All to Know About Blood in Stool
Blood in stool, also called hematochezia, can be quite alarming. It can be discovered in your stool, while wiping after a bowel movement or from a test. In some cases, bloody stool can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice anything unusual about your stool.
Give your doctor any detail, no matter how trivial, to help them diagnose the cause of the bleeding and locate the site. For example, a black, tarry stool is likely an ulcer or other problem in the upper part of the digestive tract.
On the other hand, bright red blood or maroon-colored stools usually point to a problem in the lower part of the digestive tract such as hemorrhoids or diverticulitis.
Symptoms of Blood in Stool
Blood in stool is a symptom on its own. However, other associating symptoms may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
These symptoms depend on the cause, location, length, and severity of the bleeding.
Causes of Blood in Stool
Blood in the stool can point to a bleeding in your digestive tract. Though blood in stool can be discovered either in your stool or while wiping, but in some cases, the amount of blood so trivial that it can only be detected by a fecal occult test.
Possible causes of blood in stool include:
Colitis: This is inflammation of the colon caused by infections or inflammatory bowel disease.
Diverticular disease: Diverticula are small pouches that project from the colon wall. They can bleed or get infected.
Peptic ulcers: These are open sore in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (upper end of the small intestine). Many peptic ulcers are caused by infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Anal fissure: Anal fissure is a small cut or tear in the tissue lining the anus. Fissures are often caused by passing a large, hard stool.
Angiodysplasia: This occurs when fragile, abnormal blood vessels leads to bleeding.
Polyps: Polyps are benign growths that can grow, bleed, and become cancerous.
Esophageal problems: Tears in the esophagus can cause severe loss of blood.
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Diagnosing Blood in Stool
Your doctor may ask questions about your medical history and perform a physical exam. He or she may order tests to determine the cause of bleeding. Tests may include:
Nasogastric lavage: The procedure involves removing the contents of the stomach through a tube inserted into the stomach through the nose. This test helps to show whether bleeding is in the upper or lower digestive tract. If the stomach does not contain sign of blood, the bleeding may have stopped or is probably in the lower digestive tract.
Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD): This procedure involves inserting an endoscope, or flexible tube with a small camera on the end, through the mouth and down the esophagus to the stomach and duodenum. The doctor can use this to look for the source of bleeding. Endoscopy can also be used to collect small tissue for biopsy.
Colonoscopy: This procedure involves inserting a scope through the rectum to view the colon. Colonoscopy can be used to collect tissue samples to biopsy.
Enteroscopy: A procedure similar to EGD and colonoscopy used to study the small intestine. In some cases this involves swallowing a capsule with a tiny camera inside that transmits images to video monitor as it passes through the digestive tract.
Angiography: This procedure involves injecting a special dye into a vein that makes blood vessels visible on an X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan. Bleeding site is detected as dye leaks out of blood vessels.
Laparotomy: This surgical procedure involves the doctor opening and examining the abdomen. This may be necessary if other tests fail to find the source of bleeding.
Treatments for Blood in Stool
Several techniques may be employed by your doctor to stop acute bleeding.
Endoscopy: This is used to inject chemicals into the site of bleeding, treat the bleeding site with an electric current or laser, or apply a band or clip to close the bleeding vessel.
Angiography: If endoscopy fails to control bleeding, the doctor may use angiography to inject medicine into the blood vessels to control bleeding.
Treating blood in stool mostly involves addressing the cause of bleeding to keep it from recurring. Treatment varies depending on the cause and may include medications such as antibiotics to treat H. pylori, drugs to suppress acid in the stomach, or anti-inflammatory drugs to treat colitis.
Surgery may be required to remove polyps or the parts of the colon damaged by inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, or cancer.
Sources: webmd.com, healthline.com
Image source: stockphoto
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