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Causes for bright red blood in stools

The presence of live blood in stool also called hematochezia can be frightening, but although it can be a sign of serious problems such as colitis, Crohn's disease or cancer, it is usually only a sign of milder and easier to treat problems such as hemorrhoids or anal fissure, for example .

So to know the exact cause and start the proper treatment it is very important to consult a proctologist or gastroenterologist to do diagnostic tests and identify the problem.

Causes for bright red blood in stools

Main causes of blood in stool

In the majority of  the situations, the presence of blood in stool  happens for simple reasons such as:

1. Hemorrhoids

They are most common in people with constipation and they arise due to the dilation of the veins provoked by the force used to defecate. In addition to the bleeding, they cause symptoms such as intense itching, pain upon defecation and swelling in the anal region.

How to treat: A good way to relieve pain is to take a warm bath for 15-20 minutes. However, it is necessary to use ointments and remedies to treat hemorrhoids rapidly and it is therefore recommended to consult a doctor. See how the treatment is done for this problem.

2. Anal fissure

Although they are rarer, anal fissures can also occur in people who suffer from constipation and consist of small wounds that arise around the anus and can bleed the moment you defecate. Other symptoms that may arise with the fissure are pain when cleaning the anus and itching.

How to treat: To relieve discomfort it is recommended to drink plenty of water during the day and eat vegetables to make stools softer and prevent them from hurting. However, a proctologist should be consulted to begin treatment with remedies that aid in healing. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to close the fissure.

3. Medical exams

A colonoscopy is a medical examination widely used to evaluate problems in the gut. In this examination, a thin flexible tube is inserted through the anus to convey images that help the doctor look inside the intestine. During the examination, the tube may cause small traumas in the wall of the intestine, which then bleed, leading to the appearance of blood in stool. If it is necessary to remove polyps during colonoscopy, the risk of bleeding is greater.

How to treat: usually these bleeds are normal and should not be a cause of concern, disappearing in up to 24 hours. However, if the bleeding is very intense or lasts longer than 1 day you should consult the doctor who took the exam or go to the emergency room.

Severe causes of blood in stool

Although it is much rarer, bright red bleeding in stool may be one of the first signs of more serious problems such as:

4. Diverticulitis

This disease is most common after the age of 40 and happens due to an inflammation of the diverticula, which are small folds in the wall of the intestine. Diverticulitis can cause symptoms like severe abdominal pain in the lower left part of the belly, nausea, vomiting and even fever.

How to treat: Treatment should be indicated by a gastroenterologist and is usually done with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat the diverticulitis crisis. However, as the diverticula continue in the gut, they may reignite, and it is advisable to make a special diet to prevent the crisis from recurring. 

5. Chron's disease

Crohn's disease is a serious and chronic problem that causes an intense inflammation of the intestine by deregulation of the immune system. The disease can go away for many years without causing symptoms like bloody stools, constant diarrhea, poor appetite, severe abdominal cramps and weight loss, but when it does occur it is common to cause several life-long crises.

How to treat: You should consult a gastroenterologist to identify the severity of the disease and start treatment with antibiotics, corticosteroids or medication that decrease the immune system response and prevent new seizures. In more severe cases, it may be necessary to remove the most affected parts of the intestine, through surgery

6. Intestinal cancer

In some cases, the presence of bright red blood in stool may be a sign of bowel cancer, but these cases are rare and occur with other symptoms such as sudden changes in bowel movements, feeling heavy in the anal region, excessive tiredness and weight loss.

How to treat: If there is a suspicion of cancer, especially when there is a family history of the disease, it is recommended to consult a gastroenterologist to have a colonoscopy or other tests, such as CT scan, to confirm the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment.

When to go to the doctor

Regardless of the cause it is important to consult a doctor when:

  • The bleeding lasts more than 1 week;
  • The amount of blood in the stool increases over time;
  • Other symptoms appear like severe pain in the belly, fever, excessive fatigue or loss of appetite.

In addition, it is very important to do preventive exams, such as a colonoscopy, after the age of 30 if there is a family history of serious bowel problems.

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