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Stool Color Changes (cont.)

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Bright red stools

The most common cause of bright red stool is bleeding from hemorrhoids, but other bleeding causes are much more significant. For that reason, blood in the stool should never be ignored. Other causes include infection, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis), diverticular bleeding, tumors, and arteriovenous malformations (AVM). Brisk bleeding from the upper GI tract may cause stools to be red instead of black because there has not been enough time for the red blood cells to be digested. Red food coloring and beets can also give a reddish hue to the stool.

Light-colored white or clay-colored stools

White or clay colored stool are often seen with liver or biliary tract diseases. Lack of bile which gives stool its brown color leaves it appearing pale.

Maroon stools

Maroon colored stools are often due to bleeding in the GI tract. Classically, the source of bleeding for red stools is the upper GI tract (esophagus, stomach, duodenum), while the colon is the source for bright red blood. Maroon stools may arise from the small intestine (jejunum, ileum) and proximal colon, but these are not hard and fast rules. How bright the red color is depends not only upon the location of bleeding, but also how quickly the blood moves through the intestine. The faster the stool moves through the GI tract, the brighter red the color. This can be an emergency situation.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2015


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