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What happens if your poop is red: Colorectal Cancer – Definition, Symptoms & Risk Factors

Causes of red diarrhea

Causes of red diarrhea

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Medically reviewed by Saurabh Sethi, M. D., MPH — By Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA — Updated on March 2, 2022

Red diarrhea can happen for many reasons, from eating red foods, such as beetroot, to an anal fissure, when stool may contain blood. Some medications can also cause red diarrhea.

A healthy stool is usually solid, soft, and brown. While diarrhea is unpleasant, it is not usually a sign of something serious.

Diarrhea occurs when digested food material and water pass through the intestines too quickly. Instead of having time to form a solid mass, the material passes through in a liquid form. Diarrhea may appear red due to blood in the stool, certain medications, and the color of digested food.

Red diarrhea may be alarming, but stool color can help a person determine the cause of their symptoms. This article discusses possible causes and treatment and what other stool colors mean.

Several conditions and factors can cause a person’s stool to appear red. These include:

  • Viral infection: Viruses can cause bloody diarrhea, such as rotavirus.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can lead to bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. This blood can sometimes appear in the stool, making it red.
  • Dysentery: Diarrhea with blood is known as dysentery. The most common causes of dysentery are Shigella bacteria or Entamoeba histolytica, a type of parasite. These can cause severe infections that inflame the intestines enough to result in bleeding.
  • Red foods: Foods that are naturally red or contain red food coloring can turn the stool red. Red diarrhea might occur if the food that a person eats causes food poisoning or irritates the stomach. Foods that can turn stool red include beets, cranberries, red candy, red frosting, red licorice, tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
  • Colon polyps: These small growths in the colon can cause bleeding that will be apparent in diarrhea.
  • Gastric cancers: Bleeding is a common side effect of gastric cancer.
  • Hemorrhoids: These are swollen blood vessels that occur inside the rectum and anus. Hemorrhoids are a common cause of rectal bleeding and red diarrhea.
  • Medications: The side effects of some medications may cause red stool. They can also irritate the stomach and potentially lead to diarrhea. Medications that cause red stools include liquid antibiotics.
  • Anal fissure: Sometimes, a scratch in the rectal area can cause the stool to appear bloody. In this case, it may only be a small amount of bright red blood.

Risk factors

Naturally, people with any of the above conditions will be at greater risk of having red-colored diarrhea.

Typical risk factors for diarrhea in general include:

  • poor hygiene, including poor handwashing technique
  • drinking contaminated water
  • eating large quantities of meat and fibers
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • diabetes

Learn more about diarrhea causes and risk factors here.

If red diarrhea is due to dysentery or infection, a person can take measures to prevent it in the future.

Ways to help prevent infectious diarrhea include:

  • practicing good personal and food hygiene
  • only drinking safe drinking water
  • vaccination against rotavirus

Bloody diarrhea may be a sign of a medical emergency, so a person should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

A person should also contact a doctor if they have the following symptoms in addition to red diarrhea:

  • chills
  • diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days
  • fainting
  • fever
  • severe diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • severe abdominal cramps

While diarrhea is not always a cause for concern, severe or persistent bleeding may be a medical emergency. Anyone who is concerned about red stool should speak with a doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about how long diarrhea can last here.

Checking stool color can often help a person determine the cause of their gastrointestinal symptoms.

Stool can come in a range of colors and have various causes:

  • Black stools: Tarry, black stools or stools the consistency of coffee grounds can indicate potential gastrointestinal bleeding. Black diarrhea can sometimes point to an upper GI bleed. This is because the blood has had more time to travel through the GI tract and darken. Certain foods, such as licorice or high quantities of grape juice, may also turn stool black.
  • Green stools: Green stools may be due to bile in the stool. Taking iron supplements can also cause stool to become dark green.
  • Pale stools: Pale or clay-colored stools may indicate stones in the bile duct that empty from the gallbladder. If a person also observes dark urine, this is a further sign that a problem with the gallbladder or liver could be the underlying cause. Some antacids that contain aluminum hydroxide can also cause pale stools.
  • Yellowish, greasy stool: Yellow stool may signal an infection or a malabsorption disorder, such as celiac disease.

