What does it mean when you have blood in your stool?

Answer

Bloody stools point to digestive tract problems, according to WebMD. Hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers and colon cancer are a few of the causes of bloody stools, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Rectal bleeding is common and usually isn't serious.

The stool’s appearance changes depending on where the digestive tract bleeding occurs. The color can range from bright red to tar black, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The higher up in the digestive system it occurs, the darker the stool's appearance. For example, marooned-colored stools, explains WebMD, indicate problems in the lower portion of the digestive tract, such as hemorrhoids, but black-colored stools indicate problems in the upper portion of the digestive tract, such as ulcers.

There are exceptions, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, as heavy bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract also causes bright red stools. Sometimes bloody stools aren't really bloody at all. Beets and tomatoes can turn stools red, and blueberries, bismuth medications and iron pills can turn stools black.

Although it may not be serious, it is advisable for people who experience rectal bleeding to see a physician even if that cause is simply hemorrhoids, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. The physician may inquire about diet and medications and then may perform tests, such as a stool culture, and blood studies, to pinpoint exact causes.

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