What does it mean when you find blood in your stool?

Written by: Mr Abhay Chopada
Published: | Updated: 23/04/2023
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Rectal bleeding is a very common clinical condition of seeing blood in your stools. A small amount of blood may be seen after you open your bowels or in some cases a large amount of blood.


If you see a lot of blood or clots in your poo, you should seek immediate medical help, as it could be a clinical emergency. However, the vast majority of presentations are usually small amounts of blood in the toilet or on the toilet paper.


Consultant colorectal and upper GI surgeon, Mr Abhay Chopada, explains what to do if you find blood in your stool. 



Rectal bleeding: how common is it?


Finding blood in your stool is a very common problem, but many find it embarrassing to talk about, so it goes under reported. It is thought that at least one in three people will see some blood in their stool during their lifetime.


Because it is a very common but embarrassing condition, a lot of people seek self-treatment and self-diagnosis. This can be dangerous, because sometimes a more serious condition can go undiscovered. Though it is a common condition, it is worthwhile seeking medical condition from a colorectal specialist when you see blood in your stool.


What are the causes of rectal bleeding?


Rectal bleeding can be caused by many different conditions that could potentially bleed inside the lumen of the gut.

The most common causes include:

Rectal bleeding that is bright red in colour, painless and only happens occasionally will, in most cases, be due to haemorrhoids. It is important not to self-diagnose haemorrhoids though they are the most common cause, as the other serious conditions may then be delayed in presentation and diagnosis.

If you notice dark red blood, if the bleeding is painful, if you notice a change in bowel patterns associated with your bleeding, or if you experience diarrhoea, you should always seek emergency medical advice.


Read more: rectal bleeding – what does it mean?


Haemorrhoids: what are they?


Haemorrhoids are a very common condition. Everybody has anal cushions, but if the cushions begin prolapsing out, they can become irritated when going to the toilet and they can then bleed. The bleeding is typically bright red in colour, fresh in nature, and should stain the toilet.

That is a huge amount of embarrassment about haemorrhoids and people will often try to self-treat them with medication that is available. However, it is recommended that you seek medical advice, as they can be very easily treated with either an injection, rubber band ligation or rarely, haemorrhoidopexy, all of which are painless options.


How do I avoid getting haemorrhoids?


The main reason haemorrhoids bleed is due to excessive straining when going to the toilet. To ease this problem, it is important to make sure your stools are soft enough to pass. Drinking adequate amounts of water, having a healthy fibre component in your diet, and doing regular exercise are simple measures to help prevent haemorrhoidal bleeding, and can potentially prevent many colon conditions.


What if the diagnosis is colon cancer?


Colon cancer is the second most common cancer, and especially affects men and women who are in their 60s. It is however, a treatable and preventable cancer. If colon cancer is identified early, there is almost a 95 per cent chance of cure with surgery and/or chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is always important to have any signs of rectal bleeding checked, as early diagnosis of colon cancer is very important.

By Mr Abhay Chopada

Mr Abhay Chopada is one of London's leading surgeons specialising in colonic, hernia and gallbladder surgery, as well as operations for anal conditions and the removal of lumps and lesions. He operates from a number of reputable clinics, including the Clementine Churchill Hospital, and has a reputation for compassion and for putting his patients at ease. Mr Chopada has maintained a special interest in healthcare IT over the years and has been at the forefront of helping to implement strategic solutions in the clinical community. He has published several research papers in general surgery and coloproctology, especially in angiogenesis of colon cancer, and through his role as Honorary Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, remains committed to education and training.

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