Finding blood in the stool is a cause for concern. The good news is that there is a great deal that can be done about it. It is important to be evaluated in person. Let’s look at the possible causes:
- Hemorrhoids are the most common cause. Veins in the anus or rectum become enlarged and bleed easily. They can be removed surgically.
- Constipation and hard stools can cause local trauma. Patients are advised to add high fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables to their diets.
- Local fissures, or tears, can be repaired and the patient put onto a liquid or soft diet until healing is complete. Often it heals on it own with conservative therapy.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is divided into two types, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, although some authorities consider them the same disease with slightly different manifestations. Ulcerative colitis more commonly produces bright red bleeding, although it can be seen in Crohn’s disease as well.
- When IBD is suspected a colonoscopy may be performed. The physician places a tube with a light into the patient’s rectum and advances it until the entire large intestine, or colon, can be seen. A small piece, or biopsy, is removed and sent to the lab for further diagnosis.
- IBD is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and diet. Patients are advised to avoid greasy foods and eat well-cooked eggs and peanut butter. Some patients have found relief with vegetarian diets.
- Colon cancer is another disease that can cause rectal bleeding. Colonoscopy with biopsy can detect it, and surgery is curable if the condition is caught early enough. Medical therapy with chemotherapy is also available.
- Bleeding from the esophagus, the tube leading from the throat to the stomach, the stomach itself, or the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) usually produces dark red bleeding. It is found with esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The EGD is another procedure using a flexible lighted tube, this kind put down the patient’s mouth and advanced into the stomach and further into the small intestine. Treatment depends upon the cause and location of bleeding. It might include medications to lower stomach acid secretions or an endoscopy procedure to repair ulcers or tears.
- To visualize the small intestine below the duodenum, physicians can use capsule endoscopy. A tiny camera is swallowed in capsule form and transmits images to a device worn on a belt around the patient’s waist. Malformations of arteries and veins can be obliterated with heat. Malignant tumors can be removed surgically.
When rectal bleeding takes place, make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. The sooner the cause is found and treated, the sooner you will be on your way to a solution. Preventing many of the above diseases can be achieved through a balanced and healthy diet that contains lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables and the avoidance of processed meats.