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Blood in the Stool


Dr. Mansfield
Finding blood in the stool can be disconcerting, and it's always good to talk to a provider in these cases. Blood in the stool is usually a symptom of another condition. Dr. Jerman, what else can you tell us?

Dr. Jerman
Well, Dr. Mansfield, blood in the stool is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms, which may help a provider diagnose the source of the blood. Symptoms that could indicate dangerous bleeding requiring immediate medical treatment include:

  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Fatigue
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Very dark or sticky, tarry stool, and
  • Incontinence of stool or blood

Many conditions can cause blood to appear in the stool, and it's important to have the condition diagnosed in order to receive proper treatment. Conditions that can cause bloody stool include:

  • Angiodysplasia, a condition in which there are abnormal or enlarged blood vessels in the GI tract
  • Both benign and malignant, or cancerous, tumors in the esophagus, stomach, colon, or rectum
  • Chronic non-infectious inflammatory conditions of the gut, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Colon polyps
  • Peptic ulcers, usually in the stomach or upper small intestine
  • Diverticular disease, both infectious and non-infectious, sometimes causing brisk bleeding
  • Esophagitis, which is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and sometimes by infection
  • Gastritis, which can be caused by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, infections, Crohn's disease, and other serious illnesses
  • Mallory-Weiss tears, which occur in the esophagus as a result of severe vomiting, and
  • Hemorrhoids or anal fissures

After taking a medical history and doing a physical examination, providers may order one or more diagnostic tests to determine the cause of blood in the stool. Treatment depends on the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests may include analyses of blood and stool samples, endoscopic procedures to view the inside of the GI tract, and other imaging tests.