Learn more about different stool colors here.

Diarrhea may appear red due to bleeding in and around the gastrointestinal system, viral infections, or the color of food a person consumes.

Treatment for red diarrhea will typically involve remedying its underlying cause. For example, if a person’s stool is red due to blood from an anal fissure, stopping the bleed will be the most important step.

A person can reduce their risk of general diarrhea by practicing good personal and food hygiene and only drinking safe drinking water.

Last medically reviewed on March 2, 2022

  • GastroIntestinal / Gastroenterology
  • Nutrition / Diet

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Chang, J. G. (2017). Oral rehydration solutions for the treatment of acute watery diarrhea.
  • Diarrhoea. (n.d.).
  • Kawabata, H., et al. (2019). Management of bleeding from unresectable gastric cancer.
  • Payne, D. C., et al. (2018). Rotavirus.
  • Shigella — shigellosis: Sources of infection and risk factors. (2017).
  • Treatment for diarrhea. (2016).
  • What are the symptoms of GI bleeding? (2016).

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Medically reviewed by Saurabh Sethi, M.D., MPH — By Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA — Updated on March 2, 2022

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Blood in stool: Possible causes of rectal bleeding

It can be strange – and a little scary – to see streaks of blood in your poop, bright red water in the toilet or scarlet spots on your toilet paper.

The first thing to know is that rectal bleeding and bloody poop usually aren’t anything to worry about. Still, there’s a small chance that when you see red in your poop or after a bowel movement, it could be a sign of a medical condition. So in most cases, you’ll want to talk to a doctor or clinician if you notice bloody stools or rectal bleeding.

But first, read on to learn about the causes of rectal bleeding and bloody stools, and what to do next.

What is rectal bleeding?

Rectal bleeding means that blood is exiting your body through your rectum or anus. Your rectum is the name for the part of the large intestines right before your anus. Your anus is the opening on your bottom where poop leaves your body.

Rectal bleeding can start in your rectum or anus. But it’s also possible for the bleeding to start at other places in your digestive system, including your stomach and small intestines. This is still considered rectal bleeding since the blood will leave your body through your rectum.

Signs and symptoms of rectal bleeding

Blood from rectal bleeding can come out in your poop or in liquid form. So if you have rectal bleeding, you may notice blood on toilet paper, in the toilet water, or poop that’s an unusual color or has red spots in it.

Blood on toilet paper after wiping

Blood on the toilet paper is usually bright red. Most of the time, it’s not a sign of a serious condition, but if it keeps happening, check in with your doctor. It could be that you need treatment for hemorrhoids or an anal fissure, common conditions that are discussed later in this post.

Bright red blood in the toilet

If you have bleeding in your rectum or anus, blood may briefly coat the stool when it lands in the water. It’s also possible for blood to dribble in after a bowel movement. As it spreads out, it can look like red food coloring in water. You’ll want to talk to your doctor if you see blood in the toilet, especially if it looks like a large amount.

Blood in or on your poop

You may not see blood in the toilet or on the toilet paper if you have rectal bleeding. That’s because blood from rectal bleeding can mix into your poop. Blood in poop has spent longer in your digestive system, meaning that the bleeding is likely from your stomach, small intestine or higher up in your large intestines.

Bloody poop can be a sign of a serious medical condition. So, make a doctor’s appointment if you see blood in your stool.

What bloody stools can look like

If you have blood in your stools, it can change the overall color of your poop, or you could have streaks or spots of blood in the stool.

