Bleeding Where? A No-Panic Guide to Blood in Your Stool

If you notice a bit of blood in your stool – whether in the bowl or on the toilet paper – you may find yourself starting to panic about the state of your health. After all, it's understandably concerning when you find yourself bleeding without seeing the source, and, when most people hear about blood in the stool, they tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion. But finding blood doesn't necessarily mean you should panic. If you're looking for an answer on what blood in your stool actually means, then here's what you need to know.

Know the Conditions

The thing that you're probably most interested in is what conditions that blood in your stool could be symptomatic of. While the list is not long, it does include a few health conditions that will likely raise a bit of an alarm, so read through this list knowing, just because certain diseases often present with blood in the stool, that doesn't mean you have it. The conditions are these: internal hemorrhoids, fissures, gastric cancer, colorectal cancer, Crohn's Disease, and (most comfortingly) garden-variety constipation, among a few others.

Identify the Color

Luckily, the different colors of blood are generally indicative of what's wrong in your body, and the scale runs from bright red to a black, tarry color. Bright red blood means that the blood came generally from the colon closest to the exit point, and is generally indicative of minor problems like hemorrhoids or tearing from constipation. Maroon blood is a little more serious, and generally indicates polyps, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease/Crohn's Disease. Black, tar-like blood is a sign that the blood was in your GI tract long enough to be digested, and thus is usually a sign of bleeding from an ulcer or a small intestine bleed; black tar-like blood should be a signal to go to a hospital right away, as the conditions that create it can be life threatening.

Talk to the Doc

Just because it may not be as serious as you thought, however, doesn't mean that you still shouldn't talk to your doctor. Most of the time, diseases or conditions that are relatively easy and painless to treat become big, painful problems when you leave them alone too long and they grow and evolve. If you find blood in your stool, no matter what the color (and especially if it's been there for a few days or even a few weeks), set up an appointment in the near future with your doctor and tell them about it. While you may not have a huge problem, it's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health.