Blood in Stool

3 min read

Understanding the Potential Causes of Blood in Stool

Blood in stool, also known as rectal bleeding or hematochezia, can be a concerning symptom that may indicate a variety of underlying health conditions. The color, quantity, and accompanying symptoms associated with blood in stool can provide important clues about the potential cause and help guide the diagnostic process. It is essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience rectal bleeding, as some causes may be serious and require prompt medical attention.

Characteristics of Blood in Stool

The appearance of blood in stool can vary depending on the location and cause of the bleeding:

  1. Bright Red Blood
    1. Description: Fresh, red blood that coats the stool or appears as drops in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper
    2. Potential Causes:
      1. Hemorrhoids
      2. Anal fissures
      3. Rectal polyps or tumors
      4. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
      5. Diverticulosis
  2. Dark or Maroon Blood
    1. Description: Blood that appears dark red or maroon, often mixed with the stool
    2. Potential Causes:
      1. Colonic polyps or tumors
      2. Diverticulosis
      3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
      4. Gastrointestinal infections
      5. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding (if the blood has been digested)
  3. Black, Tarry Stool (Melena)
    1. Description: Stool that appears black and sticky, often with a foul odor
    2. Potential Causes:
      1. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding (from the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine)
      2. Peptic ulcers
      3. Gastritis
      4. Esophageal varices
      5. Certain medications (e.g., iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate)

No, blood in stool is not always visible to the naked eye. In some cases, small amounts of blood may be present in the stool but not cause any noticeable changes in color or appearance. This type of bleeding is called occult bleeding and can only be detected through laboratory tests, such as a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT). These tests are often used as part of routine colorectal cancer screening or to investigate potential gastrointestinal disorders when other symptoms are present.

It is important to note that even if you do not see visible blood in your stool, other symptoms such as changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss should be reported to your healthcare provider for further evaluation.

Other Symptoms Associated with Blood in Stool

In addition to the presence of blood itself, other symptoms may accompany rectal bleeding and provide important context for determining the underlying cause:

  1. Changes in Bowel Habits
    1. Diarrhea or constipation
    2. Urgency or difficulty with bowel movements
    3. Narrow or ribbon-like stools
    4. Incomplete evacuation
  2. Abdominal Discomfort
    1. Cramping or pain
    2. Bloating or gas
    3. Tenderness to touch
  3. General Symptoms
    1. Fatigue or weakness
    2. Unintended weight loss
    3. Fever or chills
    4. Nausea or vomiting

When to Seek Medical Attention

While some causes of blood in stool may be benign and self-limiting, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  1. Significant or persistent rectal bleeding
  2. Blood in stool accompanied by severe abdominal pain, fever, or vomiting
  3. Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting associated with rectal bleeding
  4. Changes in bowel habits lasting more than a few days
  5. Unexplained weight loss or fatigue
  6. Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease
Prompt evaluation and diagnosis of blood in stool can help identify potentially serious conditions early and improve treatment outcomes. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the most appropriate diagnostic tools and develop a personalized management plan based on the underlying cause and your individual needs.


Blood in stool is a concerning symptom that requires careful evaluation by a healthcare professional. By understanding the characteristics of rectal bleeding, associated symptoms, and potential causes, individuals can play an active role in their digestive health and seek prompt medical attention when necessary. If you experience blood in your stool or any other persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate management strategies. Remember, early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the treatment and outcome of many gastrointestinal conditions.

Caring for You, Every Step of the Way