Colors that may mean there’s blood in your stool

Bloody stools can be different colors, based on where the bleeding is coming from. That’s because blood changes color as it’s broken down by the digestive chemicals – the longer it spends in your digestive system, the darker it gets. This means that:

  • Poop that’s nearly black could be caused by bleeding in the stomach or small intestines.
  • Poop that’s dark red or maroon could be caused by bleeding in your small intestines or in the upper part of your large intestines.
  • Bright red poop could be caused by bleeding from the rectum or anus. It could also be caused by a serious problem in your stomach or small intestines that’s causing you to bleed a lot over a short time.

It’s also possible to have blood in your stool that you can’t see. This type of bleeding is called occult bleeding and it can be found when you use a test like the fecal immunochemical test (FIT).

In a severe case, bleeding could come from variations of these sources if it occurs at a rapid pace and in large quantities. If this happens, seek immediate emergency care.

Common causes of rectal bleeding and colored stools

There are many potential causes for rectal bleeding and bloody stools. Most aren’t serious and are easily treated.

Food and medications that affect poop color

Blood isn’t the only reason why poop can look reddish or black. Food and medications can affect poop color and texture. So if your poop doesn’t seem right, it’s a good idea to think about what you’ve been eating.

Reddish stools can be caused by eating lots of beets, cranberries, red gelatin and tomato juice. Antibiotics like cefdinir can also cause red poop. But antibiotics can cause intestinal bleeding, so you shouldn’t ignore red poop if you’re on antibiotics.

Reasons for dark or blackish stools include foods like blueberries, chocolate and leafy greens. You may also have black poop after taking iron supplements or bismuth medications such as Pepto Bismol. Iron supplements can also cause constipation, which is a cause of rectal bleeding that’s covered later in the post.


Most rectal bleeding comes from hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectum or anus. Other common symptoms of hemorrhoids include an itchy bottom and discomfort when sitting.

Hemorrhoids develop when there’s increased pressure on the lower rectum. Possible causes for the extra pressure include chronic constipation, straining while pooping, spending long periods of time on the toilet (such as scrolling your phone or reading the newspaper), pregnancy, lifting heavy objects, having anal intercourse and being overweight.

Hemorrhoids usually aren’t anything to be concerned about. They sometimes go away on their own, but it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about a treatment plan.


Dealing with constipation can be a literal struggle. It can take a lot of straining and sometimes the stool that comes out is extremely hard or very large. And, unfortunately, all that straining and stretching can cause swelling and tears that lead to bleeding.

It’s not unusual to get constipated. But chronic constipation can be a sign of medical conditions. So if you consistently go less than three times a week, talk to your doctor.

Chronic diarrhea

When you have diarrhea, it can make your anus red and sore. But once you’ve gotten over your diarrhea, it usually won’t take long for your bottom to feel better.

If you have diarrhea for a long time, it can cause swelling or a tear near your anus. Chronic diarrhea can be a sign of other medical conditions. So if it lasts for more than four weeks, talk to your doctor to find out what’s causing it.

Anal fissures

An anal fissure is a tear in the skin around the anus. Reasons for anal fissures include straining to poop, very hard stools, chronic diarrhea and anal intercourse.

If you have an anal fissure that’s causing your rectal bleeding, you’ll likely feel pain or a burning sensation when you poop – and sometimes for hours afterwards. Anal fissures typically go away with home remedies. A doctor can help determine which treatments would be best for you.

Anal abscesses or fistulas

You have small glands in your anus that help you pass stool. But it’s possible for these glands to get infected and filled with puss – when this happens it’s called an anal abscess.

If you have an anal abscess, your body may create a fistula or a tunnel from the abscess to the skin around the anus. This is your body’s way of trying to drain the puss out of the abscess.

Abscesses and fistulas can cause rectal bleeding and discharge. And because they’re caused by infection, you may get a fever or chills. Anal abscesses and fistulas need to be treated by a doctor.

