Blood in the Stool
Blood in the Stool: Introduction
Blood in the stool is an abnormal, potentially critical condition, in which there is blood mixed in with the bowel movement or feces. Blood in the stool is also called bloody stool or melana and is often a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Blood in the stool is sometimes accompanied by frank bleeding from the rectum or rectal bleeding. Having blood in the stool can be the result of a wide variety of conditions, such as hemorrhoids, diverticula, inflammatory bowel disease, rectal prolapse, colorectal cancer, rectal abscesses, intestinal infections, peptic ulcer, intestinal polyps, constipation or anal fissures. For more details about causes, see causes of blood in the stool.
Blood in the stool can indicate a relatively mild condition, such as hemorrhoids, or blood in the stool can accompany a serious, even life-threatening condition, such as esophageal varices or colorectal cancer.
Having blood in the stool can appear in a variety of forms. There may be small amounts of bright red blood that is mixed inside the stool or that shows up on toilet paper after wiping the anus. Visible blood clots can also be present with blood in the stool.
Another type of blood in the stool occurs when there is blacken blood mixed in with stool. Stools may appear black and tarry, or maroon in color. Blood in the stool may also be in such small quantities that it cannot be seen by the naked eye. This is called fecal occult blood, which may indicate a serious condition.
There are many symptoms that can accompany blood in the stool, depending on the cause of the bleeding. Symptoms often involve the gastrointestinal system but can affect body systems as well. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, vomiting, rectal pain and diarrhea. Left untreated chronic and ongoing blood in the stool can lead to severe blood loss over time (anemia). Symptoms of anemia can include weakness, dizziness, hypotension, fainting and shortness of breath. Blood in the stool may also occur without other noticeable symptoms.
Diagnosing the cause of blood in the stool begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. A digital rectal examination and testing for fecal occult blood are generally performed at this time. A digital rectal examination involves inserting a finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities, such as hemorrhoids, and obtain a sample of stool.
The stool sample is then tested for fecal occult blood, which can indicate invisible, hidden blood in the stool. Your health care provider may also examine the rectum using a lighted instrument called an anoscope. An anoscpoe is inserted a short way into the rectum to look for causes of having blood in the stool.
A blood test commonly performed for blood in the stool is a complete blood count (CBC). A complete blood count can determine if having blood in the stool has lead to significant blood loss and a decreased number of red blood cells (anemia).
Making a diagnosis of blood in the stool may also include performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the insides of the gastrointestinal tract. These may consist of some combination of tests, such as a barium X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and a variety of tests using video imaging technology. These include sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy involve passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for abnormal areas and sites of bleeding. During this procedure, samples of tissue may be taken to be tested to confirm a diagnosis. The upper areas of the gastrointestinal tract can be examined in a similar way through the mouth and esophagus in an endoscopy procedure.
A diagnosis of blood in the stool and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because tiny amounts of blood may not be noticeable for long periods of time. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of blood in the stool.
Treatment of blood in the stool varies greatly depending on the underlying cause and a variety of other factors. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated, while other may require intensive treatment. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of blood in the stool. ...more »
Blood in the Stool: Treatments
Treatment plans for blood in the stool are individualized depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition, the presence of coexisting diseases and complications, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors.
The prognosis for people with blood in the stool varies depending on the prognosis of the underlying disease, disorder or ...more treatments »
Blood in the Stool: Misdiagnosis
Having blood in the stool is a symptom of many different conditions, so a thorough medical evaluation is needed to ensure an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause. Even if blood in the stool appears to be caused by easily visible and obvious hemorrhoids, some patients may also need a colonoscopy and other testing to ensure that bleeding isn't also coming some a more serious condition ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Blood in the Stool
Read more about symptoms of Blood in the Stool
Home Diagnostic Testing
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Causes of Blood in the Stool
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Blood in the Stool: Undiagnosed Conditions
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Misdiagnosis and Blood in the Stool
Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder
called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common...read more »
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed.
The best known, ...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance.
The digestive system contains a variety of ...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,
but...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning).
In fact, it's more likely to be an infectious...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed
(it can, of course, also fail to be...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Blood in the Stool
Blood in the Stool: Research Doctors & Specialists
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Blood in the Stool: Rare Types
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Blood in the Stool: Animations
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