Bloody stool indicates bleeding in the digestive tracts and may signal a potentially serious health issue, so medical evaluation and diagnosis is advised, according to WebMD. Causes of bloody stool include anal fissures, colitis, diverticular disease, peptic ulcers and esophageal problems. Polyps and colorectal cancer can also cause blood in the stool.
Although colon polyps and cancer often cause no visible symptoms, they sometimes result in rectal bleeding, notes Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms of colon polyps include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and changes in bowel habits. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but it is often curable when treated in its early stages, reports Colon Cancer Alliance. Estimates indicate that early detection can reduce colorectal deaths by as much as 80 percent.
Anal fissures are small tears in the tissues of the anus, states WebMD. Without treatment, anal fissures can cause so much pain that sufferers may avoid bowel movements, resulting in constipation that ultimately leads to worsening of the fissures, explains MedicineNet. Additionally, untreated anal fissures can cause itching and a foul-smelling discharge.
Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula pouches become infected, states Mayo Clinic. If left untreated, diverticulitis can cause significant pain, nausea and fever. Serious, recurring cases of diverticulitis may require surgical intervention.
To evaluate bloody stool, doctors conduct a physical exam and review the patient's medical history, states WebMD. Doctors may order diagnostic tests such as colonoscopy, enteroscopy, nasogastic lavage or esophagogastroduodenoscopy.