Formula Medical Group
Apple Valley, CA
760-242-1234


James Krider, MD


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Bloody stools

When bleeding or irritation occurs in any part of the digestive tract, blood and mucus appear in the stools. If the blood is digested, it may be invisible, although large amounts of blood make the stools look black and tarry. Blood lost from the lower end of the gastrointestinal tract (the rectum) is usually bright red. Although such bleeding looks alarming, it is often the result of common and relatively minor conditions such as hemorrhoids.

Causes of stools with blood or mucus

Acute gastritis
Acute gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach, is signalled by vomiting of blood, bloody stools, severe pain in the pit of the stomach, rapid heartbeat, a rigid abdomen, and thirst. Severe injuries, food poisoning, and exposure to certain chemicals can cause the condition.

Colon cancer
Bright red or black blood on or in the stool is a warning sign of colon cancer. Other symptoms may include diarrhea or constipation, narrow, ribbon-like stools, general stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and cramps), frequent gas pains, a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, weight loss and constant fatigue.

Colon polyps
Blood in the stool or the toilet bowl, unusual abdominal pain, a change in the size and shape of the stool, or a change in bowel habits suggests the presence of colon polyps. These are common, noncancerous growths, but they may harbor cells that eventually give rise to cancer.

Constipation
Straining to pass hard, compacted stools often results in
small tears in the rectum or anus, resulting in bloody stools. Life-style changes such as increased exercise, dietary changes, and adequate fluid intake usually resolve the problem.

Crohn's disease
In this condition, sharply demarcated areas in the wall of the intestine become sore, inflamed, and swollen. The resulting symptoms are pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, and loss of weight.

Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are varicose veins that form in the lower rectum or around the anus. They often become swollen, irritated, and

A diet high in fiber and lots of water can help prevent hemorrhoids.

A diet high in fiber and lots of water can help prevent hemorrhoids.

painful. Small ruptures in the hemorrhoids result in bright red blood in the stools.

Irritable bowel syndrome
In this syndrome, constipation is accompanied by pain, usually in the lower left side of the abdomen. After several days of this discomfort, a hard stool is produced, followed by several softer stools. This constipation often alternates with diarrhea in which the stools are flecked with clear, thick mucus. Rectal irritation may result in small amounts of blood in the stools.

Meckel's diverticulum
This is an inborn disorder in which a sac that is attached to the small intestine does not disappear as it normally should within a month after birth. Stool may fill this sac and cause infection and obstruction. As a result, left-abdominal pain develops, sometimes accompanied by bloody stools.

Peptic ulcers
Black, bloody stools, vomiting, and a steady, boring or burning pain in the pit of the stomach are all signs of a peptic ulcer. People with bleeding ulcers sometimes vomit blood (which looks like coffee grounds) as well.

Stomach cancer
Red or black blood in the stool, along with vomiting, weight loss, and pain, are signs of advanced stomach cancer. The earlier symptoms resemble those of a number of other digestive illnesses. These symptoms include persistent indigestion, a feeling of bloated discomfort after eating, slight nausea, loss of appetite, heartburn, and mild stomach pain.

Typhoid fever
Bloody diarrhea, a constant, severe headache, high fever, abdominal distention, rosy spots

on the abdomen, and stupor are all signs of typhoid fever. The condition, which is rare in developed nations, is caused by a species of salmonella bacteria spread from person to person through contact with infected feces.

Ulcerative colitis
In this disorder, sores form in the inner lining of the large intestine, resulting in bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and, occasionally, pain in the joints. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but it may be the result of an autoimmune reaction in which the immune system attacks the body's own tissue.

Advice about stools with blood or mucus

  • If you experience any of the symptoms of colon cancer for 2 weeks, see your doctor as soon as possible. While cancer may not be the final diagnosis, any illness that causes chronic fatigue and indigestion demands prompt evaluation and treatment. In colon cancer, early diagnosis and treatment are often life saving.
  • Colon cancer often develops in people who have ulcerative colitis. If you have this type of colitis, be sure you undergo frequent examinations for colon cancer.
  • A low-fat, high-fiber diet can prevent or lessen the severity of irritable bowel syndrome, as can regular exercise, stress reduction, and frequent, small meals.
  • Vaccines are available to reduce your risk of contracting typhoid fever, but none are totally effective. If you travel to an area where this infectious disease is common, avoid water, ice, unsterilized milk, and shellfish.
This article was last reviewed November 14, 2005 by Dr. James Krider.
Reproduced in part with permission of Home Health Handbook.
Cancer, colon
Cancer, stomach
Constipation
Crohn's disease
Gastritis, acute
Hemorrhoids
Irritable bowel syndrome
Meckel's diverticulum
Peptic ulcers
Polyps, colon
Typhoid fever
Ulcerative colitis


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