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Blood in poo: Causes and diagnosis


Associated symptoms

Depending on the cause, location, duration and severity of the bleeding, a person with blood in stools may also have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhoea
  • Palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Unplanned weight loss.

Blood in poo diagnosis

The cause of the bloody poo will be determined by the person's symptoms, their description of the poo and their medical history; a physical examination - including a digital rectal examination where the doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum (bottom) to feel for any problems.

Tests may be arranged, and a referral to a specialist may be recommended.

Tests include:

  • Blood tests for anaemia, clotting problems and H. pylori infection.
  • Faecal occult blood test. A poo sample is sent for laboratory tests for signs of blood that may indicate bowel cancer.
  • Endoscopy. This uses a flexible tube with a camera on the end called an endoscope. This is passed through the mouth into the stomach and upper small intestine. Biopsy tissue samples may be taken for testing using this device.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy. A tiny camera is inserted through the bottom to examine the lower bowel.
  • Colonoscopy. A special scope is inserted through the bottom to look at the colon. Biopsy tissue samples may be taken.
  • Enteroscopy. A small capsule with a camera inside is swallowed and images can be seen on a screen as it passes through the digestive system.
  • Barium X-ray ( barium enema). A special contrast dye is swallowed or inserted through the rectum to help give a better X-ray view of the digestive system.
  • Radionuclide imaging. Tiny amounts of radioactive material are injected into a vein and tracked with a scanner to detect internal bleeding.
  • Angiography. A special dye injected into a vein gives a better view of blood vessels visible on an X-ray or CT scan.
  • Laparotomy. A keyhole surgery procedure using instruments to help identify causes of bleeding.

Blood in poo treatment

Treatment will depend on what's causing the bleeding.

This can range from lifestyle changes and eating more fibre to soften poo and avoid constipation, to complex treatments for bowel cancer.

Emergency treatment may be needed to stop heavy bleeding to avoid anaemia and other problems.

Your doctor will prescribe or recommend treatment based on the diagnosis.

Treatment may include:

  • Medication such as antibiotics to treat H. pylori
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to treat colitis
  • Surgery to remove polyps or the parts of the colon damaged by cancer, diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cream and suppositories to treat haemorrhoids
  • Eating a high-fibre diet to relieve constipation that can cause and aggravate haemorrhoids and anal fissures
  • Sitting in warm and/or salt bath to relieve fissure symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 01, 2017

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