If you notice blood clots in your stool, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Because there are many possible causes for seeing blood in your stool, a consultation with your provider is essential to getting the right care and treatment.
If you’re otherwise healthy, mucus alone in your stool may not be cause for concern. But if mucus and blood are found in your stool, or if you’re experiencing other symptoms, it’s important to speak to a provider. In this article, we’ll cover the possible causes of blood and mucus in your stool and which treatment options your provider may recommend.
Remember that this guide is not meant to replace a one-on-one consultation with your provider. If you notice blood clots and mucus in your stool, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
Blood Clots in Stool
Blood clots in stool are a sign of bleeding somewhere in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bright red blood in your stool usually signals bleeding from your lower colon or rectum, while dark red blood can indicate bleeding higher in the colon or small bowel.
Causes of Blood Clots in Stool
There are several possible causes of blood clots in your stool.
When you notice blood clots in your stool, it’s very important to speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to determine the right cause and course of treatment.
Peptic ulcer disease
Peptic ulcers, also known as stomach ulcers, gastric ulcers, and duodenal ulcers, are sores in the lining of your stomach or duodenum which can occur as a result of infection, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), or when digestive acids damage the stomach or intestine walls.
The primary symptom of peptic ulcers is a burning stomach pain which usually happens between meals or during the night. Antacids can help provide temporary relief, but in many cases, the pain comes and goes for several days or weeks. Unfortunately, peptic ulcers will worsen if they’re not treated, so it’s important to speak to your provider if you’re experiencing symptoms.
Diverticulosis is a condition in which small bulges or pockets (known as “diverticula”) form in the colon. For many people, these diverticula don’t cause any symptoms.
However, if a small blood vessel within these pouches bursts, it leads to diverticular bleeding, which may be severe and life-threatening. In some cases, surgery may be required to stop the bleeding.
Infectious colitis is an infection of the colon caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The inflammation can cause bloody and/or mucousy diarrhea.
Other possible symptoms include:
- The feeling that you need to pass stools when your bowels are already empty
- Abdominal pain
Pathogens that can cause infectious colitis include:
- E. coli
- Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Treatment will vary depending on the type of infection you have.
An estimated 47% of infectious colitis cases are caused by bacteria, which is why your provider may prescribe antibiotic treatment. However, in other cases, antiviral or antifungal medication may be recommended.
Ischemic colitis is an injury of the colon that can occur due to reduced blood flow. The condition is most commonly seen in people in their sixties to seventies with a history of atherosclerotic disease (when cholesterol, fats, and other substances collect in artery walls).
The symptoms of ischemic colitis can be diverse, making it especially challenging to diagnose.
Symptoms of ischemic colitis can include:
- Bloody stool
- Abdominal pain
- Leukocytosis (high white blood cell count)
In some cases, the condition can resolve on its own. Other times, your provider may recommend antibiotics, intravenous fluids, or surgery.
In severe cases, blood clots in stool can be a sign of colon cancer. Additional symptoms of colon cancer, if present, can also include:
- A change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea or constipation
- The feeling that your bowels don’t empty completely
- Narrow-looking stools
- Frequent gas, bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Polyps that grow on the inner lining of the colon or large intestine can also cause blood clots in stool. Polyps are a result of genetic changes in the cells of the colon.
Most polyps don’t cause symptoms early on, but when they do occur, you may experience:
- Blood in stool
- Anemia or weight loss
- Change in normal bowel movement patterns
- Abdominal pain (rare)
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a colon polyp, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional about testing. When left untreated, colon polyps can lead to cancer.
Angiodysplasia is a condition in which abnormal and enlarged small blood vessels form in the gastrointestinal tract.
In some cases, this condition may happen with no symptoms. But when symptoms occur it may show up as bleeding in the GI tract and iron deficiency anemia (low healthy red blood cell levels caused by lack of iron). A person with angiodysplasia may notice blood in stool or anemia symptoms like tiredness, dizziness, and irregular heartbeats.
It’s advisable to see a healthcare professional if you’re showing any of these symptoms for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Hemorrhoids or anal fissures
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your lower rectum; these can form either internally (in the lower rectum) or externally (around the anus). These areas can cause discomfort and rectal bleeding.
Anal fissures are small tears in the anal mucosa that cause rectal bleeding and pain. Both hemorrhoids and anal fissures can both be easily diagnosed by a healthcare provider doing an exam or, at times, by gathering a complete medical history.
Gastric antral vascular ectasia
Gastric antral vascular ectasia (GAVE syndrome), also called watermelon stomach, is a rare but significant cause of GI bleeding in the elderly.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of GAVE syndrome is unknown, but it can cause bleeding in the GI tract and stool, as well as abdominal pain and chronic iron-deficiency anemia.
Treatment options vary from prescription medication and endoluminal therapies to surgery.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes inflammation within the digestive tract. Two specific conditions encompass IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC).
Common IBD symptoms include:
- Blood or mucus in stool (often diarrhea)
- Painful bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation (more common with UC)
- Nausea and vomiting (more common in Crohn’s)
While there is no cure for IBD, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroids, antibiotics, biologics, and immunomodulators can help relieve symptoms.
Treatment of Blood Clots in Stool
There are many possible treatment options for blood clots in stool. The right treatment option for you will depend on the exact cause of the blood clots in your stool, which is why speaking with a healthcare provider is the best way to get the treatment and care you need.
When speaking with your provider, they will ask you questions about your symptoms and health history. They may also want to perform a physical exam of your rectum and anus in some cases.
When needed, your provider may order tests to help inform diagnosis and treatment recommendations. These testing options may include:
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is an exam that looks at the colon using a flexible, tube-like instrument called a colonoscope.
- Virtual colonoscopy: This non-invasive exam, also called a CT colonography or computed tomography colonography creates images of the colon using a CT scanner.
- Sigmoidoscopy: This test screens the sigmoid colon, the lower part of the colon, using a flexible tube-like device called the sigmoidoscope
- Fecal occult blood test: This test checks the stool for invisible blood. You can take your stool samples yourself, following a healthcare professional’s instructions for testing.
Mucus in Stool
In healthy adults, mucus in stool can be a common occurrence caused by diet, dehydration, or constipation. But bloody mucus in stool can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Bloody mucus in stool can be a sign of a serious condition, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or UC)
- An infection
It’s important to speak to your healthcare provider if you notice bloody mucus in your stool.
Causes of Mucus in Stool
There are many possible causes of mucus in stool, including:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Colon or rectal cancer
When To See a Medical Provider
Because the causes of blood clots and mucus in stool range from mild to severe, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms in adults that warrant immediate medical attention include:
- Experiencing a sudden drop in blood pressure
- Having a fast heart rate
- Vomiting blood
- Slipping into unconsciousness
- Severe or increasing abdominal pain
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Colon Polyps. (n.d.).
Colon Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)—Patient Version. (2022).
Diverticular Disease. (n.d.).
Gastric Antral Vascular Ectasia (Watermelon Stomach)—An Enigmatic and Often-OVerlooked Cause of Gastrointestinal Bleeding in the Elderly. (2009).
Infectious Colitis. (2021).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease. (2021).
Ischemic Colitis. (2015).
Peptic Ulcer. (2016).
Symptoms & Causes of GI Bleeding. (2016).