Why You Should Never Ignore Blood in Your Stool

It's perfectly normal to feel concerned if you spot blood in your stool or on the toilet paper after wiping. Bloody stool isn't a normal occurrence and should be evaluated immediately. Whether you notice a faint red streak or dark blood in your stool, it can be a sign that something is amiss. If you ignore the symptom, whatever condition is causing it may get worse, so getting in to see a gastroenterologist can help get to the bottom of things.

At Digestive Disorders Associates, we see patients with a wide variety of digestive complaints and can provide a comprehensive evaluation for issues such as bloody stools. Sometimes there’s an innocent explanation for finding blood in your stool. The only way to know for sure is to have a thorough examination.

Here are some of the possible reasons behind bloody stools.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes chronic inflammation and sores to develop along the digestive tract, and bloody stool is a common symptom. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of IBD. You may have IBD if your bloody stool is accompanied by:

While there is no cure for IBD, treatments can reduce symptoms and help patients avoid complications. A combination of diet and lifestyle changes, and medication when necessary, can benefit IBD patients.

Peptic ulcers

Bleeding anywhere along the digestive tract can cause blood to appear in the stool. Peptic ulcers are sores that form on the lining of the stomach that commonly cause bloody stool. Long-term use of certain medications and H. pylori, a stomach bacteria, are two common causes of ulcers. Most patients who have ulcers experience some digestive complaints along with diarrhea. You may have an ulcer if you notice:

Having an empty stomach tends to make stomach ulcer pain worse.

Hemorrhoids  

On the least serious end of the spectrum, hemorrhoids could be responsible for blood in your stool. This common condition occurs when the anus or rectum becomes irritated and swollen. Hemorrhoids often occur from straining during bowel movements.

A low-fiber diet and dehydration can contribute to straining, which puts pressure on the veins in the rectum and anus. When you see one of our providers at Digestive Disorders Associates, a comprehensive evaluation will help rule out more serious causes.

Typical signs of hemorrhoids to look out for include:

Bleeding during bowel movements is the most common sign of hemorrhoids. However, it’s best not to assume that hemorrhoids are the cause of your bloody stool. Consult us for evaluation, especially if you’re over age 40, as blood in your stools could be a sign of a more serious issue.

Colon cancer or other serious condition

While most instances of blood-containing stool aren't life-threatening, it’s necessary to have an evaluation. Bloody stool can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer. Let us know if you experience bleeding along with a sudden change in bowel habits. This may signal a more extensive problem elsewhere in the digestive tract.

It’s important to find out the cause of blood in your stool and rule out serious digestive conditions. Left untreated, bloody stool could lead to dangerous complications. If you have any digestive complaints, call our office in Annapolis to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.

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