Blood in stool
Blood in stool
Blood in stool can mean a serious condition, where there is bleeding in the digestive tract, possibly leading even to a threat to life. We do however need to discern several non-threatening symptoms. One of them is a situation, where blood shows on the toilet paper after vigorous wiping with paper, especially with a rougher one. Another case is the apparent appearance of blood in stool after ingesting food products with red food colorings or after using drugs containing acetysalicylic acid, iron, or bismuth. In this article we will talk about how blood in stool can look and which part of the digestive system can it originate from. One thing needs to be pointed out at the very beginning though- you must always consult a doctor.
Different coloration of blood in stool
The blood in stool can be red, as we usually know it. This means that the bleeding is occurring in the lower part of the digestive tract, somewhere below the duodenum( a part of the smaller intestine), to be precise. Furthermore, the blood can be in shades of brown, even black in some cases. Black blood in stool has a tar-like consistency and a foul odor. In medicine, this is called melena and it is caused by bleeding in the upper part of the digestive tract ( the blackness is caused by partial digestion of hemoglobin). Black stool can also be caused by bismuth preparations, although the feces will not smell in this case. If the blood in stool is visible with a naked eye, as was described above, it means a serious issue, which needs to addressed immediately. It is also possible for blood to appear in amounts smaller than can be seen by the naked eye, in which case we speak about hidden (occult) bleeding. Although only small quantities of blood are lost with occult bleeding, these losses do add up and will eventually manifest as well. This is known as a creeping process. Occult bleeding may be indicated by paleness, tiredness, elevated heart rate, occasionally by shortness of breath and disorientation in older persons.
Blood in stool and its causes
Now we will focus on how the blood gets into stool and what is the most common cause of this:
- Bleeding from the stomach and the duodenum – The cause of bleeding from this area is often a peptic ulcer, tumors or varicose blood-vessels.
- Bleeding from the smaller intestine – an ulcer, Crohn's disease ( an inflammatory disease which affects different sections of the smaller intestine), tumors, pouches in the intestinal wall (diverticles) insufficient blood supply of the intestines( long-term) is followed by bleeding after restoring circulation.
- Bleeding from the larger intestine – tumors (the bleeding is usually occult), diverticles, bacterial inflammation (can be caused by Escherichia coli, human Salmonella...), inflammation caused by radiation therapy (can occur in prostate cancer irradiation or in gynecological tumors), blood vessel dilation in the larger intestine.
- Bleeding from the anus – hemorrhoids ( a build-up of blood in veins of the anal region, they bleed when damaged), mucous membrane growths (polyps), tumors, radiation therapy inflammation.
Blood in stool and final advice
We repeat again that blood appearing in the stool, if it truly is blood, is a very serious condition. Occult bleeding is screened regularly in persons older than 50 (Fecal occult blood test) and everyone should undergo this test in their own interest, because occult bleeding may be inconspicuous, but very dangerous and furthermore is usually the result of other pathological processes in the digestive tract, such as cancerous growths. If blood appears in your stool, without it being a result of vigorous wiping with a rough toilet paper, you need to visit a doctor, because he is the only one who can objectively judge the severity of the condition.