Read below about red stool, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your red stool from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Red Stool Symptoms

While everyone's frequency of bathroom trips varies, there are a few things that should remain constant. Variances in stool shades is to be expected based on your individual diet but red stool symptoms can be concerning.

Every incident of red stool should be taken seriously. Causes can be simple and treatable, like hemorrhoids [2, 3], or signal a more serious condition that requires medical intervention.

If you're experiencing red stools, any of the following associated red stool symptoms could be ailing you as well.

Generally, bright red blood found sitting in the toilet bowl or on toilet paper is a sign of an issue in the lower rectum or anus [1, 2, 3]. But blood that is mixed in with stool signals a problem higher up in the bowel.

Stool can have a bright red color, but more common colors are maroon and black. Stool can also have a tarry appearance [6]. In some cases, blood isn't noticeable at all, even though it's present. This is classified as occult blood and only detected by stool tests [1, 2].

If the cause is higher in the bowel, it is usually more serious but not always dangerous. Read more in our red stool causes section to determine how concerned you should be about your red stool.

Red Stool Causes Overview

Red stool should never be ignored. But not all causes are considered a medical emergency. You'll find a variety of red stool causes in our list, most which shouldn't cause alarm.

Diet:

  • Foods: Processed foods are filled with dyes. Eating something heavy in red dye can affect the color of your stool. Eating an excess of red foods, like beets, can also alter stool's shade [1, 2]. A diet lacking in fiber can lead to straining and consequently, red stool symptoms [5, 8, 9, 10, 11].

Infections:

  • Viral: If the health of your digestive system is attacked by a virus, the nature and color of your stool can be one of the first symptoms. Rotavirus is one example. Children who receive the Rotavirus vaccine can experience red stool as a side effect [12]. Always speak to your child's pediatrician immediately if they experience this.
  • Bacterial: E. coli is a common bacterial infection that causes an intestinal infection [13]. While it affects everyone to different degrees, red stool is one possible symptom.

Trauma:

  • Rectal trauma: Anal fissures are one example of trauma that can cause red stool [8, 9, 10]. A tear in the lining of the lower rectum can bleed during bowel movements and cause red stool.
  • Internal bleeding: If there is blood anywhere in the digestive tract, it can result in red stool. One example is a Mallory-Weiss tear, or a tear in the mucous membrane of the esophagus [14].

Medical:

  • Medications: Bismuth, the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, can alter the color of stool [6]. The darker shade can be mistaken for red stool.
  • Diseases: There are a wide range of diseases that list red stool as a possible symptom. Everything from hemorrhoids to Crohn's disease to cancer can cause changes to stool [1, 2, 5]. If there is no obvious reason behind your red stool, seek medical help in finding a diagnosis as there are serious potential causes.

There are several tests that may be conducted to determine your cause of red stool symptoms if it's not obvious such as:

  • Full medical history and physical exam including a rectal exam
  • Testing stool for occult blood
  • Endoscopy to view the esophagus and stomach to check for bleeding sources
  • Colonoscopy to check for bleeding sources in the colon and rectum
  • Barium x-ray to check the digestive tract [1, 2, 4]

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Red Stool

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced red stool. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Hemorrhoids

    Hemorrhoids are a very common condition that affects more 50% of the population, typically after the age of 30. Hemorrhoids are enlarged, bulging blood vessels in the anus that can bleed or clot.

    Chronic and can worsen with time. But, 90% of people are successfully managed with non-surgical treatments.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, rectal pain, rectal bleeding, pain when passing stools, anal itching
    Symptoms that never occur with hemorrhoids:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Ibs)

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is very common problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause stomach pain, cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Doctors think that IBS is caused by the brain sending wrong messages to the bowels, such as during times of high stress, causing physical changes.

    IBS is a chronic condition that may last for years, but it is not life-threatening and does not damage the bowels or lead to more serious illnesses.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, constipation, stool changes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Chronic or Recurrent Hemorrhoids

    Hemorrhoids are a very common condition that affects more 50% of the population, typically after the age of 30. Hemorrhoids are the "varicose veins of the anus and rectum" - enlarged, bulging blood vessels in the anus that can bleed or clot.

