Blood in stool: see what causes it in adults and babies

It can be quite scary to find blood in your stool when looking at the toilet or toilet paper after evacuating. The first thought that comes up is that this bleeding is a sign of cancer in the intestine.

But, despite signaling that something is wrong with the organism, that signal does not always mean something serious.

Next, see details about the possible reasons that lead to blood in the stool, which medical specialty is best suited to deal with this problem and what can be done to end the discomfort that affects even babies.

Is it normal to get blood in the stool?

No. Any change in the stool should be observed, especially if the person realizes that there is a large amount of blood after cleaning with toilet paper or the toilet. Generally, faeces with little blood are quite common and are usually a benign problem, that is, they do not cause great risks.

The picture can be known scientifically as melena, when the feces leave with a blood of darker color; or hematochezia, when the blood in the stool has a more red and vivid or bright color. Both conditions need medical advice to assess what the problem is and the most appropriate form of treatment.

Stools with darker blood, almost black, indicate bleeding or lesions in the gastrointestinal tract, that is, in the esophagus or stomach.

It can occur due to a gastric ulcer, for example, which is like a wound in the stomach wall that, when very irritated, causes bleeding. In such cases, it is common for the stool to also have a strong and / or unpleasant smell.

When the blood has a brighter red color, it means that the bleeding is in the colon, which is closer to the anus. And this can happen for several reasons, such as intestinal inflammation ( colitis , for example) or autoimmune diseases that attack the intestine like Crohn’s disease .

It is worth noting that some foods also change the color of the stool for short periods. This is the case of beets, red fruits like blueberries, tomatoes and some red dyes. In such cases, the color of the stool may look like blood, but it changes the color only temporarily and then returns to normal.

Blood in the stool in the baby

Babies can also have blood in their stools, and when that happens, the best thing to do is to seek help from pediatricians to diagnose the problem. But if there is blood in the diaper, there is no need to panic. See below for details of what can cause blood in the stool in babies.

  • Constipation : also known as difficulty in evacuating or constipation. The child may need to use a lot of force to evacuate and this causes small blood stains in the stool, since anal fissures occur, that is, a small bruise in the anal area. This problem usually improves on its own, but the doctor may recommend medications and dietary changes to facilitate intestinal transit and the elimination of feces;
  • Bacterial infections : some bacteria can also cause bloody diarrhea in children;
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis : it is a health condition that occurs in premature newborns. In such cases, there is intestinal inflammation that leads to the death of cells in the intestine. It is a very dangerous situation and must be evaluated quickly by health professionals to avoid complications;
  • Congenital malformation in the digestive system : some children are already born with the health problem. In such cases, the child may experience bleeding in the stool;
  • Food allergy to cow’s milk protein : in addition to causing blood in the stool, this allergy causes other symptoms such as reflux, colic, diarrhea, dermatitis and constipation.

In addition, another possible cause is when the nipples of breastfeeding mothers have cracks that are not easily seen. In this way, the baby ends up swallowing the blood together with breast milk and may appear in small amounts in the child’s stool.

What causes blood in the stool?

Blood in the stool can have different causes, and sometimes come with other symptoms. A common reason for redder bleeding is hemorrhoids, that is, swollen internal veins that are located in the anus or rectum.

When defecating, those who suffer from the problem may have a small rectal bleed, which gives the impression that it is in the stool. Despite the discomfort, this condition is easily treated and poses no health risks.

Read more: How to apply creams and ointments for external hemorrhoids?

Here are some other symptoms that accompany bleeding in the stools that deserve attention:

Bleeding in stools with abdominal pain

If you experience abdominal pain and notice that you also have blood in your stool, it is likely that you are bleeding from the colon. The main initial suspicion is colorectal cancer, that is, a tumor that affects the intestine and the rectum.

In addition to blood in the stool, the person may experience changes in bowel habits, anemia , weight loss and changes in the shape of the stool, as well as a mass in the abdomen region.

The diagnosis is made after a biopsy, which is an exam that extracts a part of the tissue to be evaluated. It is important to pay attention to the signs and seek specialized help to have an early diagnosis, which increase the chances of treatment.

Health problems like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can also lead to bleeding in the stool and abdominal pain. It is worth emphasizing that these signs and symptoms may be present in other conditions such as gastric ulcers.

Bleeding in the stool with mucus

If bleeding in the stool is accompanied by mucus, that is, a thick, gelatinous substance, it may be a bacterial infection that results in inflammation of the colon and stomach.

A condition known as gastroenteritis , inflammation of the lining of the stomach and large and small intestines, can also be the cause of the condition.

In addition, it can be a sign of anal fissures, intestinal obstruction or Crohn’s disease.

It is important to find out when you notice a large amount of mucus, especially if there are other symptoms such as pus, abdominal pain, swelling and changes in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea .

Bleeding in the stool with clot

People who have blood clots in their stool are probably bleeding from the large intestine, also known as the colon. There are several possible causes, so it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible.

Eliminating clots with bright red blood through the rectum can be diverticular bleeding, that is, minor gastrointestinal bleeding.

Inflammation in the large intestine such as colitis, colon cancer, polyps, ulcers, gastritis or proctitis (inflammation of the lining of the rectum) can also create the problem.

It is important to keep an eye on if the symptom is accompanied by severe diarrhea, cramps, fevers, weight loss and tiredness .

Which doctor to look for when blood appears in the stool?

Whoever has blood in the stool, should consult with a coloproctologist, specialist in diseases of the large intestine, rectum and anus. Immediate help is needed if you experience heavy bleeding, as well as symptoms such as dizziness and weakness.

At the consultation, the doctor will evaluate the symptoms, being able to do a digital rectal exam and also request specific exams to check what is behind the bleeding.

It is common for a person to undergo procedures such as an endoscopy to check for bleeding in the stomach or esophagus, and colonoscopy to check for abnormalities or diseases in the intestine.

The occult blood test may also be ordered to identify the presence of bleeding in the large intestine that does not appear to the naked eye. Also blood tests ( blood count ) to see the person is not anemic due to frequent blood loss.

Treatments for bleeding in stools vary according to cause and severity.

Generally, medications are indicated to reduce the problem and make changes to the routine, such as avoiding straining during the bowel movement, drinking more water and changing the diet to increase fiber consumption.

In the case of colorectal cancer, treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery are indicated.


The presence of blood in the stool indicates a warning sign. Some causes are common and easy to treat, such as hemorrhoids. However, if the condition persists, it is essential to seek medical help.

Read more: Remedies to treat internal and external hemorrhoids

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