Is bright red blood in the stool serious?
The presence of blood in the stool needs to be evaluated by your doctor.
In most cases, the bright red blood in stools is not an immediate threat to life. The most common causes are piles, anal polyps, anal fissures and colitis (inflammation of the large bowel). These conditions may cause recurrent episodes of blood loss and affect quality of life, but they are not fatal. Rarely, cancers arising from the rectum and anus can cause bright red blood in stools. Such cancers can also occur in people with a history of piles and colitis. Hence, it is important to pay attention to this symptom and contact your healthcare professional immediately.
What causes blood in stools?
Blood in stools is a symptom of injury to the gut (digestive tract). When fresh blood is seen in the stool, it is called hematochezia. It is a marker of rectal and anal disease. Dark tarry stool is called melena. It points to bleeding from the small intestine or stomach.
The following conditions may cause blood in stools
- Hemorrhoids: The painless, bright red blood that coats the stool or toilet paper may be due to hemorrhoids (piles). Piles are swollen veins present in the lower part of the rectum.
- Anal fissure: The bright red blood that covers the stools on one side and is accompanied by intense pain may be due to anal fissure. This is a small tear at the margin of the anus from where the stools are expelled.
- Colitis (infections): The infection of the large intestine by amoebas or bacteria (such as E. coli and Shigella) can also cause blood in stools. This is accompanied by diarrheas, fever and abdominal cramps.
- Ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel syndrome): This disease is due to the malfunctioning of the immune system. It causes ulcers in the colon. Other symptoms are diarrhea that lasts more than a week, stomach cramps, joint pain and weight loss. It has active episodes (periods of flares) and remissions (the phase when symptoms go away).
- Colon cancers: A cancerous growth in the rectum or anus may cause red blood in the stools. Other symptoms may include weight loss, loss of appetite and alternating diarrhea and constipation.
- Polyps: These are noncancerous masses found in the anus and rectum as you age. These may cause bleeding if they get twisted resulting in blood in stools.
- Diverticulitis: Diverticula are small pouches that form in the gut, typically the large bowel, of some people. When these diverticula get infected and swollen (diverticulitis), they may cause dark red blood in the stools.
- Angiodysplasia: Some people may have an abnormal blood vessel malformation in the small intestine. If it bursts due to pressure or trauma, there may be dark red blood in the stools.
- Ulcers: Ulcers in the upper gut, stomach or esophagus may also cause blood in stool, but such blood is blackish and causes tar-colored stools.
How will my doctor diagnose the cause of blood in my stool?
The physician will conduct certain tests to find the site and cause of bleeding. The following tests are commonly done to assess blood in stool
- Anoscopy: Done in clinic settings, it does not require anesthesia. An instrument is inserted inside the anus, and the doctor can check for piles, fistulas or polyps in the anus.
- Sigmoidoscopy: Done in clinic settings, it does not require anesthesia. A sigmoidoscope (an instrument) is inserted inside the anus. The lower gut and anus can be examined with this test.
- Colonoscopy: This study requires sedation. A colonoscope (pipe-like instrument with a camera and light source) is inserted through the anus and advanced upwards. The camera projects the image on a screen where the doctor can check inside the colon for any tumors or ulcers. Enteroscopy is a similar procedure that is done to visualize the inside of the small intestine.
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): This study requires sedation. A pipe-like instrument with a front camera is inserted through the mouth. As it moves through the esophagus and into the stomach and into the small intestine, the camera projects images onto the screen where the doctor can see the insides of the upper gut and stomach to check for any tumors or ulcers.
- Barium studies: A series of X-rays are taken after drinking a solution of barium salt. This highlights any masses or ulcers or narrowing in the digestive tract.
- Laparotomy: If the above measures fail, open laparotomy is performed where the abdomen is opened surgically to find the cause of the bleeding.
- Angiography: This procedure is performed to find bleeding from an artery or any abnormal blood vessel (angiodysplasia). A dye is injected and its pathway is examined on computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Latest Digestion News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Is Bright Red Blood in the Stool Serious Related Articles
Blood in the Stool (Rectal Bleeding, Hematochezia)Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding (hematochezia) refers to the passage of bright red blood from the anus. Common causes include anal fissures, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, colitis, Crohn's disease, colon and rectum polyps, and cancer. The color of the blood in the stool may provide information about the origin of the bleeding. The color of stool with blood in it may range from black, red, maroon, green yellow, gray, or white, and may be tarry, or sticky. Treatment of blood in the stool depends on the cause.