    Chronic hemorrhoids can worsen with time. But, 90% of people are successfully managed with non-surgical treatments.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal bleeding, rectal pain, pain when passing stools, anal itching, painless rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic or recurrent hemorrhoids:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Anal Fissure

    Anal fissures are splits or tears in the part of the anus closest outside of the body. They're very common and typically affect the young and middle-aged and both genders, equally. 11% of people will have an anal fissure in their lifetime.

    Conservative treatment leads to 50% healing rate. More aggressive treatments are needed for those with chronic anal fissures.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal pain, pain when passing stools, painful rectal bleeding, hard stools, mild rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with anal fissure:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  5. 5.Possible Early Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Ibs)

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is very common problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause stomach pain, cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Doctors think that IBS is caused by the brain sending wrong messages to the bowels, such as during times of high stress, causing physical changes. The formal criteria for this diagnosis requires 3 months of symptoms. Therefore you may have an early presentation.

    IBS is a chronic condition that may last for years, but it is not life-threatening and does not damage the bowels or lead to more serious illnesses. The formal criteria for this diagnosis requires 3 months of symptoms. Therefore you may have an early presentation.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, stool changes, constipation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Colonic Neoplasm

    Colonic neoplasm is a disorder of the large intestine. It often causes abdominal pain, cramping, changes in bowel habits, and fatigue.

    The treatment & prognosis for colonic neoplasm are variable and dependent on the disease severity.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, stool changes, diarrhea, constipation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Constipation From Not Eating Enough Fiber

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly, it is linked to not eating enough fiber, which is the material that provides bulk to your stools.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constipation, constipation, pain in the lower left abdomen, pain when passing stools, feeling of needing to constantly pass stool
    Symptoms that always occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber:
    constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.New Onset Crohn's Disease

    Crohn's disease is a disorder caused by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. The damaging inflammation causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and malnutrition.

    Not expected to reduce life expectancy

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, constipation, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Chronic Anal Fissure

    Anal fissures are splits or tears in the part of the anus closest outside of the body. They're very common and typically affect the young and middle-aged and both genders, equally. 11% of people will have an anal fissure in their lifetime.

    60% of people will heal with the pain-relieving cream. 30% will require a surgical option.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    rectal pain, pain when passing stools, painful rectal bleeding, hard stools, mild rectal bleeding
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic anal fissure:
    unintentional weight loss
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Red Stool Treatments and Relief

If your red stool is caused by a manageable trauma or treatable infection, there normally isn't a reason to schedule a doctor's appointment.

If you notice any of the following red stool symptoms, seek medical attention.

  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fever higher than 101°F
  • Severe stomach discomfort
  • Vomiting blood [1, 2, 4]

Unless you've been diagnosed with a serious cause for your red stool symptoms, treatment at home will mainly focus on prevention.

The following red stool treatments should help prevent further instances.

  • High fiber diet: Fiber is the ideal treatment for irregular bowel movements that could be behind your red stool. Add more whole-wheat flour, beans, and vegetables to your diet [5, 8, 11]. Minimizing constipation will help hemorrhoids quiet down.
  • Sitz baths: A sitz bath can provide immediate relief if there is rectal trauma [15]. Just sitting in warm water is enough to relieve pain or itching.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics in general can help support a healthy digestive system. But if you suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease, one study showed that certain probiotics can decrease episodes of rectal bleeding [16].
  • Hemorrhoid cream: Topical treatment with cream or ointment can relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids [17].

Seeing red stool can be scary. If your health is otherwise normal, there is likely a cause behind your red stool that is treatable and not considered dangerous. But when there doesn't seem to be a probable cause, medical tests and treatments can get the problem under wraps. Never ignore red stool but don't panic too.

FAQs About Red Stool

Here are some frequently asked questions about red stool.

Can certain foods cause red stool?

Yes, certain foods can cause red stool. Most commonly, red foods like tomatoes or beets can cause a red-tinged stool [6]. Additionally, any food with large amounts of red food coloring can cause a red tinge to fecal matter. If you have no known cause for redness in your stool, it may be caused by bleeding and should be evaluated by a physician.

