Blood in stool is often discovered with some perplexity, accompanied appropriately by exclamations of ‘bloody’ (not expletive). Dots of blood, scarlet red, stand out unmistakably on excrement. Maroon red blotches of blood besmirches the toilet tissue. Bright red spots of blood dribble into the toilet bowl or down the legs. Quite naturally, a sudden bout of fear causes our hearts to jump a beat or two.
No undue alarm is warranted yet as the hemorrhaging (technical word for bleeding) could be any one of 7 possible causes arising from the colon. Mindful attention to ensure early diagnosis and correct treatment will reduce any unsettling lifestyle changes as the best part of the 7 causes are treatable. Do not be unconcerned. Commence close monitoring. Without delay, consult your doctor if bleeding and pain lingers for more than a week.
Appropriate treatment following proper diagnosis can often quickly resolve the problem. More critically, blood in stool may be the consequence of some type of cancer.
Melena or Hematochezia
Hematochezia (maroon or bright red colored blood) or melena (black sticky or tarry stools) are two medical categorizations for the less technical term rectal bleeding. Whilst recognised as rectal bleeding as the exit is the rectum, the origins of the blood may be any of 7 causes in the colon (large intestine). Cancer, colon polyps, diverticulosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, intestinal ischemia and peptic ulcer are the 7 known causes in the colon.
This is the third most frequent form of cancer on earth and the third most frequent reason for of cancer-related death with a fatality toll of around 640,000 annually. It is the reason why one should see a medical specialist for continual blood in stool.
Tumours in the colon, appendix and rectum are classified as colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy (visual inspection by micro-camera inserted via the anus) is the chief means of ascertaining colorectal cancer. Treatment focuses on surgical excision and chemotherapy. Timely discovery often leads to a total cure. Those over 50 and those with family history of cancers are classified under the higher risk group. Colorectal cancer is gender blind, affecting both women and men, with no conspicuous bias for either sex.
This next point bears taking note. Quite in contrast to what is reported elsewhere, colorectal cancer commonly produces occult (not visible to the naked eye) blood in feces i.e it is NOT a regular reason for visible blood in stool! According to the University of Michigan Health System, colorectal cancer does cause bleeding but special tests are requisite to confirm the presence of occult blood. Crucial accompanying symptoms to watch out for are diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, weight loss, appetite loss and incessant fatigue.
Affixing on the walls of the intestines or the rectum, polyps are frequently benign and may be raised or flat. Those above 50 years of age and with a family history of polyps and colorectal cancer are prone to polyps. Contributory factors include lack of exercise, obesity, alcohol and smoking. It would seem that no one knows the real cause.
Whilst benign, polyps are usually excised during colonoscopy as they can become malignant. Polyps do not usually cause noticeable symptoms. But in others, blood in stool is present.
Pouches (diverticula) stretching from the colon wall is distinctive of diverticulosis. Diverticula growth is postulated to be a result of abnormal colon pressure, the causes of which are not entirely distinct. Contributory factors include deprivation of dietary fiber. If food gets embedded in diverticula, infection may set in leading to diverticulitis. Complications from diverticulitis can ensue if an infected diverticulum ruptures and disseminates bacteria to the abdominal cavity lining. The possibly deadly peritonitis can materialise.
Diverticulosis do not cause distinct symptoms in most people. Mild cramps, constipation and bloating are some noted symptoms. Yet others suffer more acutely, including nausea, vomiting and rectal bleeding as the most common symptoms. The peril of peritonitis emphasizes the need that blood in stool should first be examined by a doctor. A CT (computed tomography) scan is 98% efficacious in diagnosing diverticulitis.
IBD or inflammatory bowel disease, under which colitis is classified, affects the large intestine (colon) and the small intestine. Inflammation by itself is a healthy bodily response to heal damaged tissue. Like a tap that must be turned off, inflammation sets off curing of injured tissue but must terminate thereafter or greater tissue harm may ensue. Ulcerative colitis is caused by ulcers which are erosion of the mucous membrane lining.
Apart from other symptoms, blood in stool is frequent. The risk of peritonitis from colitis is the key reason for diagnosing it as the cause of rectal bleeding.
Crohn’s disease is an auto-immune disease whereby the body’s immune system provokes harmful inflammation by assailing the gastrointestinal tract. It can develop in any part of of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. But it usually affects the small and large intestine (colon).
Smoking, genetic makeup and industrial environmental exposure are believed to be contributory causal factors even though definitive causes are unknown. The symptoms are blood in stool, abdominal cramps, severe bloody diarrhea, blood on toilet tissue or in the toilet bowl, fever and weight loss.
Often termed as granulomatous colitis, Crohn’s disease can go into abeyance and happen again periodically throughout life. Currently, there is no known surgical or pharmaceutical solution for Crohn’s disease. Early detection is important for efficacious control of the symptoms and checking recurrences.
Ischemia is a suppression in blood supply to any part of the body. Dysfunctional arteries result in tissue damage due to the deprivation of blood nutrients and oxygen. Intestinal ischemia is the depletion blood supply causing inflammation of the large intestine; a result of blood clots, blood vessel constriction and general high blood pressure.
Symptoms include blood in stool, urgent and violent bowel movements, weight loss, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, abdominal bloating and fever. Urgent medical attention is needed to rejuvenate intestinal blood supply if there is serious consistent pain. It may be crucial to surgically circumvent blocked blood vessels and remove blood clots and damaged tissue. To arrest clots and infections, respective medication includes anticoagulants and antibiotics.
An exceedingly painful ulcer, this is located in the gastrointestinal tract. An erosion of the mucosal membrane that is at least 0.5cm in diameter is an ulcer. Commonly mistaken to occur in the stomach, peptic ulcers are actually prevalent in the duodenum (initial part of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers are largely presumed to be caused by a bacterium that inflicts chronic gastritis.
Symptoms include blood in stool (melena), abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, appetite and weight loss, vomiting of blood and at the extreme, perforation of the intestine. This can lead to possibly deadly peritonitis and requires emergency surgery. Antibiotics and antacids can be used to cure milder cases.
The above 7 causes is the rationale why rectal bleeding demands the skills of a medical doctor who can render a precise diagnosis. Appropriate treatment and medication, possibly including surgery, can accelerate the path to recovery.
Lest you be too distressed by the above narrated causes, blood in stool is most usually due to the relatively innocuous internal or external hemorrhoids.