When Should You Worry About Blood In Your Stool
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It can be unsettling to find signs of blood in your stool. But you shouldnt immediately think the worst. True, blood in the stool may be caused by a variety of conditions or diseases, including cancer, that could develop into serious health issues if left untreated. But the blood may also be a product of more benign conditions, such as hemorrhoids, which, while still unwanted, are often less serious than other conditions.
Still, if you notice blood after a bowel movement, its a good idea to contact your doctor to find the cause, says Toufic Kachaamy, MD, Gastroenterologist and Interventional Program Specialist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® , Phoenix.
Blood in the stool is always abnormal and needs to be investigated, he says. Never assume its benign or not significant until youve had a thorough investigation by your physician.
In this article, well explore the causes of rectal bleeding and bloody stools and what you should do about them. Topics include:
If youve been diagnosed with cancer of the digestive system, including colorectal cancer, stomach cancer or esophageal cancer, and are interested in a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan, or chat online with a member of our team.
What Happens When A Hemorrhoid Bursts
When a thrombosed hemorrhoid becomes too full of blood, it can burst. This can lead to a brief period of bleeding. Keep in mind that a thrombosed hemorrhoid will usually be very painful before it actually bursts. Once it bursts, youll likely feel an instant sense of relief due to the release of extra pressure from built-up blood.
If you have some bleeding but continue to also have pain or discomfort, you likely just have a bleeding hemorrhoid, rather than a burst hemorrhoid.
Learn more about bleeding hemorrhoids and how to handle them.
Why Is There Blood In My Stool
Blood in the stool is the result of bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract includes organs like the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine .
Seeing blood in your stool can be alarming. You may have heard blood in your stool can be a sign of cancer, but more often, bleeding is a symptom of a less serious condition.
Many conditions can cause it, including a bad case of diarrhea or constipation.
Symptoms of an emergency
There are multiple causes of blood in the stool.
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Can Medication Cause Hemorrhoids
There are many medications especially opioids that can cause constipation, making hemorrhoids more likely to occur.
They change your bodys natural flow resulting in dehydration or increased pressure on the veins, which can lead to hemorrhoids.
Medications that cause hemorrhoids should be discussed with your doctor to see if there are any other alternative options.
If your doctor lets you know there arent any alternatives, youll want to do your best to prevent hemorrhoids by staying hydrated, eating healthy, and using good bathroom habits.
Hemorrhoid supplements can help people suffering from chronic hemorrhoids. We have a full list of hemorrhoid supplement reviews you can check out to see if one is right for you.
Are There Any Foods That Can Change The Color Of My Stool In A Similar Way To Rectal Bleeding
There are certain foods that can make your poop an unusual color. You can have green, yellow and even black stool. This can happen for a variety of reasons having too much bile during digestion, having a medical condition like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, being on antibiotics, or even just eating foods with strong color pigments.
Often, blood can make your stool look very dark and almost black. Foods like black licorice, beets, dark berries and red gelatin can all make your poop look very dark. This can easily be confused for blood in your stool. If you notice very dark poop during a bowel movement, think back to what you ate recently. Theres a chance that what you ate could be the cause for the usually dark stool.
Can Diarrhea Make Hemorrhoids Bleed
Bleeding from hemorrhoids is usually associated with bowel movements, or it may also stain the toilet paper with blood. The exact cause of bleeding from hemorrhoids is not known, but it often seems to be related to constipation, diarrhea, sitting or standing for long periods, obesity heavy lifting and pregnancy.
Are There Any Tests For Rectal Bleeding
There are several ways your healthcare provider can evaluate rectal bleeding to help figure out the cause. Your provider might start by asking you about the situation around your rectal bleeding. Some questions may include:
- When did the rectal bleeding start?
- What did you eat the day before seeing the rectal bleeding?
- How frequently do you have a bowel movement?
- Have you been constipated?
- Were you straining during your bowel movement?
- Do you have pain when you have the rectal bleeding?
- Is there blood on your stool , in the toilet bowel or when you wipe?
- Do you have hemorrhoids?
- Do you have any inflammatory bowel conditions?
- Do you have a family history of colorectal cancer?
These questions can help your healthcare provider narrow down a possible cause of your bleeding. There are also tests that your provider can do to help determine the cause.
Tests to help diagnose the cause of rectal bleeding can include:
- A sigmoidoscopy.
- A fecal occult blood test .
Your healthcare provider may suggest only one of these tests, or do several of them together to try and discover the cause of your rectal bleeding.
