A stool that has the appearance of currant jelly is commonly a sign of a bowel disorder called intussusception. However, blood and mucus in the stool may also indicate other conditions.

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Intussusception occurs when a part of the bowel is pulled back into itself or another piece of the bowel. This condition causes people to pass bloody stool that looks like currant jelly.

Blood in the stool can also signify other conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In some cases, blood in the stool can also indicate the presence of polyps or anal fissures.

Keep reading to learn more about symptoms a person experiences with currant jelly stool, what causes this condition, and how to treat it.

Symptoms of bleeding inside the gastrointestinal tract may also include:

Not all cases of blood in the stool are serious. However, anyone experiencing bloody stool with any of the above symptoms should visit a medical professional as only a doctor can identify the cause and provide a treatment plan.

A parent or caregiver should immediately take their children exhibiting these or other symptoms to a doctor.

Currant jelly stool can relate to a range of conditions. Knowing a person’s age and health history can help a doctor diagnose the right condition in each person.

The appearance of currant jelly stool is due to a mix of mucus and blood in the stool.

With young children, currant jelly stool is often a sign of intussusception. This condition can block the digestion of liquid or solid food.

Besides currant jelly stool, children with intussusception may exhibit other symptoms like vomiting. In advanced cases, they may also become weak and have a fever.

Approximately 90% of intussusception cases occur in children under 2 years.

In this condition, a piece of the intestine folds into another section. Many cases of intussusception respond to an enema and do not require further treatment. In more advanced cases, people may need surgery to remove a piece of the bowel.

Doctors do not clearly understand the cause of intussusception in children. However, in adults, the presence of intussusception may indicate the presence of cancer.

Other symptoms

Some other symptoms of intussusception may include:

Diagnosis

A medical professional will perform imaging tests to confirm intussusception. Ultrasounds are the most common and effective option for diagnosing intussusception.

After doctors diagnose intussusception, they may perform an air enema to treat this condition. People who do not respond to an air enema may require surgery.

Polyps may also be the main cause of children’s bleeding in the lower intestine. These growths only occur in about 1% of children. These polyps may relate to a genetic condition called juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS).

Individuals with JPS typically develop polyps in the digestive tract by age 20.

For diagnostic criteria, people must satisfy one of the following for diagnosis:

  • have juvenile polyps everywhere in the digestive tract
  • a family history of JPS with any number of polyps
  • have more than five colorectal polyps

Infants and toddlers with JPS may also exhibit:

In most cases, juvenile retention polyps have a low chance of leading to cancer.

Diagnosis and treatment

A doctor can diagnose JPS through DNA tests. Identifying specific gene mutations can indicate the presence of JPS.

Treating JPS most often involves surgery to remove polyps. Individuals with severe cases may also need surgery to remove part of their stomach or colon.

Individuals with IBD experience chronic inflammation throughout their gastrointestinal tract. This condition generally begins between ages 15 and 40, although older individuals can also experience late-onset IBD.

Doctors differentiate IBD into Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC).

Symptoms

People with IBD may experience bloody stools that resemble currant jelly. They may also have symptoms like:

Diagnosis

A medical professional can diagnose IBD through:

Learn more about diagnostic and imaging techniques for UC.

Treatment

Treatment can include:

Read on for more about medications for UC.

Adjusting diet and other lifestyle factors can also improve symptoms in those with IBD.

2017 research has shown that a plant-based diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help manage IBD symptoms.

People with IBD should consult a doctor to determine the right treatment approach.

Peptic ulcers are sores that occur within the intestine. They can occur when acids used in digestion damage the lining of the stomach or small intestine.

Peptic ulcers can occur in people of all ages but more in adults than children.

Some of the most common causes of peptic ulcers include Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug usage.

Symptoms

These ulcers may cause bloody stool or dark black and sticky stool. Other symptoms of a peptic ulcer can include:

Diagnosis and treatment

A doctor can diagnose a peptic ulcer by looking inside the stomach and small intestine with an endoscope. The camera at the end of this instrument sends back images of the body’s interior.

Medical professionals can diagnose H. pylori infection using:

  • endoscopy
  • blood tests
  • stool samples
  • urea breath tests

Treatment for peptic ulcers often involves proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and small intestine. In most cases, treatment with PPIs is sufficient to treat the ulcers within several weeks.

