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Red Diarrhea or Bloody Diarrhea- Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Healthy faeces are usually solid and brown; stool colors mean different things, and while normal diarrhea is not a cause for immediate concern, red diarrhea or bloody diarrhea is a sign of a serious medical problem that needs to be addressed. Diarrhea occurs when digested food passes rapidly through the intestines and excretion passes through in a liquid form. Red diarrhea could be as a result of blood in the faeces in which case a doctor should be consulted immediately, but sometimes it is also due consumption of red foods which not as life-threatening. The medical term used to describe blood in stools is hematochezia. It is likely that the blood is coming from a source in the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract such as the colon or large intestine rather than from the higher part of the track like the stomach or small intestine.

The bleeding can be as a result of haemorrhoids which is enlarged blood vessels in the anus or anal fissures that are cracks in the tissue lining the anus. For children and infant’s bloody diarrhea is uncommon and its presence may be a pretence for a serious medical condition. Bloody diarrhea can happen to children in developed countries and also while travelling. In developing nations, this condition is more rampant as children in these countries are more exposed to infections and germs. In a developed country the root cause of red diarrhea is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and more care and research is undertaken by medical practitioners to advance the management of this problem.

Causes of Red Diarrhea

Bloody diarrhea can be caused by infections such as Bacterial infections, Viral infections, and Parasitic infections. It can also be a cause of non- infectious conditions such as Ischemic Colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and Colon Cancer and non-life-threatening causes such as Hemorrhoids and Anal Fissures. Following are some underlying causes of Red Diarrhea.

1. Dysentery

Dysentery is an inflammation of the intestine that can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhea with blood and mucus in the stool. Without enough hydration, the condition can be fatal. Dysentery is caused by an infection of Shigella bacillus which can form due to a lack of hygiene or Entamoeba histolytica, an amoebic infection. The amoeba forms cysts that leaves the body during excretion of faeces. In places, with poor sanitation, the amoeba can contaminate the food and water and infect the people in the area as the bacteria caton survive outside the body for a long period. Improper hygiene after using the restroom can also cause this bacterium to linger. This amoebic infection is most common in tropical regions. A diagnosis for Entamoeba histolytica can involve a stool sample, but in more serious cases an ultrasound or an endoscopy is required.

2. Red Foods

Several foods with natural or artificial food colouring can cause red stools to look like they contain blood but is a result of any red foods consumed. It is important to check food labels because although a food may not be red-coloured, the ingredients can include red food colouring. Examples of such foods are red gelatin, Gatorade, large quantities of beets, tomato juice or any food that contains red artificial food colouring. If the foods consumed cause stomach irritation and food poisoning, it could cause red diarrhea.

3. Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Bleeding in the digestive tract depends on the seriousness of the bleeding. It is more important to identify the source of the bleeding rather than its cause. The bleeding can occur in the ulcer in the lining of the stomach or as an inflammation in the colon. There is a chance a person never notices gastrointestinal bleeding, and this is called hidden or occult bleeding. A simple test can detect blood in your stool. Symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding can include tarry stool, bright red vomit or dark red blood stool. The diagnosis for this bleeding will involve taking a blood count which will determine if the patient is anaemic and the severity of the bleeding.

4. Coli Infections

Escherichia coli is a bacterium found in contaminated foods and the environment. It can cause stomach cramps and severe red diarrhea. This germ is very contagious and can spread through people and the consumption of undercooked food. E.g. beef that is not cooked at the right temperature can contain E Coli. The diagnosis for E Coli is to test the stool sample, and if it comes as a positive for infection, the bacteria have to be taken out forty-eight hours after it is contracted. E Coli can be avoided with proper personal hygiene and eating meat that is fully cooked.

5. Anal Fissures and Hemorrhoids

An anal fissure is a tear in the skin lining the anus that can cause bleeding during bowel movements. It can occur during constipation or diarrhea and can often be deep enough to expose the muscle tissue. The tear can self-heal within four to six weeks with the help of stool softeners and pain-killers. Haemorrhoids is a swelling of the blood vessels in the rectum that can be painful, itchy and result in red diarrhea.

Treatment for Red Diarrhea

Treatments differ according to the cause of redness in diarrhea. A person typically loses a lot of fluid and components in their urine and faeces from diarrhea, and this results in severe dehydration. To avoid this, it is crucial to stay properly hydrated during all times, by drinking 8 to 12 glasses of water per day or any electrolyte based alternative to water to help replace the lost fluids. If the cause for the red diarrhea is due to specific viral infections like Rotavirus, a person with a healthy immune system will not require any specific medication to treat this as Rota Virus symptoms only last a few days. Over the counter medication such as Kaopectate (bismuth subsalicylate) or Pepto-Bismol will be sufficient.

Your doctor will prescribe anti-diarrheal medication that will help eradicate the presence of bacterial infections. Sometimes the red diarrhea is caused by anal fissures in which case a well-balanced diet of high fibrous foods along with whole grains such as wheat rye and brown rice will need to be incorporated into the meal along with plenty of exercises. If there is a suspicion of intestinal bleeding from the symptoms, blood tests and CT scans of the intestines will be taken. Prolonged red diarrhea will require close medical care along with the consumption of intravenous fluids and medications such as Ibuprofen that is often given for intestinal cramping. If the diarrhea is caused due to internal bleeding of the GI tract, then a blood transfusion is required, this will help the blood count reach to a normal range. If the red diarrhoea is caused by a medication, you should consult a doctor for substitute medication.

How to prevent Red Diarrhea

Red diarrhea can be prevented if the diarrhea was caused by dysentery. It is a bacterial infection that is spread from vector bacterium known as Shigella bacteria which contaminates food and water, and a major symptom of dysentery is red diarrhea. To prevent dysentery from causing red diarrhea, it is important to wash your hands with soap after using the toilet as there are many breeds of the bacterium in the toilet area. Make sure to disinfect the toilet bowl and all the surfaces of the bathroom to avoid the bacterium cultures from breeding. Wipe all surfaces of the kitchen with Dettol to disinfect work surface to prevent any pathogen from infecting the food and cook raw food thoroughly as they are most like to carry Shigella bacteria.

One should refrain from sexual contact with a person diagnosed with an active Shigella infection, and it can spread relatively easily. Avoid foods that contain dyes and colouring that are capable of causing red tinge to diarrhea. Steer clear from drinking water that is used for recreational purposes such as a lake or a river and while travelling to a different country refrain from drinking the tap water, drink bottled water instead.

When to see a doctor!

Red diarrhea is not always a serious problem and can be caused by bacterial infections during which symptoms will rapidly decline with the right medication and treatment. However, blood encompassed diarrhea also known as hematochezia is an indication of a medical emergency, and you would need to consult a doctor. A certain type of blood induced diarrheal condition is Angiodysplasia which causes internal bleeding of the blood vessel and will result in red diarrhea. If the red diarrhea is accompanied by a secondary symptom like drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, a fever that exceeds 1010 F, night sweats, and cramping that gets worse with time, gastrointestinal discomfort, disorientation it may be caused due to some internal intestinal bleeding or a rupture to the GI tract. If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor immediately to rid any further consequence quickly.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

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