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What Else Could It Be
Your doctor can determine the exact cause of stools with blood. Underlying disorders and complications of this condition can be serious. If youre concerned, always err on the safe side and see a doctor.
Pay attention to what the blood in your stool looks like.
- How much blood is there?
- How often does it occur?
- What color is the blood?
This will help your doctor zero in on the problem.
Blood in stools can come from any area of the gastrointestinal tract.
The Center For Advanced Gastroenterology
At the Center for Advanced Gastroenterology, we have dedicated our practice to providing effective diagnostic and treatment solutions for issues of the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract and liver for our patients. These issues include such conditions as:
- Viral hepatitis
- Acid reflux/GERD
- Gastritis/abdominal pain
- Banding of internal hemorrhoids
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor About Rectal Bleeding During An Appointment
If youre experiencing rectal bleeding, calling your healthcare provider and going in for an appointment is often a good idea. Your provider will figure out whats causing the bleeding and develop a plan to stop the bleeding.
Its important to ask any questions you might have during this appointment. Dont be embarrassed to talk about your bowel movements or details about your poop. This information might seem disgusting, but it will help your provider know whats happening and find the best way to help you feel better.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/13/2020.
Why Is My Poop Black/red
Essentially, the brighter red blood is fresher and is associated with the lower gastrointestinal tract. The dark red or black blood is old blood that has already travelled through the GI system for some time. It is associated with the upper GI tract, originating from as far back as the stomach, potentially .
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What Medications Can Cause Rectal Bleeding
Some of them can include:
- Alpha agonists such as Catapres-TTS
- Anticholinergic agents like Atropen and trihexyphenidyl
- Antihistamines such as Benadryl , Claritin , and
- Calcium channel blockers such as Cardizem , Norvasc , and Verelan
- Calcium and iron supplements, including antacids that contain calcium
- Histamine-2 receptor antagonists such as Pepcid and Tagamet HB
- Opioid pain relievers such as Anexsia
- Overactive bladder medications such as Detrol and Ditropan XL
- Parkinson’s disease medications such as Sinemet
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and Norpramin
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil or Motrin and Aleve can cause intestinal ulcers that can lead to rectal bleeding.
There are other medications that can increase the risk of bleeding in the body. If theres an ulcer or another issue going on in the digestive system, a medication that increases bleeding could cause it to bleed more than it normally would.
Some of these medications are:
- Anticoagulants such as vitamin K antagonists, Coumadin , or heparin
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
- Direct oral anticoagulants such as Pradaxa , Eliquis , Savaysa , and Bevyxxa
- Platelet inhibitors such as Plavix or Effient
So What Really Causes Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can be internal or external, and while internal hemorrhoids have minimal symptoms unless prolapsed, the swelling of external hemorrhoids can be accompanied by pain, discomfort, itching and burning.
Hemorrhoids are more common with age, because as we grow older, we produce less collagen, the protein that makes up the structural walls of blood vessels.
Because blood vessels become weaker, hemorrhoids are generally caused by anything that puts pressure on those vessels, including:
There are many different hemorrhoid treatment options to choose from.
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What You Should Do
For non-severe cases of constipation, the best action you can take is to start eating plenty of fiber-rich foods such as leafy greens, fresh fruit, whole-grain breads, and nuts and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Also, try to maintain regular bowel habits.
To treat non-severe hemorrhoids, get up and walk around every so often if you sit a lot. Fiber-rich foods are also important when you have hemorrhoids, and avoid heavy lifting as much as possible. Also, when going to the bathroom, dont push too strenuously or for to long during a bowel movement.
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Can I Use A Suppository For Hemorrhoids With Bleeding
While many people love hemorrhoid suppositories, you should be careful using a hemorrhoid suppository when bleeding.
Make sure that you have bleeding hemorrhoids before relying strictly upon a hemorrhoid suppository.
If you can confirm your problem isnt more serious, then a suppository for bleeding is a good idea.
My favorite suppository for bleeding hemorrhoids is from Boiron.
When To See A Doctor
Occasional minor to mild rectal bleeding is common and will often not need medical attention or treatment.
Severe, chronic, or painful rectal bleeding may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, which a doctor should assess.
People normally notice rectal bleeding when they see streaks or drips of blood in their stool, the toilet bowl, or when wiping. Some people may also find blood in their underwear, or the toilet water may appear reddish-pink after they go to the bathroom.
Some cases of rectal bleeding also cause very bad smelling, dark, tarry stool mixed with dark red to black blood.
Reasons to see a doctor for rectal bleeding include:
- bleeding that lasts longer than a few days
- children with bloody stool or rectal bleeding
- unexplained weight loss, fatigue, or weakness
- painful, swollen, or tender abdomen
- simultaneous lumps in the abdomen
- stool that is thinner, longer, or softer than normal for several weeks
- accompanying nausea or vomiting
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Can Stress Cause Hemorrhoids To Flare Up
If youre under a lot of stress, hemorrhoids can be an unfortunate side effect.
Stress also can lead to constipation, which is one of the main causes of hemorrhoids.
Stress is something that can have a very bad impact on our lives, not just with hemorrhoids. If you are feeling stressed, try meditation or exercising to see if that helps.
How Is Rectal Bleeding Diagnosed
When you see a doctor for rectal bleeding, youll be asked a series of questions to help identify the cause. These can include when the rectal bleeding began, any foods you ate prior to the onset of symptoms, if you were constipated, and if you were straining during your bowel movement.
Your doctor will also perform a full medical exam and take your medical history.
Tests that may help determine the cause of rectal bleeding include:
- Colonoscopy, in which a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera on its tip is inserted into the rectum. This allows your doctor to view the inside of the entire colon and look for any abnormalities, notes the Mayo Clinic.
- Sigmoidoscopy, in which a healthcare provider uses a sigmoidoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera, to view the lower part of your colon and rectum. This test can help diagnose bowel disorders and cancer, per the Mayo Clinic.
- Fecal occult blood test, which is a lab test to detect hidden, or occult, blood in stool. The test can be done in a few different ways, either by the patient collecting stool samples and returning them to their doctor or a lab, or using a flushable pad or tissue that changes color when blood is present, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Deterrence And Patient Education
It is important for patients to seek medical consultation in cases of rectal bleeding, especially in middle and older aged individuals, as the risk of malignancy is higher in these groups.
Patients should be educated to seek medical assistance immediately if they experience vomiting or coughing up blood associated with rectal bleeding. This may indicate a potentially life-threatening upper gastrointestinal bleed or the presence of a bleeding tendency such as thrombocytopenia or anti-coagulant toxicity.
Is Bright Red Blood In My Stool Worse Than Darker Blood
The longer the blood is in your digestive tract, the darker it will typically look. This is because there are digestive chemicals in your body that naturally break down everything that moves through your digestive tract. The blood gets darker the longer its in contact with these chemicals. If your bleeding is higher up in the digestive tract, it might appear darker in the toilet. If you see bright red blood, that can mean its lower in your digestive tract or is moving through your body very quickly. While there are many benign causes of bright red bleeding, there are fewer benign causes of darker blood for this reason, dark blood may be more concerning, and warrants workup by your healthcare provider.
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How Are They Treated
For most external hemorrhoids, home treatment is all you need. This includes slowly adding fiber to your meals, drinking more water, and using over-the-counter ointments for a limited time to stop itching. You also may use stool softeners. The same home treatment can be used for most internal hemorrhoids.
If your internal hemorrhoids are severe, you may need other treatment. The doctor may tie off the hemorrhoids with rubber bands or scar the tissue around the hemorrhoids. These treatments reduce the blood supply to the hemorrhoids so that they shrink or go away.
Surgery to remove hemorrhoids may be done if other treatments dont work.
Healthy habits can help you prevent hemorrhoids or keep them from getting worse. Eat foods that have lots of fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Also, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of exercise.
Bleeding Hemorrhoids Home Treatment Options
See one of the links below for guides on the best hemorrhoid products for each category or type of product. These are great treatment options for bleeding hemorrhoids at home.
Most hemorrhoids can be treated at home with over-the-counter remedies. There are ways to change your daily habits that can treat bleeding hemorrhoids.
When it comes to bleeding hemorrhoids, you should consult with your physician or hemorrhoid doctor.
Once your doctor has determined that your rectal bleeding is caused by hemorrhoids, there are several hemorrhoid treatments available for bleeding hemorrhoids.
Lifestyle and Dietary Changes Can Help
Constipation is a common cause of hemorrhoids, so avoiding it at all costs can be an effective treatment for hemorrhoids.
Proper diet and hydration are very important for overall health .
Plus, its very helpful when dealing with hemorrhoids.
The use of stool softeners can also be helpful in treating hemorrhoids .
Make sure you follow proper hygiene practices and avoid straining during bowel movements.
Internal Hemorrhoids Medical Procedures
Internal hemorrhoids that bleed can be treated with many different options. The rubber band ligation is one of the most common treatment options for bleeding internal hemorrhoids.
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