If H. pylori infection causes ulcers, doctors will prescribe antibiotics to eradicate the infection and PPIs. However, if caused by NSAIDs, medical professionals recommend avoiding further use and managing with PPIs.

Diverticulosis involves the growth of diverticula or small pouches that push outward from the intestine.

This condition is more common in adults and occurs in up to 50% of people older than 60.

Symptoms

Most people with diverticulosis do not experience symptoms. They may experience mild cramping, constipation, or bloating.

If diverticula become infected, doctors refer to this as diverticulitis. Individuals may experience more severe symptoms like:

  • gastrointestinal bleeding or tears
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain in the abdominal area
  • cramping
  • chills and fever

Diagnosis and treatment

To diagnose diverticular disease, doctors review a person’s medical history, perform a physical exam, and order tests such as X-rays or colonoscopies.

Research shows that a low fiber diet may cause diverticulosis. Doctors may prescribe a liquid diet, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatories in advanced cases.

Doctors only indicate the use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in cases of diverticulitis, not simply diverticulosis.

However, people can treat most mild cases of diverticulosis with at-home care.

Anal fissures are small tears in the skin that lines the anus. These tears may result from hard or dry bowel movements or frequent diarrhea.

Symptoms

Both children and adults can experience anal fissures. Some of the more common symptoms of anal fissures include:

Diagnosis and treatment

A doctor will ask a person about their symptoms and bowel habits. By performing a physical exam, they can see the fissure by parting a person’s buttocks.

A digital rectal examination is when a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into a person’s rectum to feel for abnormalities.

Most anal fissures respond well to home-based care. This may include a high fiber diet or stool softeners to make stools easier to pass. Warm baths can also help provide relief and promote healing.

Occasionally, doctors may measure anal sphincter pressure for fissures that have not responded to simple treatments.

Learn more about natural stool softeners.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that occur in the lower part of the anus and rectum. When the vessel walls stretch, they can become irritated.

Bright-red blood means the bleeding has come from somewhere near the anus. This is a typical sign of hemorrhoids. Mucus can also sometimes be present.

Both external and internal hemorrhoids can cause rectal bleeding.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids, also known as piles, are:

  • bright red blood
  • itchy anus
  • the feeling of still needing to poo after going to the toilet
  • mucus after wiping
  • lumps around anus
  • pain around anus

Physical findings may also include:

Diagnosis and treatment

Doctors will perform a physical exam and a visual digital examination to help identify hemorrhoids.

Medical professionals will also perform an anoscopy to examine the anal canal and rectum. In complicated cases, surgeons examine people with anesthesia.

Conservative therapy for hemorrhoids includes:

These measures can help decrease straining and the pressure associated with passing stool.

Other minimally invasive options are available for people that do not respond to conservative therapy, such as:

In more persistent or severe cases, doctors may perform surgical hemorrhoidectomy.

Another cause of rectal bleeding with mucus includes certain bacteria causing dysentery.

Common bacterial causes include:

This bacteria can result in conditions such as proctitis — an inflammation of the rectum lining, or bacterial gastroenteritis.

Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of proctitis, as a result of bacterial infections, include:

  • feeling a constant urge to have a bowel movement
  • an urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • anal or rectal cramping and pain
  • passing blood with stool
  • rectal bleeding
  • passing mucus or pus with stool

Diagnosis and treatment

Doctors will usually ask individuals about their symptoms. They may request stool samples to identify the type of bacterium.

Antibiotics are the usual treatment for bacterial infections.

Other possible causes

Occasional blood in the stool may not necessarily be a cause for concern. However, currant jelly stool can signify a serious illness.

For example, rectal bleeding can be a sign of colorectal cancer. Other signs of colorectal cancer can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • weakness
  • unexpected weight loss
  • bowel movement changes

Only a medical professional can diagnose and treat conditions that cause bloody stool. Anyone experiencing ongoing and unexplained bowel changes should visit a doctor to learn more.

Currant jelly stool is composed of stool with blood and mucus. In infants and young children, it is often a sign of intussusception.

Other conditions like IBD, polyps and anal fissures can also cause bloody stools in people of all ages. Most of these conditions respond well to minimally invasive treatment.

Individuals experiencing bloody stool should consult with a doctor to receive a diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan.