Blood In Stool
What is blood in the stool?
Blood in stool may seem to appear frightening when you notice for the first time after a bowel movement. It is a very common scenario. However, it is not life-threatening in normal cases. There are many reasons for blood in stool such as constipation, haemorrhoids, digestive problems and colon cancer. To be certain about the cause, blood in stool doctor can be consulted and evaluated. There are 3 types of blood in stool. Based on the colour of blood, it is differentiated:
- Hematochezia caused by haemorrhoids, polyps, and inflammatory conditions in which blood in stool appears in bright red colour.
- Hematochezia in which bright red colour blood appears in stool and is caused by rapid bleeding in case of ulcer and varices.
- Melena caused by slow bleeding due to ulcer, cancer etc that results in dark red or black colour blood in the stool.
Blood in Stool Symptoms
Blood in the stool itself is a symptom of an underlying disease condition. Blood in stool symptoms can involve the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Breathing problems
- Weight loss
- Anaemia especially iron deficiency anaemia
- Blood in urine
- Anal itching
All these symptoms will depend on the cause, location, length and severity of bleeding.
Who is at Risk?
The risk of developing blood in stool will vary in those who suffer from gastrointestinal tract problems, haemorrhoids (piles), anal fissures, constipation, stomach flu, diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis, ischemic colitis, rectal prolapse, rectal trauma, angiodysplasia and cancers of colon and rectum. If you have continuous and heavy bleeding combined with abdominal pain and cramps it is advised to seek medical assistance. Chronic stress that causes ulcer can also put you at the risk of rectal bleeding by affecting your immune system.
Blood in Stool Causes
Many underlying disease condition causes rectal bleeding. The common blood in stool causes is listed out here.
- Haemorrhoids (piles)
- Anal fissures
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s colitis
- Infectious colitis
- Ischemic colitis
- Meckel’s diverticula
- Ulcerative proctitis
- Cancers and polyps
- Angiodysplasia (abnormal blood vessels seen in the inner lining of the intestine).
How is Blood in Stool Diagnosed?
For proper treatment, diagnosis of the exact location and cause of the rectal bleeding is very important that will help in preventing bleeding. Blood in stool diagnosis involves the following tests:
- Medical history and physical examination of the patient by an efficient doctor will help identify the age and related cause of rectal bleeding.
- Anoscopy is the method through which internal haemorrhoids and anal fissures are examined by inserting a lubricated tapered end of the anoscope through the anal canal.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to examine the sigmoid colon, part of descending colon and rectum to detect diverticula, colon polyps and cancers in the rectum. Also, this method can detect ulcerative colitis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s colitis, ischemic colitis.
- Colonoscopy enables the doctor to evaluate the entire colon. This will help in the diagnosis of diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s colitis, ischemic colitis, and angiodysplasia in the colon and rectum.
- Angiogram or visceral angiogram helps to locate rapid bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract accurately.
- A radionuclide scan is of two types. Meckel’s scan and tagged red blood cell (RBC) scan will help to diagnose the exact location of Meckel’s diverticula and gastrointestinal bleeding respectively.
- Blood tests like complete blood count (CBC) and iron level will help to detect if the bleeding is acute or chronic. Also, iron deficiency anaemia could be due to colon polyps, colon cancer, chronic colitis, and angiodysplasia.
All the above blood in stool test will help in the accurate diagnosis of the exact cause of rectal bleeding further helping the doctor to streamline the treatment
How is Blood in Stool Treated?
Treatment for blood in stool includes detecting the precise cause and location of bleeding, correcting anaemia and low blood volume, looking for other non bleeding that may bleed in the future, stopping active bleeding and preventing rebleeding. A general physician can be consulted for blood in stool treatment. If the root cause is found to be anaemia, the doctor may prescribe you supplements or medicine for blood in stool that will correct the condition.
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How can Blood in Stool be Prevented?
Most of the causes of rectal bleeding can be prevented by the following:
- To avoid haemorrhoids, prevent constipation by eating a fibre-rich diet.
- Preventing constipation will minimize the risk of diverticulosis.
- Alcohol consumption increases the risk of rectal bleeding, hence limit alcohol intake.
All these will help in effective blood in stool prevention.