Bloody Stool: What It Means and When to See a Doctor

6 minute read time
Medically reviewed by

Experiencing bloody stool may be alarming, but it isn't entirely uncommon. Whether the problem originates in the stomach, the intestine, or the colon, it can always be traced back to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. While the blood in stool can indicate a serious problem, we can rest easier knowing it's often associated with more manageable conditions. Read on to learn more about what it means and when to see a doctor.

What Does Rectal Bleeding Look Like?

Rectal bleeding can be identified by traces of bright red to dark maroon blood on the toilet paper or in your stool following a bowel movement.

What Causes Blood in Stool?

There are lots of things bloody stool can be attributed to. Below, we'll look at different factors that can bring it on, from common conditions to digestive and kidney diseases.

1. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels or veins in the rectum or anus. They are often accompanied by painless rectal bleeding. While the condition may cause some discomfort, it is rarely serious.

Home remedies like eating high-fiber foods and using topical treatments will usually resolve symptoms within a week. If symptoms do not resolve quickly, or if you are experiencing severe pain or bleeding, you should seek medical advice right away. Medical treatment administered by your doctor typically involves a rubber band ligation to cut off blood flow. Internal hemorrhoids can also be treated with an injection known as sclerotherapy. This allows your doctor to inject medication directly into the blood vessel, reducing the size of the hemorrhoid.

2. Anal Fissures

Cracks or breakages in the skin surrounding the anus are known as fissures. These small lesions can affect people of all ages and can often be the cause of minor rectal bleeding. The condition commonly leads to sharp discomfort and small volumes of bright red blood following a bowel movement.

An anal fissure is typically caused by straining, diarrhea, large stools, or childbirth. While the majority heal on their own, ointments, sitz baths, and a change in diet can help speed things up.

3. Polyps

Rectal polyps refer to abnormal growths of mucous membrane tissue. They are typically harmless but should be treated by your doctor if they don't go away on their own to prevent future complications. Most are tiny, measuring less than half an inch in diameter.

4. Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection caused by one of several viruses, the most frequent of which are norovirus and rotavirus. It's more commonly referred to as the stomach flu. While the most common symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and headaches, individuals may also experience bloody stool, especially during instances of diarrhea.

5. Irritable Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of disorders that affect the colon and intestine, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These are autoimmune disorders in which your body attacks itself by mistake. White blood cells are sent to various areas of the digestive tract, where they release substances that injure or inflame the bowels.

Bloody stools are a symptom of IBD, but you may also have other symptoms as well, including:

The best way to prevent symptoms from occurring is by eliminating trigger foods from your diet, using anti-inflammatory drugs to help with digestion or other medications to inhibit the inflammatory effects of specific proteins. Medical professionals and dieticians recommend the low FODMAP diet to help understand what foods trigger inflammation.

6. Colorectal Cancer 

Unlike the conditions listed above, colorectal cancer requires immediate treatment and will not go away on its own. Polyps are tiny, noncancerous lesions that form on the lining of the colon or rectum, and are the most common cause.

Because tumors contain their own fragile network of blood vessels, many patients will experience blood in the stool during a bowel movement. You may also experience the following symptoms:

The most common way to treat colorectal cancer is to remove all unhealthy tissue through minimally invasive surgery.

7. Perianal Abscess

When a cavity in the anus gets filled with pus, it is called a perianal abscess. This ailment can also be referred to as an "anal abscess" or a "rectal abscess." In addition to experiencing bleeding during bowel movements, abscesses can lead to the following complications:

These abscesses can cause painful anal fistulas in some circumstances.

8. Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding is a dangerous condition that affects your digestive tract, which is composed of the esophagus, stomach, intestine, rectum, and anus.

If you are worried that the blood in your stool could be connected to a GI bleed, pay attention to the color. Bright red blood is typically discharged from the rectrom. Dark, red blood usually comes from the stomach or upper GI tract.

While GI bleeding may stop on its own, some instances may require medications or procedures to control the bleeding. The most common causes include peptic ulcers, ingestion of a foreign body, angiodysplasia, and colitis.

How to Diagnose Blood in the Stool

A doctor will choose which tests you require based on the severity of your symptoms and medical history. A physical examination or a fecal occult blood test (checks for hidden blood in stool) may be used to look for irregularities or blood in your colon. In this case, a stool sample is required.

In some instances, your doctor may order an endoscopy to get a better sense of what's happening inside the body.

How Can a Bloody Stool Be Treated?

In most cases, rectal bleeding will resolve on its own. But if the discomfort is severe, more intrusive treatment may be required and recommended by your doctor. Suppositories, surgical removal, and laser treatments are some available options.


Rectal bleeding is a common ailment frequently caused by a minor issue like hemorrhoids. It can, however, be a symptom of more serious diseases, such as colorectal cancer. If blood in your stool persists, or coincides with severe pain, seek medical attention right away.

Fortunately, new and exciting ways to monitor your body are also on the way. Designed with high-quality biometric sensors, the Çava Seat can track your gut health, heart health, fitness progress, and more, without changing your daily routine. Daily bathroom visits provide some of the best information needed to identify gut imbalances and food intolerances.

By tracking your vitals, body composition, and waste quality the Çava Seat is able to learn over time and make recommendations to help you live a healthier life.


Is bloody stool an emergency?

Experiencing blood in your stool is not always an emergency. However, if you experience this condition while feeling weak, unsteady, or bleary-eyed, then you should seek medical care as soon as possible.

What does bloody stool indicate?

Bloody stool can indicate a number of different conditions. Pay attention to the color, consistency, and texture. Bright red blood in stool is usually a symptom of hemorrhoids or anal fissures, which are rarely dangerous. Meanwhile, maroon-colored feces typically signals an issue in the lower region of the gastrointestinal tract, which can be serious.

When should I go to the doctor for blood in stool?

If you are encountering bloody stools frequently, you should seek medical attention at your earliest convenience. If you have a fever, severe weakness, vomiting, or significant amounts of blood in your stool, you should go to the doctor right away.

When should I be worried about blood after I wipe?

Assuming that you see blood in the stool or on bathroom tissue after defecation, observe how much blood there is. If there is a substantial volume of persistent bleeding, see your doctor right away. If your fecal matter is black, tarry, or maroon in color, you should also seek medical attention immediately.

Çava logo in blue
Learn more
Medically reviewed by
Related articles