When you cut or scrape yourself and see blood, you likely know the source of that blood. However, if you see blood in the toilet after using the restroom, the cause may not be so clear. Here are some possible reasons you might see blood in your stool or urine.
Blood in the Stool
A bloody stool is generally a sign of a problem in the digestive tract. This area of your body includes all the organs from the mouth to the anus, and bleeding can occur anywhere in the tract.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower part of the rectum or anus. Hemorrhoids can be very painful and are often the reason behind a bloody stool. They are especially common during pregnancy and after childbirth. Almost half of adults will have them by about age 50 because the tissues that support the veins in the rectum and anus often stretch and become weaker with age.
Hemorrhoids have a variety of causes, including straining while defecating, sitting for long periods of time on the toilet, chronic diarrhea or constipation, obesity, pregnancy, anal intercourse and a low-fiber diet.
Aside from a bloody stool, other symptoms of hemorrhoids include itching or pain around the anus, pain while defecating and lumps near the anus. The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep stools soft so they can pass easily. Ways to keep stools soft include eating food high in fiber, drinking six to eight glasses of water or other non-alcoholic liquids per day, going to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge, exercising regularly and avoiding sitting for long periods of time.
Even though some causes of bloody stool are minor, others can be serious and potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, many of these causes can be treated successfully if dealt with soon enough. Such causes of bloody stool may include:
- Bleeding in the upper part of the digestive tract, possibly due to abnormal blood vessels, a tear in the esophagus from violent vomiting, bleeding stomach ulcer, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), trauma or a foreign substance in the digestive tract, among many others
- Anal fissures (split or tear in moist tissue lining of the anus)
- Bowel ischemia (when blood supply is cut off to part of the intestines)
- Polyps or cancer in the colon
- Diverticulosis (small sacs on the inner lining of the intestine that become inflamed or infected)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- Infection in the intestines
If you notice blood or any changes in the color of your stool, you should call a doctor immediately.
Blood in the Urine
Blood in the urine is called hematuria, and is caused by blood leaking into the urinary tract. This part of the body starts with the kidneys and ends with the urethra (place where urine comes out).
Seeing blood in the urine is not always a sign of a serious medical problem, but it should always be investigated by you and your doctor.
Potential causes of hematuria include urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney infection, a bladder or kidney stone, enlarged prostate, kidney disease, cancer, genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia, kidney injury, use of certain medications and vigorous exercise.
It is very important that you see a doctor as soon as possible if you see blood in your urine or are experiencing discomfort with urination, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, urgent urination or if you are unable to urinate.
Older age, female sex, recent infection, family history of urinary bleeding, certain medications and intense exercise are all risk factors for hematuria.
Though it is generally not possible to prevent hematuria, there are some protective measures you can can take to reduce the risk of the underlying conditions that cause hematuria. To prevent UTI, such measures include drinking a lot of water and urinating as soon as you feel the urge. Quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and staying active can lower the risk for kidney and bladder cancer. Limiting intake of salt, protein and oxalate-containing foods (such as spinach or rhubarb) can lower the chances of developing kidney stones.