Healthy Living

Blood in Your Stool: When to Visit a Doctor

Blood in Your Stool: When to Visit a Doctor

Key Takeaways

  • Not all rectal bleeding comes from the rectum.
  • The color of blood can range from bright red to a tarry color.
  • Bleeding may range from a mild drip to a severe hemorrhage.

Rectal bleeding is described as any blood that passes through the anus. It is usually believed that the bleeding comes from the rectum (or lower colon), which comprises the last few centimeters of the large intestine. However, not all bleeding comes from the rectum. It can come from anywhere in the digestive system.

Rectal bleeding shows up with the presence of blood in the stool, toilet bowl, or toilet paper. The color of blood can range from bright red to a tarry color. Bleeding may range from a mild drip to a severe hemorrhage, which can be life-threatening. Most of the time, the bleeding is intermittent and mild. Thus, there is no harm with mild, intermittent rectal bleeding, and tests can be performed as outpatient.

What should I do if I have rectal bleeding?

When you see blood in your stool, you must see a doctor. Although the bleeding is mild most of the time, it is still necessary to see your doctor. Since the bleeding is usually mild, some people think that the bleeding is brought about by hemorrhoids or piles. Thus, they don’t get it checked. Although hemorrhoids could be the most common cause of blood in the stool, it is important to not assume unless a proper examination by a doctor is done.

Emergency Medical Assistance

Ask for emergency help if your rectal bleeding is accompanied with any of the following:

  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Cold, pale skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness after standing up
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Low urine output

Immediate Medical Help

Seek immediate medical attention if your rectal bleeding is heavy or continuous, accompanied by anal pain, or accompanied by cramping or intense abdominal pain.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if your rectal bleeding lasts for more than one day. If your bleeding is heavy or the stools are black (this means that the blood comes from the higher region like the gut), see your doctor immediately.

In general, people who are below 40 years old whose rectal bleeding is caused by constipation do not need testing. However, plenty of physicians recommend tests like colonoscopy for people who are 40 years and older. This can help rule out the possibility of having cancer as the cause of bleeding.

To determine the cause of bleeding, the doctor will ask questions to have an idea on what’s causing your condition. Questions would be about:

  • Different symptoms
  • Whether you experience any pain
  • Itching on your bottom
  • Weight loss
  • Location and type of pain
  • Changes in your bowel movements such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Family history of bowel disease

After gathering all pertinent information, the doctor will examine you. Examination of your back passage will be performed. A gloved finger or a protoscope may be used to examine the rectum. A diagnosis may be made after the examination like in the case of hemorrhoids. However, more tests are needed to dig deeper on the cause of the bleeding. The reason is that the use of protoscope and finger cannot go up the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, if no cause is determined, the bleeding may come from the higher regions of the GI tract.