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Bloody Stool


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is bloody stool?

Blood in the stool is an abnormal, potentially critical condition in which there is blood mixed in with a bowel movement or feces. The blood can arise from anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Bloody stool is often a sign of gastrointestinal bleeding due to injury or disease. Stools that contain bright red or maroon-colored blood may be referred to as hematochezia, while melena is used to describe black, tarry, and smelly stools. Bloody stool can occur in all age groups and populations.

Blood in the stool can appear in a variety of forms. There may be small amounts of bright red blood that is mixed inside the stool or that shows up on toilet paper after wiping the anus. Visible blood clots can also be present. Blood in the stool is sometimes accompanied by open bleeding from the rectum (rectal bleeding). Blood in the stool can be in such small quantities that it cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be detected by stool tests. This is called fecal occult blood, which may indicate a serious condition.

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Many other symptoms can occur with blood in the stool depending on the cause of the bleeding. Symptoms often involve the gastrointestinal system but can involve other body systems as well. It is important to talk with your health care professional about any other symptoms you are experiencing.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 8, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Bloody or tarry stools. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Bleeding esophageal varices.  Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  3. Gastrointestinal bleeding. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  4. Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding. Medscape.

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