Bloody stools in adults are something which often causes alarm. However, it could usually be due to anal fissures or haemorrhoids, which are not medical emergencies. Even food or medications consumed can cause such symptoms. Blood in stool can though sometimes indicate a serious underlying condition. Blood in the stool can be of different colours. It can be bright red, dark brown or even black. The most serious medical condition that results in blood in the stool is colon cancer. However, blood in the stool is most often caused by other less severe conditions.
Causes of Blood in the Stool
The primary cause of blood in the stool can be due to bleeding in the large intestine. The area affected will be indicated by the colour in the blood. If there is bleeding in the end of the colon or rectum, the blood in the stools will be bright red. Dark red or nearly black blood will indicate bleeding higher in the colon. Apart from this, there can be several other blood in stool causes:
- Stomach Ulcer – Peptic ulcer is the most common stomach ulcer that materializes in the digestive tract. The acidic state aggravates this ulcer and can cause severe pain to the patient. The most common causes of stomach ulcers include missed meals, stress and consumption of acidic food. An ulcer is not cancerous. Peptic ulcers are caused by the destruction of the gastric lining due to excessive hydrochloric acid. In addition, certain types of bacteria such as H.pylori can also cause stomach ulcers. Pain in the upper abdomen, weight loss and bloody stools are common symptoms of stomach ulcers.
- Haemorrhoids – Swollen and inflamed veins in the rectum and anus characterizes haemorrhoids, or piles. Inflammation can occur due to straining during a bowel movement or from pressure put on the veins during pregnancy. Symptoms of haemorrhoids are rectal bleeding during bowel movements, itchy symptoms in the anal area; lump near the anus and in some severe cases, leakage of faeces.
- Diverticulitis – Inflammation or infection of diverticula in the digestive tract is known as diverticulitis. These are small pouches that can form anywhere in the digestive tract. Symptoms of diverticulitis are abdominal pain, nausea, fever, diarrhea, constipation and rectal bleeding.
- Crohn’s Disease – Any part of the digestive tract can be affected with a bowel disease known as Crohn’s Disease. Although blood in the stools is less common in Crohn’s Disease, it occurs in some patients. As with any problem with the digestive tract, symptoms of Crohn’s Disease include diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Apart from this, persons affected with Crohn’s Disease may experience night sweats, fever and abdominal pain.
- Colonoscopy – A colonoscopy is also one of the blood in stool causes. This is a test that is used to screen for colon cancer. A colonoscopy is conducted to remove polyps and other abnormal growths in the colon. If the colon is punctured during this test, it can pass out as blood in the stools.
- Ischemic Colitis – This can occur due to interrupted blood flow due to a medical condition such as hernia or diabetes. In addition, it can occur after abdominal surgery or due to an infection. If untreated, Ischemic Colitis can be life threatening. Symptoms include passing blood with or without stools, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, among others.
Treatment and Prevention
There are several methods of preventing and treating discomfort caused by blood in stool. Firstly, it is recommended to obtain medical advice about possible blood in stool causes. A healthcare provider will prescribe tests that need to be taken to make an accurate diagnosis. These tests include a rectal examination, anoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy. Medication and treatment will be prescribed depending on the results of these tests.
- Home Remedies – If the tests rule out any major medical conditions such as cancer or any other as discussed above, many home remedies can be used to alleviate discomfort and pain associated with bloody stools in adults. These home remedies can help alleviate the bloody stool symptoms to a great extent. The best remedial action is to increase the intake of dietary fiber, as well as daily water intake. Secondly, if a person is taking laxatives or anti-inflammatory medications, then this too can cause bloody stools. Therefore, avoiding the use of them can be another effective remedial action. In addition, avoiding excessive intake of coffee and establishing regular bowel habits will also help avoid a recurrence of rectal bleeding.
- Medical Treatment – Home remedies will not be helpful if there is excessive bleeding. In the case of excessive bleeding, or black or brown colour bleeding, seeking emergency treatment is a must. Medical intervention will include prescription medications, blood transfusions, interventional radiography embolization or surgery where deemed necessary.
Blood in the stools is not something that should be ignored as being common or unimportant. Although it could be a problem that is just inconvenient, it is always recommended to seek medical attention. Since some causes of bloody stool are linked to life threatening conditions such as colon cancer or ischemic colitis, it is not wise to ignore such symptoms, as it could result in complicated medical emergencies.