Peptic ulcers

Peptic ulcers are sores in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestines. Ulcers are usually caused by unbalanced digestive fluids, often from frequent use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Ulcers can also be caused by helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which is a common stomach bacteria. Up to half of the people in the world may have it, but many don’t know it’s there because they don’t have any symptoms. If you have stomach ulcers, your doctor will likely test you for a H. pylori infection.

The most common symptoms are stomach pain, bloating, heartburn or nausea. Sometimes peptic ulcers can bleed, and the blood will show up in your poop. You might notice dark spots of blood in your stools, blackish stool or stools that look tarry. This is a more serious symptom of ulcers, and you should see a doctor.

Inflammatory bowel disease

If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it means your digestive tract tissues are chronically inflamed and swollen. When your body tries to digest food, you may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain and the need to pass stools frequently.

Rectal bleeding can be a common symptom of IBD, depending on the severity of your condition. If you have a mild or moderate case, you’ll likely only have occasional bloody stools. But if you have a severe case, it’s possible to have 10 or more bloody bowel movements in a day. If you have the symptoms of IBD, make an appointment with a doctor. They can diagnose your condition and offer therapies to help with your symptoms.


Many people have small pouches called diverticula in the weakened parts of their large intestines. Usually, these pouches don’t cause any symptoms. However, if these pouches become inflamed, it could cause a condition called diverticulitis that includes complications like bleeding and infections. If you have symptoms like vomiting, abdominal pain and fever, you should make a doctor’s appointment.


Polyps are clumps of abnormal tissue that can grow on the lining of your intestine. Polyps don’t usually cause any symptoms, so it’s unlikely that you’d know if you had them. But sometimes polyps can bleed or turn into cancer.

Blood in your poop can mean that you have larger polyps. And your doctor may recommend you get a colonoscopy for cancer screening to make sure that you don’t have polyps that are cancerous or precancerous. But it’s rare that blood in stool means that you have cancer – research shows that cancer is the cause of bloody stools only 3.4% of the time.

Does rectal bleeding go away on its own?

It’s possible for rectal bleeding to go away on its own, but it really depends on what’s causing the bleeding. Common causes of rectal bleeding, like hemorrhoids and anal fissures, often heal without special treatment. But you may need care for other conditions. The best first step is to make an appointment with a primary care doctor. Primary care doctors and clinicians can diagnose and treat hundreds of conditions, as well as refer you to a specialist for more advanced care if needed.

Should you worry about blood in stool or rectal bleeding

If there’s one time when you see a little blood in the toilet or on the tissue only, it’s probably not a big deal – especially if you’re not experiencing other symptoms.

But it’s important to see a doctor if you frequently have rectal bleeding or bloody stools. Chances are it’s nothing to be concerned about. But if it’s something more serious, like colorectal cancer, early diagnosis greatly increases the chance that treatment will be successful.

A good place to start is with your primary care doctor. To help diagnose the problem, they’ll ask questions about the bleeding, how much it happens and when it occurs. So, it’s a good idea to keep track of times that you’ve had bleeding or bloody poop, and if you have other symptoms. This information can help your doctor diagnose the cause of your rectal bleeding.

While it may feel embarrassing to talk about your symptoms, know that your doctor is used to having these conversations – and they want to know all the details. Because there are so many causes of bloody stools, the more they know, the better they can help determine a diagnosis and next steps in treatment.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend tests such as a colonoscopy to identify conditions that could cause rectal bleeding. They may also refer you to a digestive health specialist for testing and treatment.

When to go to urgent care or the emergency room for blood in your stool

If you’re seeing a lot of blood or have severe abdominal pain or cramping, ask someone to drive you to urgent care.

Very rarely, rectal bleeding results in shock. Call 911, if you experience any of the following:

  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizziness

Talk to your doctor and stop worrying about bloody stools

It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing rectal bleeding or bloody stools. While it’s unlikely that your rectal bleeding is being caused by something serious, they’ll have recommendations to help you heal more quickly – and help you get necessary treatment for more serious conditions like colorectal cancer, IBD or infections.

