Black Specks in Stool: When Should You Worry?
Inflammatory digestive disorders include IBS, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. The inflammation caused by these conditions lead to tiny amounts of bleeding which may or may not show up as black flecks in the stool.
Crohn's Disease:In this type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, certain parts of the digestive tract's lining, from the mouth to the rectum, become inflamed. The type of inflammation suffered by the affected individual is deep enough to affect the normal functions of the bowel tissue. This condition can pave the way for life-threatening complications such as an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer. If black specks in stool are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, formation of fistula, bloody or mucus-tinged feces, weight loss, fever, fatigue, and sores in the mouth, seek medical assistance promptly.
Unfortunately, there is still no known cure for this condition. So far, the aim of medical treatment is to manage the symptoms and to arrest the inflammation. The primary treatment of Crohn's disease includes prescription corticosteroids. If these are not enough, then immunosuppressive drugs may be given so as to help lessen the inflammation. The last resort would be a surgical procedure where the inflamed areas of the intestine are removed. This is known as a bowel resection.
Ulcerative Colitis:This is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease which specifically affects the internal linings of the colon and the rectum. The black specks in stool may be associated with ulcerative colitis if you're also experiencing any of the following symptoms: recurrent bloody or mucus-filled or pus-filled diarrhea, pain in the abdomen, and the frequent urge to empty the bowels.
Note that the symptoms associated with this condition may diminish and then intensify in turns. In other words, affected individuals find themselves in an endless cycle of remission and exacerbation. Symptoms of flare-ups include oral ulcers, arthritic joints, inflamed dermis, and eye irritation.
Ulcerative colitis may cause colorectal cancer. That's because each time the damaged GIT tissue attempts to repair itself, the newly formed tissue that develops has a different structure from the old, normal ones.
In its severe form, individuals with ulcerative colitis experience BMs (bowel movements) up to six times daily or more. They suffer from extremely high temperatures, shortness of breath, abnormal cardiac rate, and more evident blood in the stools.
Ulcerative colitis is believed to be an auto-immune condition. In this case, the body's immune system goes haywire and ends up attacking normal tissues. One theory is that in people with ulcerative colitis, the immune system views the normal bacteria in the gut as a threat and ends up attacking them, causing the gut to become inflamed.
Like Crohn's disease, the treatment of ulcerative colitis is centered on managing the symptoms and preventing outbreaks. The doctor may prescribe aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, and drugs to suppress the immune system.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome:Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are both forms of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) but IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a completely different animal altogether. IBS is a lifelong condition marked by rapid bowel activity with no evident causes. In this condition, the bowels are also inflamed. However, unlike Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, IBS is less likely to cause cancer. That's because unlike IBD, IBS does not eventually lead to the modification of tissues in the bowel.
Individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome experience it in different degrees of severity. In other words, some are luckier than others. The symptoms tend to appear and disappear in periods that range from six days to six months at one time. This condition tends to worsen during periods of stress or after consuming certain food triggers. IBD, on the other hand, may worsen regardless of the absence or presence of these factors.
Like the previous conditions, IBS is accompanied by episodes of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, bloating, stomach pain, and rectal bleeding. The affected individual suffers from fever, chronic fatigue, diminished appetite, and loss of weight. However, one way to ascertain that the black specks in stool are caused by IBS and not by IBD's is the presence of these unique symptoms: inability to empty the bladder, back ache, prolonged constipation, the need to move bowels immediately after a BM, a sensation of incomplete emptying of the bowels, and pain during sexual intercourse. It is also important to note that the abdominal cramping associated with irritable bowel syndrome tends to go away after the passage of stools.
Possible dietary causes of irritable bowel syndrome include dairy, alcohol, wheat, artificial sugar substitutes, and caffeine. It may also be brought about by a poor immune system, hormonal changes, high levels of stress, or a current medical condition. Because the exact cause of IBS remains obscure, the treatment rarely involves pharmaceuticals.
Regardless of whether you're suffering from IBS or an IBD, immediate medical attention is required. Expect the treatment process to involve modifications in your diet and in your lifestyle.
Physical injury to the GIT may be another reason that you have black dots in your stool. This micro-bleeding due to trauma may be brought about by a variety of causes from a viral infection to lacerations in the lower esophageal lining.
Mallory-Weiss Tear:These cuts along the lower part of the esophagus develop overtime after prolonged and vigorous coughing or vomiting. Sometimes, these tears are caused by seizures. To assess whether the black specks in stool are due to this condition, a CBC may be ordered. However, while a low hematocrit will point towards a positive diagnosis, a more definitive diagnosis can be made through an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. That is, the surgeon will pass a tube through your esophagus, your stomach, and your duodenum to visually check for the presence of tears.
The black-spotted stools associated with Mallory-Weiss tears are temporary and prognosis tends to be quite good. A tear can heal on its own even without treatment. Or it can be held together with clips during an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. In some cases, the physician may prescribe H2 blockers and other meds that inhibit the production of gastric acid.
H. pylori Infection:Initially, the Helicobacter pylori bacteria is quite harmless. This spiral-shaped microorganism has resided in your stomach since your childhood, learning to thrive in its naturally acidic environment. However, extreme overgrowth of this bacteria enables it to attack your gastric lining.
These bacteria are spiral-shaped and it is because of this that they're able to drill their way through your GIT lining. Once they are blanketed by your gut's mucus, your body's immune cells are unable to recognize and attack them. Moreover, these bacteria have the ability to neutralize stomach acids. As a result, your stomach cells becomes unusually sensitive to stomach acid. Add to that the irritation caused by the H. pylori itself. This leads to ulcers both in the stomach and the small intestine.
H. pylori infections may be transmitted through person-to-person contact or fecal-oral contact. The latter occurs when one neglects to wash his hands after using the toilet. You may also get H. pylori infection after ingesting contaminated food or water.
The black specks in stool are possibly due to an H. pylori infection if they are accompanied by too much burping, bloating, anorexia, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. The affected individual may also notice an unusually foul odor in his breath.
It is necessary to treat an existing H. pylori infection to prevent fatal complications such as obstruction and perforation in the bowel. The former happens when an ulcer impedes the passage of food through the stomach. Meanwhile, the latter results when an ulcer breaks through the gastric wall. Other serious complications associated with H. pylori infections include internal hemorrhage due to the rupture of an ulcer through a blood vessel and peritonitis wherein the lining of the abdominal cavity becomes infected as well.
Triple therapy is the treatment of choice for this condition. This includes the intake of at least two types of prescribed antibiotics such as clarithromycin and amoxicillin along with medication to reduce stomach acid such as PPI's (proton pump inhibitors).