Having blood in your stool can be disconcerting and is likely to leave you worrying about your health. But bowel movement blood (hematochezia) might not always represent a serious health problem. A number of conditions could result in having red blood in the stool. The gastroenterology specialists at GI Alliance routinely address this symptom and can determine the reason for gastrointestinal bleeding in adults and children alike.
What could blood in the stool mean?
Blood in a bowel movement is a sign that bleeding is occurring at some area along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bleeding might occur in any portion of the gastrointestinal system, which starts at the esophagus and ends at the rectum. In some cases, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool might be a result of minor digestive conditions that could be easily managed. But since rectal bleeding or bloody stools can also be evidence of a number of concerning GI diseases, it is extremely important to see a GI professional as early as possible to determine what’s causing this issue.
What causes bloody stool?
While blood in the stool can be completely benign, it can also be evidence of a more serious health problem and should never be ignored. The causes of rectal bleeding and blood in the stool can include:
- Colon cancer
- Gastric cancer
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Anal fissures
Who should see a gastroenterologist about red blood in the stool?
Any instances of dark or fresh blood in stools that persist should be assessed by a gastroenterologist. Immediate care should be received if heavy bleeding occurs or if symptoms, such as diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, exhaustion, wooziness, or other issues, are also present. The doctors at GI Alliance may suggest testing to ascertain at what point along the gastrointestinal system the bleeding is originating. Additionally, they can discuss bloody stool causes and decide whether further care is required. Routine procedures to diagnose the cause of rectal bleeding can include:
- Fecal tests (stool cultures): These types of lab tests can identify the presence of occult (hidden) blood in a stool sample, which could be an indicator of colon cancer or various other gastrointestinal diseases.
- Colonoscopy: During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible scope equipped with a special camera is utilized to provide a real-time image of the lining of the large intestine (colon). GI doctors can perform a colonoscopy to look for abnormalities within the rectum or large intestine that may be the cause of bloody stools. Colon polyps can also be removed during a colonoscopy, which can aid in reducing the possibility of developing colon cancer as time goes on.
- Upper endoscopy: Also called an upper GI, an upper endoscopy involves the placement of a long tube that contains a small camera through the oral cavity and into the GI tract. As a diagnostic procedure, it can help identify whether blood present in the stool may be originating from a condition associated with the throat, esophagus, or stomach, which make up the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Capsule endoscopy: With this diagnostic procedure, a wireless camera contained within a small capsule is swallowed, similar to an oral medication. The miniature camera takes and forwards photos of the various areas of the digestive system as it makes its way along the upper GI tract and into the small intestine.
Get specialty care for digestive health
GI health is a very important part of your overall health and wellness. If you find blood in your stool or notice any rectal bleeding after having a bowel movement, it is essential to visit a GI specialist to identify its cause and to help protect your health. Reach out to our GI Alliance team today to arrange a consultation with a skilled gastroenterologist.