- An itchy or irritated anus
- Pain in your anal region
- A swollen anus
Like with anal fissures, this blood will typically be bright red. Since hemorrhoids form on or close to your anus, blood doesn’t have time to clot up and darken before it exits the premises, Ashkan Farhadi, M.D., a gastroenterologist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center and director of MemorialCare Medical Group’s Digestive Disease Project in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.
Hemorrhoids usually clear up on their own, but they can stick around and cause persistent bleeding, Dr. Farhadi says.
If hemorrhoids are indeed your issue, Dr. Farhadi recommends eating high-fiber foods to try to soften up your waste so pooping won’t require Herculean effort. (Be sure to also drink enough water, since the fiber soaks it up to help make poop softer and easier to pass.)
3. You have a peptic ulcer.
A peptic ulcer is an open sore that develops either on the inside lining of your stomach (gastric ulcer) or the upper portion of your small intestine (duodenal ulcer), per the Mayo Clinic. These ulcers can happen due to bacterial infections and long-term use of painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.
While the majority of people with peptic ulcers have no symptoms, the most common symptom you might experience is abdominal pain, the Mayo Clinic says. However, in less common and more severe cases, you can also end up with dark blood in your poop. “It can look like driveway tar—it’s shiny and sticky and has a peculiar odor to it,” Gail Bongiovanni, M.D., a gastroenterologist and adjunct professor in the division of digestive diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF.
If you have one of these ulcers, doctors may prescribe drugs to neutralize irritating stomach acid or medications to help protect the tissues that line your stomach and small intestine, the Mayo Clinic says. In some rare cases, you may need surgery to control the bleeding.
Though these are two different forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), both Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (UC) can cause chronic inflammation in your digestive tract that leads to bleeding ulcers, hence blood in your poop.
IBD treatment courses vary from person to person, but they can involve taking anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids to tame inflammation, immunosuppressants to stop your immune system from attacking your digestive tract, and medicine to combat symptoms like diarrhea and constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if other treatments haven’t helped as much as they should.
5. You have a polyp on your colon.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a polyp is a small mass of cells that can form on the lining of your colon, aka your large intestine. Though anyone can develop polyps, they’re more common in those who are 50 or older; who are overweight or a smoker; or who have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. It’s normal to have a colon polyp without symptoms, but some people with polyps experience rectal bleeding and red or black poop, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Most of these polyps are harmless, but a small portion of them can develop into colon cancer over time. Doctors treat colon polyps by surgically removing them, then making sure they’re not cancerous, says the NIDDK.
6. It could be diverticulosis.
“Diverticulosis is the presence of little pouches in the colon, which can sometimes cause bleeding,” says Dr. Staller. According to the Cleveland Clinic, complications of these common pouches include rectal bleeding, and these complications affect about 20 percent of people with diverticulosis. Known as diverticular bleeding, this happens when a blood vessel inside the pouch bursts, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.