What are some causes of tarry stools

Blood in the stool

Anyone who observes blood in the stool immediately wonders what that means. However, bloody stools need not be directly stressful. Blood in the stool can be the result of an operation, for example if a doctor removes polyps during a colonoscopy. Bleeding and blood in your stool may also occur more easily during chemotherapy because blood clotting is reduced. More often, however, blood in the stool is the result of impairment of the gastrointestinal tract. There are a number of possible causes that can be differentiated according to whether they occur in the upper digestive tract or in the lower and middle digestive tract.

Blood in the stool: causes in the upper digestive tract

  • Esophageal varices: These are varicose veins in the esophagus. They can develop as a result of cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver can also lead to varicose veins in the stomach.
  • Esophageal cancer: Tumors in the esophagus can also lead to bloody stools. The blood is colored black, one speaks of tarry stools. Tumors in the esophagus also cause pain or discomfort when swallowing, loss of appetite and weight loss, and vomiting.
  • Mallory-Weiss lesion: Describes tears in the mucous membrane in the lower part of the esophagus. The mucous membrane is usually already damaged or severely irritated and tears due to frequent vomiting - triggered by excessive alcohol consumption, for example. In addition to blood in the stool, there is also blood in the vomit and those affected have severe abdominal pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Reflux Disease: The stomach contents flow back into the esophagus and irritate it. The esophagus can become inflamed. One sign of this is stool that is dark in color. In addition, reflux disease causes heartburn, pain when swallowing and those affected have to burp.

Blood in the stool: causes in the middle and lower digestive tract

  • Hemorrhoids: They are the most common cause of blood in stool when it is bright red blood. The bleeding often takes place without pain. Sometimes there is also itching, oozing or burning. Some hemorrhoids can be surgically removed, and minor bleeding may also occur after the operation.
  • Gastric ulcer or duodenal ulcer: Describes an injury to the gastric mucosa. In addition to bloody stools, there may be abdominal pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting.
  • Inflammation of the gastric mucosa: Even if the lining of the stomach is just inflamed, it can lead to blood in the stool. Other symptoms of acute gastritis are stomach or back pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, a feeling of fullness or gas.
  • Stomach cancer: Tumors in the stomach can also lead to blood in the stool. The stool is also dark in color (tarry stool). In addition, there is prolonged pain in the upper abdomen, pain when eating, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss or reduced performance.
  • Medication: some drugs, taken alone or in combination with other drugs, may cause gastric bleeding as a side effect. This can happen if certain anti-inflammatory painkillers with active ingredients such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen or acetylsalicylic acid are taken for a long time. Antibiotics can also lead to blood in the stool - for example when it leads to pseudomembranous colitis, an inflammation of the colon.
  • Diverticulum: These are small protrusions in the lining of the intestine. In addition to minor bleeding, they can lead to pain in the lower abdomen (usually on the left side), flatulence, constipation or diarrhea. The symptoms are usually worse after eating.
  • Colon cancer: Tumors in the bowel can also lead to blood in the stool, which is dark. In addition to blood, there can also be mucus in the stool, and a tumor in the bowel can lead to pain, constipation or diarrhea.
  • Crohn's disease: This is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which the mucous membrane becomes inflamed. The main symptoms are abdominal pain and diarrhea and the symptoms come on in flares.

In addition to the digestive tract causes, endometriosis can also be the cause of blood in the stool in women. Endometriosis describes a benign, but often painful, growth in the lining of the woman's uterus. Concomitant symptoms are abdominal pain, back pain or pain during sexual intercourse. The symptoms usually occur in line with the woman's cycle.

Irritable bowel syndrome, on the other hand, is not one of them: Even if one might suspect it, blood in the stool is not a common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.