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The causes of blood in your stool

Health
Man in bathroom

Blood in your stool is not something anyone wants to see. It can by worrying whether it’s found while using the restroom or is detected in a test ordered by your physician.
While a small amount of blood isn’t a reason to rush to the emergency department, it shouldn’t be ignored either, says Carrie Gwyer, a nurse practitioner with Tidelands Health Gastroenterology at Murrells Inlet.
“I typically tell people that blood in your stool is not normal. If it’s unexplained and it persists for more than a few days then it’s a good idea to reach out to your primary care provider and schedule an appointment,” Gwyer says. “Your family physician will discuss the circumstances with you and determine if additional evaluation is necessary.”

A sign of bleeding

Blood in the stool is typically a sign there is bleeding somewhere along the digestive tract. There are numerous possible causes of bleeding in the digestive tract including anal fissures, hemorrhoids, colitis, diverticulitis, peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, tears in the esophagus and polyps that bleed and can become cancerous.

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While many of the causes are not serious, providing information to a physician about the appearance of the bleeding can help them evaluate and detect the cause. Bright red blood usually comes from lower in the digestive tract. Dark and tarry blood generally comes from higher in the digestive tract.
A health professional will also discuss what other symptoms a patient may be experiencing that could help them discover the cause of the bleeding.
“We go through a lot of questions to help us in determining the direction of the cause,” she says.

Seek care

Blood in the stool can be a sign of a serious issue such as colorectal cancer, a cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Although any form of cancer presents a real concern, detecting it early is crucial to successful treatment.
Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society reports that the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 22 among men and one in 24 among women.
Fortunately, deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased as a result of increased screening that can detect polyps and remove them before they become cancerous.
The cancer society recommends that anyone ages 45 and older at average risk of colon cancer undergo screening, such as a colonoscopy, every 10 years.
Gwyer urges patients not to hesitate talk to a health provider if they find blood in their stool or about any other health problem they face.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” she says. “You’re talking to people who deal with this issue all the time. I don’t think embarrassment is worth ignoring what could be a serious issue”

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