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Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Bloody Stool

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Bloody Stool

Seeing blood in the toilet bowl after a bowel movement can set off all your alarm bells, though, in most cases, blood in stool isn’t a serious medical issue. However, it’s not a symptom you should ignore, either.

At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, our board-certified family medicine physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, specializes in diagnosing and treating anorectal disorders like hemorrhoids and anal fissues. Bloody stools are a common symptom of these conditions.

Though hemorrhoids may be the cause of the blood in your stool, here, we want to explain why you shouldn’t ignore this symptom. 

About your bloody stools

Bloody stools, also known as rectal bleeding, refers to any type of blood that appears after a bowel movement. The blood may be in your stool, in the toilet bowl, or on the toilet paper after wiping. The blood may be bright red or black, and it may be only a little blood or a lot.

Having blood in your stool means you’re bleeding somewhere along your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Of course, the cause may be minor — like hemorrhoids — but your bleeding may also be a symptom of a more serious GI condition like colon cancer.

That’s why you shouldn’t ignore bloody stools, especially if you’re bleeding is heavy, frequent, or just worrisome.

Source of the bleeding

The color of the blood in your stool can give you some clues as to the source of your bleeding. 

Bright red 

When you see bright red blood in the toilet, it’s likely the source of your bleeding is your rectum or the lower portion of your colon.

Dark red

Dark red blood in your stool may be signs the bleeding is coming from an area a little further up in your colon or your small intestine.

Black or tarry

Black or tarry stools, also known as melena, usually means the bleeding is coming from the stomach. 

Potential causes

Knowing where the bleeding is coming from may help you determine the potential cause. 


Hemorrhoids are the most common cause of minor rectal bleeding, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the lower rectum or anus. With hemorrhoids, the bleeding is painless.

However, depending on the location of your hemorrhoids, you may also have anal itchiness or discomfort. 

Anal fissures

Anal fissure are tiny tears in the lining of your anus. These tears may occur when passing very hard stool. With anal fissures, you may have anal pain or burning during a bowel movement. 


Proctitis is an inflammation of the rectal lining. The inflammation may develop as a side effect from medication or be a symptom of an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or cancer.

Colon polyps

Colon polyps are benign growths that form on the lining of your large intestine. Though benign, colon polyps may potentially turn cancerous if left untreated. Large polyps may bleed.


Diverticulosis is a common condition that affects the large intestine. People with diverticulosis have tiny, bulging pouches in weak areas of the bowel. Blood vessels inside the pouches may bleed, causing blood in the stool.  


Ulcers are nonhealing, potentially bleeding wounds that may form in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. 

Colon cancer

Rectal bleeding is also a symptom of colon cancer. When excluding skin cancer, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. 

Bloody stools are a sign you have some type of medical problem affecting your GI tract. Though not always a serious health concern, given that bloody stools are a symptom of colon cancer, it’s not something you should ignore.

We specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the lower portion of your GI tract. Let us help you determine the source of your bleeding so you can get the most appropriate treatment. Call our office at 636-228-3136 to schedule an appointment today. 

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