Why am I pooping blood with no pain?

Painless blood in stool can be caused by many things, including colon cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and angiodysplasia [1]. The most worrisome of these is cancer, and there is no means of determining if blood is or is not caused by cancer. If you suspect cancer you should seek medical evaluation. Hemorrhoids that are painless are internal and sometimes cannot be seen [3, 9, 10]. Diverticulitis can cause infection and bleeding, but may also require a colonoscopy to be seen [18]. Angiodysplasia is more common in elderly individuals and also requires medical evaluation to identify.

Is it normal to poop with blood?

No. It is not normal to have blood in or on feces or in the toilet bowl. There are many causes of blood in feces or in the toilet bowl. Some of these causes are dangerous and others are benign and self-limited (will resolve on their own). However, because the dangerous causes can only be identified by a medical professional, you should seek evaluation to determine if any additional steps should be taken.

Why is my stool dark red?

Dark red or maroon stool (melana) can be caused by consuming food that color the stool red, such as beets or tomatoes [6], but can also be caused by bleeding in the lower intestinal tract [7]. Because often the cause cannot be determined, it is wise to seek medical evaluation. GI bleeding is more common in elderly individuals, individuals with a personal or family history of cancer, celiac disease or infections. You should seek medical evaluation to rule out the more dangerous causes like cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases.

Why is my stool bright red?

Bright red stool (hematochezia) is usually a sign of bleeding near the anus [7]. A common and benign cause of bright red blood in the toilet is an anal fissure. This is usually accompanied by a ripping or burning sensation as stool is passed, followed by blood in the bowl, on the feces, or on the toilet paper. It often follows constipation or a particularly hard stool, and takes time to heal in which an individual should consume foods and supplements that produce soft stools. Lower GI bleeding in the distal colon or the rectum can also cause hematochezia.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Red Stool

  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you had any changes in your weight?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our red stool symptom checker to find out more.

Red Stool Quiz

Red Stool Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced red stool have also experienced:

    • 15% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 12% Diarrhea
    • 9% Rectal Bleeding
  • People who have experienced red stool were most often matched with:

    • 60% Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Ibs)
    • 20% Hemorrhoids
    • 20% Chronic or Recurrent Hemorrhoids
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Ansari P. Overview of GI Bleeding. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated January 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  2. Gastrointestinal Bleeding or Blood into the Stool. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.
  3. Ansari P. Hemorrhoids. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated July 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  4. Symptoms & Causes of GI Bleeding. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published July 2016. NIDDK Link.
  5. Constipation, Diarrhea and Bloody Stool. Digestive Healthcare Center. DHC Center Link.
  6. Lal SK. Black or Tarry Stools. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Published April 12, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  7. Wilson D. Hematemesis, Melena, and Hematochezia. Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, eds. In: Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Butterworths; 1990. NCBI Link.
  8. Anal Fissures. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.
  9. Foxx-Orenstein AE, Umar SB, Crowell MD. Common Anorectal Disorders. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2014;10(5):294-301. NCBI Link.
  10. Altomare DF, Binda GA, Canuti S, Landolfi V, Trompetto M, Villani RD. The Management of Patients with Primary Chronic Anal Fissure: A Position Paper. 2011;15(2):135-141. NCBI Link.
  11. Constipation. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated February 12, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  12. Questions & Answers About Intussusception and Rotavirus Vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated January 27, 2017. CDC Link.
  13. Cunin P, Tedjouka E, Germani Y, et al. An Epidemic of Bloody Diarrhea: Escherichia Coli O157 Emerging in Cameroon? Emerging Infectious Diseases. 1999;5(2). CDC Link.
  14. Lynch KL. Mallory-Weiss Syndrome. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated April 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  15. Vorvick LJ. Sitz Bath. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated January 26, 2017. MedlinePlus Link.
  16. Jonkers D, Stockbrugger R. Probiotics and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2003;96(4):167-171. NCBI Link.
  17. Hemorrhoids. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. NIDDK Link.
  18. Definition & Facts for Diverticular Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published May 2016. NIDDK Link.