Talking to your doctor about bowel movements can be embarrassing. However, if you notice blood in your stool you should make an appointment to see your doctor for a check-up. Read on to find out more.
Possible causes of blood in stool
Blood can be seen in stool for a variety of reasons, including the following:
Diverticula are pouches that form inside the walls of your large intestine. If you have had a lot of weight gain, you may notice this problem. Small diverticula will usually be found close to the anus and large diverticula will be further up the bowel.
Constipation is a common cause of rectal bleeding. A common sign of constipation is hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swollen veins around the anus. Haemorrhoids are common and they can usually be managed with lifestyle changes. Pregnancy makes you more likely to have haemorrhoidal veins, which can bleed when they swell during pregnancy. Bleeding haemorrhoids may be confused with blood passing from the rectum during a bowel movement.
If you have rectal bleeding, it is important to see your doctor because you may have bowel cancer. It is rare for people with no risk factors to develop colon cancer. However, if you are over the age of 50 or have other high-risk factors, such as excess weight or a family history of the disease, you could be more likely to get bowel cancer.
What your GP can do
If you notice blood in your stool, your GP will examine you and ask about any symptoms you might be experiencing. They may perform a rectal examination to check for haemorrhoids or other abnormalities.
Your doctor may also recommend having a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. These procedures involve placing a small camera into the rectum to examine the lining of your colon. A sigmoidoscopy examines the lower part of the colon, while a colonoscopy looks further up inside the bowel. Either of these tests can help determine if there is bleeding in the colon and rule out other possible conditions such as colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Prevention of blood in stool
If you experience bleeding from the rectum, there are several things you can do to reduce the chances of passing blood with your stool. These include avoiding constipation by getting plenty of exercise and eating a high-fibre diet. Examples of fibre-rich foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans.
If you are concerned about blood in your stool, you should contact your GP today to book an appointment.