Blood in the child’s stool

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Red stool – Quanta-System

Red stool is the appearance of reddish stool, which is often accompanied by pain and dyspeptic disorders. The symptom occurs with hemorrhoids, severe intestinal infections, inflammatory bowel disease and malignant tumors. To determine the cause of staining of feces in red, a coprogram, colonoscopy, and a contrast radiograph of the gastrointestinal tract are performed. To eliminate the identified pathology, antibiotics, painkillers and surgical methods of therapy are prescribed.

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Other diseases of the rectum
  • Infections
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Neoplasms
  • Complications of pharmacotherapy
  • Diagnosis
  • 90 082 care

    • Prediagnosis help
    • Conservative therapy
    • Operation
  • Treatment prices
    • Contents

      • 1 Causes of red stool
        • 1.1 Consumption of coloring products
        • 1.2 Hemorrhoids
        • 1.3 Other diseases of the rectum
        • 1.4 Infections
        • 1.5 Inflammatory bowel disease
        • 1.6 Neoplasms 90 035
        • 1. 7 Complications of pharmacotherapy
      • 2 Diagnosis
      • 3 Treatment
        • 3.1 Help before diagnosis
        • 3.2 Conservative therapy
        • 3.3 Surgical treatment

      Causes of red stool

      Consumption of coloring products

      Most often, the appearance of red stool in adults is associated with the consumption of large amounts of food of the corresponding color: beets, tomatoes, berries. The reddish hue of the stool is caused by the artificial colors found in sweets and sodas. At the same time, the stool is of normal consistency, the frequency of bowel movements does not change. There are no other disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Normalization of stool color occurs after 1-2 days.


      Blood from enlarged hemorrhoids is released in drops already at the onset of the disease. In this case, the feces have a normal color, but red streaks are noted on its surface. The frequency of stool with hemorrhoids is reduced to 3-4 times a week, due to reflex spasm of the rectal sphincter muscles. Characterized by pain in the anus, sharply aggravated by defecation.

      As the disease progresses and the size of the venous nodes increases, hemorrhoidal bleeding becomes more frequent. The stool becomes oily or liquid and reddish in color due to the large amount of blood. In severe situations, with ulceration of the hemorrhoidal veins, profuse bleeding begins, in which the feces lose their fecal character, bright red blood is released from the anus.

      Other diseases of the rectum

      The appearance of red inclusions in the stool causes inflammation. In acute erosive proctitis, blood is released from the affected mucosa, which stains the stool. In the case of a bacterial infection, a liquid consistency of the stool with abundant bloody patches is observed. In addition, patients experience constant pain in the anal area during irradiation of the perineum and sacrum.

      Red stool causes anal fissures. They are characterized by the occurrence of severe acute pain during defecation, so the stool is mixed with blood. Symptoms often develop with prolonged constipation, when a person has to make a lot of effort and dry, hard stools injure the intestinal mucosa. Perhaps the formation of an anal fissure in women after childbirth.


      Red streaks in the stool are a characteristic symptom of dysentery (shigellosis). Bacterial toxins damage the walls of the intestines, from which blood is excreted. At the beginning of the disease, the feces are liquid, fecal in nature with single bloody inclusions. In severe cases, the number of bowel movements increases up to 10-12 times a day, defecation is difficult in the form of mucus mixed with blood. Patients complain of severe abdominal cramps, especially in the left sections.

      Abundant red stools sometimes occur after 3-4 weeks in the typical course of typhoid fever, which is associated with bleeding from a deep typhoid ulcer. Liquid mucus stools with a large amount of blood of the “raspberry jelly” type is a pathognomonic sign of amoebiasis. In addition to the reddish color of the stool, there are severe pains in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting. With these symptoms, emergency medical attention is indicated.

