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Blood in Stools: Types, Colors, and What They Indicate About Your Health

sick woma sitting on the floor near the toilet bowl

Discovering blood in your stools can be an alarming experience, prompting immediate concerns about your health. However, not all instances of blood in stools indicate a serious condition. In this informative guide, we look into the various types and colors of blood in stools, shedding light on what they may signify about your health.

Understanding Blood in Stools

Types of Blood in Stools

When blood is readily apparent in the stool, it is considered visible blood. This may present as red streaks, clots, or an overall red appearance in the stool. Occult blood refers to blood that is not visible to the naked eye but can be detected through laboratory tests. Occult blood may be indicative of internal bleeding within the digestive tract.

Colors of Blood in Stools

Bright red blood in stools often suggests bleeding in the lower digestive tract, such as the rectum or anus. Common causes include hemorrhoids or anal fissures. Stools that appear dark and tarry may indicate bleeding in the upper digestive tract, potentially originating from the stomach or small intestine. This type of stool is known as melena.

Common Causes of Blood in Stools


Swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus can cause bright red blood in the stool or on toilet paper. Hemorrhoids may also cause itching, pain, and discomfort during bowel movements.

Anal Fissures

Tears or cracks in the lining of the anus can result in visible blood during bowel movements. Anal fissures may cause extreme pain, especially during and after bowel movements.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Ulcers in the stomach or small intestine can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, causing dark, tarry stools. Conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may cause inflammation and bleeding in the digestive tract.

Diverticular Disease

Diverticula, small pouches that can form in the walls of the colon, may bleed and cause blood in stools. Diverticular disease may also lead to abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits.

Colon Polyps and Cancer

Colon polyps are growths on the inner lining of the colon that can bleed and cause blood in stools. Advanced colorectal cancer may lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, manifesting as dark or bright red blood in stools.

Seeking Medical Attention

When to Consult a Healthcare Professional

If you notice persistent or recurrent blood in your stools, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. Accompanying symptoms such as abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or unexplained weight loss warrant prompt medical attention.

Diagnosis and Evaluation

Physical Examination and History

Healthcare professionals will conduct a physical examination and inquire about your medical history, including any existing health conditions. Factors such as dietary habits, medications, and lifestyle choices may contribute to the evaluation.

Laboratory Tests

Laboratory tests, including occult blood tests, can detect hidden blood in stools. Stool cultures help identify infections that may be causing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Imaging Studies

Colonoscopy is a comprehensive procedure that allows healthcare providers to visualize the entire colon, identifying and diagnosing the source of bleeding. Endoscopy may be performed to examine the upper digestive tract and identify potential causes of bleeding.

Treatment and Management

Addressing Underlying Causes

  • Hemorrhoids and Anal Fissures. Topical treatments, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications are often recommended.
  • Gastrointestinal Conditions. Treatment may involve medications, lifestyle adjustments, and, in some cases, surgical interventions to address underlying causes.

Preventing Blood in Stools

  • Dietary Modifications. Consuming a diet rich in fiber can promote regular bowel movements and prevent conditions like diverticular disease. Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining healthy bowel function and preventing constipation.
  • Regular Exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity supports overall digestive health and helps prevent conditions that may lead to blood in stools.

  • Routine Check-ups. Routine screenings, such as colonoscopies, play a crucial role in detecting and preventing colorectal cancer.

Taking Action for Digestive Health

Discovering blood in stools is a symptom that should not be ignored. While it may be attributed to common and benign conditions such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures, it can also signal more serious gastrointestinal issues. Understanding the types and colors of blood in stools provides valuable insights into potential causes, allowing individuals to take timely action. 


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