When a person finds blood in the stool, it may be bright red, dark, or black. The color of the stool or blood may indicate where exactly the bleeding is in the digestive tract.
Doctors may perform a colonoscopy or endoscopy to find the source of blood clots in the stool. Once the doctor determines the location and the cause of the bleeding, they will attempt to stop the bleeding and prevent it from recurring.
Read on to learn more about the different causes of blood clots in the stool, some other symptoms that may occur, and some possible treatments.
Peptic ulcer disease is characterized by disruptions in the protective lining of the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine.
The cause of peptic ulcer disease is acidic gastric secretions or pepsin damaging the inner layers of the wall of the upper digestive system.
Improved hygiene and sanitation practices, along with effective treatments and awareness of the negative impact of certain drugs on the digestive system, have lowered the prevalence of peptic ulcer disease.
The symptoms of peptic ulcer disease may vary depending on the location and severity of the ulcer. Some symptoms may include:
- abdominal pain
- blood clots in the stool
- weight changes
- recurrent episodes of blood in the vomit
Doctors often prescribe antisecretory drugs, including H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors, for people with peptic ulcer disease.
For some people, drug therapy alone is insufficient to treat peptic ulcer disease, so surgery may be necessary.
People with diverticulosis have multiple sacs, or diverticula, that develop along the digestive tract. If these sacs become inflamed or infected and bleed, the condition becomes known as diverticulitis.
Often, people with diverticulosis do not have any symptoms.
If symptoms do occur, they may include:
- abdominal pain
- alterations in bowel habits
- blood in the stool
Increasing fluid and fiber in the diet can help prevent diverticulitis. However, if any symptoms of diverticulitis occur, it is very important to seek medical attention. In severe cases, inflamed or infected diverticula can burst, causing severe pain and possibly leading to death.
Treatment for diverticulitis may include anti-inflammatories for mild cases or antibiotics, a liquid diet, or surgery for more serious cases.
Hemorrhoids may develop inside or outside of the anus. Hemorrhoids are veins in the anus that become swollen, or dilated, due to excessive pressure. This may be due to straining during bowel movements, pregnancy, standing, or frequently sitting still for long periods of time.
People may experience symptoms of swollen hemorrhoids. These may include:
- mucus discharge
- difficulty keeping the anus clean
The first step in treating hemorrhoids includes making dietary and lifestyle changes. These include:
- minimizing straining during bowel movements by adding more fiber, hydration, or stool softeners to the diet
- increasing minimally strenuous exercise, such as walking
- not spending excess time on the toilet
- avoiding aggressive wiping
- walking around more, which will keep the blood moving and prevent clotting
When lifestyle and dietary changes do not help, or if a person’s hemorrhoids are particularly painful, it is best to seek medical attention. A doctor may prescribe topical medications to help with swelling, pain, or itching. Over-the-counter medications may also help.
If the hemorrhoids are particularly large, seem swollen, or do not respond to other treatments, a doctor may recommend procedures such as rubber band ligation, laser therapy, or cryotherapy. Some people may require surgery.
Home remedies may also help treat hemorrhoids. Learn more about them here.
Ischemic colitis occurs when there is at least a 75% reduction in blood flow to the intestine for more than 12 hours. Ischemia can occur in the small or large intestine.
The symptoms of ischemic colitis include abdominal pain, abdominal tenderness, and bloody diarrhea.
The majority (80.3%) of cases are manageable without surgery.
Some treatment options include:
- bowel rest
- intravenous fluids
- broad-spectrum antibiotics
However, ischemic colitis has a high mortality rate if it gets to a point where surgery is necessary. For this reason, a doctor must intervene as quickly as possible.
There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis typically affects the rectum but may extend farther up into the large intestine. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the intestine.
IBD occurs in genetically predisposed people who experience an inappropriate immune response to the naturally occurring bacteria in the colon.
People with ulcerative colitis may have bloody diarrhea with or without mucus. They may also experience abdominal pain and a feeling of incomplete evacuation after bowel movements.
Crohn’s disease is associated with different symptoms that may not always include blood clots in the stool.
Since IBD is an immune condition, doctors may prescribe immune-suppressing medications. The goals of treatment are to reduce flare-ups and induce remission.
Some drugs for IBD include:
- aminosalicylate agents
- oral glucocorticoids
- TNF-alpha monoclonal antibodies
Around 25% of people with IBD require surgical removal of the intestine.
Polyps do not usually cause any symptoms, but sometimes, a person may notice blood clots in the stool or when wiping after a bowel movement.
Some people may see blood clots in the stool from the polyp removal. However, bleeding after polypectomy is common and usually resolves spontaneously without medical intervention.
Some people do not experience any symptoms of colon cancer. Doctors suggest that some people may experience:
- a change in bowel habits
- a constant urge to pass a bowel movement
- rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- black or dark colored stool
- cramping or abdominal pain
- weakness and fatigue
- unintentional weight loss
Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should speak with a doctor or other healthcare provider about testing for colon cancer.
In early stage colon cancer, a surgeon may operate on the colon to remove the cancerous lesions and surrounding tissue. Sometimes, people may require both surgery and medication.
Depending on the characteristics of the cancer cells, a doctor may choose from the following anticancer therapies:
- targeted therapy drugs
Colon cancer is preventable and highly treatable with early diagnosis. This is why the American Cancer Society recommend that people begin regular screening for colon cancer at 45 years until they reach 75 years.
A person should undergo screening to catch any early signs of the condition. It is most treatable at this stage.
Gastric antral vascular ectasia is a rare cause of upper digestive system bleeding.
Around 71% of people with gastric antral vascular ectasia are female, and the average age of people who have it is 73 years old.
People with gastric antral vascular ectasia may experience blood clots in the stool from bleeding in the stomach. They may also experience vomiting and abdominal pain.
To check the appearance of the stomach and upper intestine, a doctor will perform an endoscopy.
People with gastric antral vascular ectasia may have “a watermelon stomach,” which is characterized by small dilated blood vessels and patchy red areas in the stomach.
Researchers are still studying potential treatment methods for gastric antral vascular ectasia.
People with severe bleeding may require a blood transfusion. Surgery and medications are also options. Medications, however, have yet to show any satisfactory or effective long-term results.
If a person finds blood in their stool, they should seek medical attention in order to rule out any life threatening or serious conditions.
If the blood appears in the form of blood clots, the person may have had an internal bleed for a while.
Bright red blood may indicate bleeding closer to the anus and rectum. Dark blood may indicate bleeding in higher areas of the digestive system, such as the stomach.
People who find blood clots in their stool should consult a doctor or other healthcare provider immediately.
Although some causes of blood clots in the stool are non-life-threatening, such as hemorrhoids, some causes are more serious.
For cancer, early detection is necessary to try to prevent worsening and spreading.
Once a doctor determines the cause of blood clots in the stool, they will direct the person to the most appropriate treatment.