      Inflammatory bowel disease

      In Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, deep, bleeding ulcers form. Red stool is more common in NUC because it damages the distal bowel. Against the background of a painful urgent urge to defecate, there is a passage of a scanty stool with mixtures of scarlet blood. Exacerbations provoke such causes as stress, inaccuracies in nutrition, concomitant intestinal infections.


      Occasionally, reddish stools are seen with colon polyps and other benign tumors that ulcerate over time due to constant trauma from hard stools. The red color of the stool is more common with cancerous tumors of the intestine, as they ulcerate and disintegrate faster with involvement of the vessels in the process. Disturbed by dull pain in the abdominal cavity, prolonged constipation, progressive weight loss.

      Complications of pharmacotherapy

      Most often, stool staining occurs during long-term treatment with the anti-tuberculosis drug rifampicin. It has a red color and, when ingested, turns into metabolites, which are excreted in different ways. Thus, not only feces acquire a reddish color, but also urine, lacrimal fluid, and sweat. Atypical coloration of the stool is sometimes possible with long-term use of high doses of vitamin A, which contains carotene pigments.


      If red stools are associated with complaints of pain and dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tract, the patient should consult a gastroenterologist. Diagnostic research involves a comprehensive examination of the digestive organs by laboratory and instrumental methods. The most informative are:

      • Coprogram. To confirm the presence of blood in the stool, a Gregersen test is needed. Microscopic analysis assesses the amount of undigested food, the presence of leukocytes. If an infectious cause of red stool is suspected, bacterial culture of the stool on nutrient media is recommended. To diagnose OC, the level of calprotectin in the feces is determined.
      • Endoscopy. Endoscopic examination has the greatest diagnostic value in organic diseases of the lower gastrointestinal tract. To study the state of the distal colon, it is enough to prescribe sigmoidoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy examines the entire large intestine. During the procedure, a biopsy is taken from suspicious areas.
      • X-ray method. For the purpose of a comprehensive assessment of the state of the digestive system, an X-ray of the passage of barium is shown, with the help of which destructive changes in the intestine and neoplasms are revealed. If it is not possible to perform a colonoscopy to diagnose colon pathology, double contrast irrigation is used.
      • Laboratory test. In the general blood test, signs of anemia are revealed, the severity of which is associated with the degree of blood loss. To confirm the inflammatory cause of the appearance of red stools, biochemical analysis and an expanded immunogram are used. It is possible to establish bacterial infections in which the intestine is affected by detecting specific antibodies in the plasma.


      Help before diagnosis

      Discharge of atypically colored feces caused by excessive consumption of red foods and proceeding against the background of good health does not require therapeutic measures. If the symptom is observed simultaneously with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, you should consult a doctor to find out why the red stool appeared. Intestinal bleeding requires emergency medical attention.

      Conservative therapy

      Treatment depends on the cause of the red color of the stool. In intestinal infections, along with drugs, therapeutic fasting or a sweet diet with strict restrictions is indicated; To correct the metabolism of water salts, oral rehydration is recommended. The purpose of the drugs is aimed at eliminating the underlying pathology that caused red stools. The most commonly used are:

      • Antibiotics Drugs are selected that selectively affect the bacteria of the intestinal group. For the best effect, they are combined with local antibacterial agents that act only in the intestinal lumen. In amebiasis, specific antiprotozoal drugs are indicated.
      • Anesthetics. With hemorrhoids, an anal fissure comes to the fore, pain, for the relief of which candles and ointments with local anesthetics are used. Medicines improve the well-being of patients and create conditions for the rapid healing of mucosal defects.
      • Derivatives of 5-aminosalicylic acid. These agents are essential for the treatment of UC and Crohn’s disease. They have a pronounced anti-inflammatory effect, stimulate the regeneration of the epithelium and the healing of intestinal ulcers. In severe forms, immunosuppressants are added to the treatment regimen.
      • Plasma Replacement Solutions.