Blood in Stool

Cause for Concern in the Elderly

Bright red blood in stool is a cause for concern in the elderly population.

There are a variety of causes and all need to be treated by a doctor.

Seeing blood in the stool can be very upsetting to the elderly. At times, it may frighten them to the point that they don't want to talk to their doctor about it.

Until you have a clear diagnosis as to what is causing it, make sure you contact their doctor and follow any instructions they give you.

Bloody diarrhea may indicating rapid blood loss and can be a serious condition that requires immediate treatment.

If the stool is more maroon colored , click the link for more information on hematochezia, a condition that may indicate upper intestinal bleeding.

If the stools are tarry and black , click the link for more information.

Bright red blood in the stools can be either mixed in with stool or on top of it. It always indicates bleeding that has not been exposed to normal digestive juices and has not been broken down by the body.

That means that the most likely cause is a lower intestinal bleed.

Any time you suspect that you may have blood in your stool, you should contact your doctor immediately. However, if you are like me, and prefer to test at home, there are some tests available on the market.

The first is the Sure-Vue* Fecal Occult Blood Stool Test (100/kit). It is more expensive, but also much more reliable and similar to those we used in the hospitals and nursing homes.

Another screening method, and less expensive, is the EZ DETECT Home Test for Early Warning Signs of Colorectal Disease - 1 ea. This is more of a screen than a test but may be helpful in some circumstances.

I will reiterate again to make sure to contact your doctor even if you prefer to test at home. And even if you get a positive result at home, your doctor will most likely repeat the test in the office to verify results.

The tests and screening methods above may work well if you or your loved one has a history of bleeding ulcers, or other gastrointestinal bleeds and you want to screen/test routinely to pick up at the first indication of any bleeding.

Causes of Blood in Stool

Finding blood in stool is always an abnormal condition. Red blood cells from a source low in the intestine are passed from the body before having a chance to be broken down.

You should always contact their doctor for a full evaluation.

Try to keep your loved one calm but also explain the need to be seen right away.

The doctor will perform a series of tests to determine the cause of the blood's presence in the stool.

Understanding the possible causes will help you understand what needs to be done. The more information you have .... the better you will be at directing the care of your loved one.

  • Hemorrhoids: Both internal and external hemorrhoids can cause rectal bleeding. It will often show as streaks of blood on top of stool but it can also be mixed in with stool. This can usually be treated and after treatment, your loved one will experience less pain as well as clearing up the symptoms of blood in stool.

  • Diverticulitis: Occasionally there can be bleeding associated with diverticulitis and if it occurs low in the GI tract it will present as bright red blood in stool.

  • Anal Fissure: An anal fissure is a tear or ulcer in the lining of the anal canal. It can be caused by childbirth and constipation, among other conditions. It will also cause very painful bowel movements and can be repaired surgically. Left untreated, it can cause much more serious problems.

  • Colitis or Chron's Disease: If your loved one develops bloody stool and has a diagnosis of Chron's or colitis, contact their doctor immediately.

  • Colon Cancer: Colon cancer may present as blood in the stool, so again, make sure to contact their doctor as soon as possible.

  • There can be many other conditions that cause blood in the stool. Only their doctor can find the actual cause and suggest treatment.

It can be difficult when this condition happens because both of you are going to be overly concerned until you know for sure what is going on.

Don't assume the worst but do get to the doctor as soon as possible.

That way you will both know what is going on and be able to deal with it appropriately.

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