ColitisColitis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Symptoms of the inflammation of the colon lining include diarrhea, pain, and blood in the stool. There are several causes of colitis, including infection, ischemia of the colon, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, infectious colitis like C. difficile, or microscopic colitis). Treatment depends on the cause of the colitis.
Colon Cancer IllustrationsMost, if not all, of these cancers develop from colonic polyps. Removal of these precancerous polyps can prevent colon cancer. See a picture of Colon Cancer and learn more about the health topic.
Colon Polyps: Symptoms, Causes, Cancer Risk, Treatment, and PreventionColon polyps are common growths on the inner lining of the colon. Colon polyps may become cancerous. There are several different types of colon polyps, and the chance of the polyp becoming cancerous depends on the type, size, and histology. Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding are the most common symptoms of colon polyps. Treatment for colon polyps depend on the type, size, and histology.
Colonoscopy Procedure and PreparationA colonoscopy is a procedure whereby a docotor inserts a viewing tube (colonoscope) into the rectum for the purpose of inspecting the colon. Colonoscopy is the best method currently available to diagnose, detect, and treat abnormalities within the colon.
Colon Cancer SlideshowColorectal cancer (colon cancer) is the cause of many cancer deaths. Learn about the warning signs, symptoms, screening process, stages, and treatment related to colorectal cancer.
Diverticulitis SlideshowDiverticulitis (diverticulosis) is a condition in which the diverticulum or diverticula rupture in the colon, causing infection. Medical treatments such as antibiotics and surgery can treat diverticulitis (diverticulosis).
Endoscopy (EGD) Procedure
Endoscopy is a broad term used to described examining the inside of the body using an lighted, flexible instrument called an endoscope. Endoscopy procedure is performed on a patient to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum; and look for causes of symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or intestinal bleeding.
Endoscopy vs. ColonoscopyBoth endoscopy and colonoscopy are nonsurgical procedures that involve use of a flexible tube with a light and camera to examine parts of the digestive tract. A colonoscopy is a type of endoscopy.
Hemorrhoids (piles) are swollen veins in the rectum and anus. Causes include pregnancy, obesity, diarrhea, low-fiber diet, and prolonged sitting on the toilet. Treatment varies depending upon the severity of the hemorrhoids. Some treatment options include over-the-counter creams and suppositories, stool softeners, warm sitz baths, and hemorrhoidectomies.
Hemorrhoid ReliefLearn how to get rid of hemorrhoids, the difference between internal hemorrhoids and external hemorrhoids, what causes hemorrhoids, how long hemorrhoids last, and hemorrhoids treatment.
Hemorrhoids QuizDoes everyone have hemorrhoids? Test your knowledge of this and many other facts about Hemorrhoids.
How Do They Fix a Perforated Duodenal Ulcer?Omental patching is a surgical procedure for treating perforated ulcers. It is also called a Graham patch. This procedure uses a patch of the omentum to repair the injury. A laparoscopic omental patch closure of the perforated duodenal ulcer has become increasingly common. Complications include paralytic Ileus (paralysis of the small intestine), bleeding, infection, abscess (pus) formation, gastric outlet obstruction, necrosis (tissue death), and post-operative leak.
How Painful Is a Colonoscopy?A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure to evaluate the health of the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy is done with a colonoscope, a tube with a camera and surgical tools. The doctor can view the the colon, sample tissue for biopsy, or remove polyps. Most people feel nothing more than slight discomfort during the procedure because of mild sedation and pain medication. Some people do not feel much pain even without sedation, but some may experience cramps and pain.
Peptic Ulcer (Stomach Ulcer)Peptic or stomach ulcers are ulcers are an ulcer in the lining of the stomach, duodenum, or esophagus. Ulcer formation is related to H. pylori bacteria in the stomach, use of anti-inflammatory medications, and cigarette smoking. Symptoms of peptic or stomach ulcers include abdominal burning or hunger pain, indigestion, and abdominal discomfort after meals. Treatment for stomach ulcers depends upon the cause.
Ulcerative Colitis QuizWhat is ulcerative colitis and what risks are associated with suffering over the long term? Take this Ulcerative Colitis Quiz to learn causes, symptoms, and treatments for this painful digestive disorder.
Ulcerative ColitisUlcerative Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is slightly different than Crohn's disease. Learn the causes, symptoms, diet, and treatment options associated with ulcerative colitis.