscopy
  • Enteroscopy
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD)
  • Laparotomy
  • Nasogastric lavage
  • Physical exam
  • Radionuclide scanning
  • Stool culture test
Your doctor will probably also ask you questions about the various symptoms you have been experiencing.

Bloody Stools Treatment

The treatment of bloody stools may vary, depending upon the cause. If the bleeding is severe, you may need to be hospitalized immediately. The first objective of the treatment is to stop acute bleeding in the GI tract. Some of the techniques used for this purpose include:
  • Medication: It is important for the doctor to ensure that the bleeding does not recur. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of bleeding.
  • Endoscopy: Your doctor can inject chemicals directly at the bleeding site, use an electric or laser current to stop the bleeding and apply a band to close the vessel that is bleeding
  • Angiography: In this medical procedures, medicines are injected into the blood vessels to stem the bleeding
  • Surgery: In case the bleeding occurs because of a tumor, polyps, cancer or diverticulitis, your doctor may need to perform a surgery.
In addition to medical treatment, you may also be asked to follow a few self-care measures at home. This includes:
  • Exercising for at least half an hour a day, five days a week, to keep the body fit and healthy
  • Following a high-fiber diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, to relieve problems like constipation, hemorrhoids and anal fissures
  • Drinking at least 8 glasses of water and other healthy fluids during the day
  • Avoiding alcohol, processed foods, junk, spicy foods and caffeine

These self-care steps reduce the risks of bloody stools and speedy up the recovery process, but it is best to check with a doctor before trying any of them.

References
  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003130.htm

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
More articles from the General Health & fitness Category