Diarrhea or loose motion is a condition in which the body loses fluids due to intestinal malabsorption. The term acute diarrhea indicates passing loose stools three or more times a day, for a period lasting no longer than 14 days.¹ In addition to the changes in stool frequency and consistency, other symptoms of diarrhea include abdominal pain, fever, bloating, nausea and blood in the stool.¹

Diarrheal diseases can be divided into three categories: acute watery diarrhea, acute bloody diarrhea or persistent diarrhea (lasts at least 14 days). All of which are conditions that require immediate treatment. Known as bloody diarrhea, this condition in which blood accompanies loose and watery stools can pose critical health effects and often signifies life-threatening disorders.² It can be either acute or persistent, meaning it can last less or more than 14 days. Here are common symptoms and causes of bloody diarrhoea and how to treat it.

Bloody Diarrhea Symptoms

Other symptoms that may occur with bloody diarhhea vary in relation to underlying conditions or diseases. In addition to rectal bleeding, signs of bloody diarrhea include²:

  1. Abdominal pain or cramping
  2. Body aches
  3. Faecal incontinence
  4. Fatigue
  5. Abdominal swelling or bloating
  6. Rectal pain
  7. Mucus or undigested food
  8. Nausea or vomiting

Causes of Bloody Diarrhea

Bloody diarrhea often results from gastrointestinal bleeding, which can happen due to a specific injury or disease. Hematochezia is the term used to describe diarrhea that contains bright red or maroon blood —  an infection of the intestines resulting in severe diarrhea with the presence of blood and mucus in the faeces.³

This condition can occur at any age, and its duration depends on its cause, which is challenging to uncover in some cases. Here are some of the reasons behind the occurrence of bloody diarrhea:

  1. Rotavirus

    Bloody diarrhea is one of the most common symptoms of rotavirus and is often referred to as stomach flu or stomach bug sometimes. It is the most prevalent cause of diarrhea in children under the age of five. Rotavirus symptoms include vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, acute watery diarrhea for 3-7 days and gastrointestinal bleeding.⁴

  2. Haemorrhoids

    Like varicose veins in the legs, haemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels in the anus and rectum from increased pressure. It can occur internally or externally, leading to rectal bleeding. The actual cause of bleeding is usually not identified, but it happens in correlation to diarrhea, constipation, sitting or standing for a prolonged period and pregnancy.⁵

  3. Anal fissures

    Red diarrhea can result from skin inflammation in the lining of the anus, which may lead to tears in that area. These tears can result in a small amount of blood in the stool, less than most other sources of bloody diarrhea.⁵

  4. Proctitis

    This is an inflammation in the skin around the rectum area, which can result from previous radiation therapy for cancer, infections, medications or a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Its symptoms include frequent urge to have a bowel movement, rectal bleeding and pain in the anus and rectum area.⁵

  5. E. coli infection

    E. coli is a bacterium that causes symptoms of diarrhea, including blood in the stool.² Most E. coli infections are associated with eating undercooked beef, eating food infected with animal faeces or drinking raw milk.⁶

  6. A side effect of medication and other conditions

    Some medication can disturb bacteria in the stomach or cause gastrointestinal bleeding, leading to bloody diarrhea in some cases. Other conditions that can cause bloody diarrhea are inflammatory bowel disease, stomach ulcers, diverticulosis and constipation.⁷

Treating Acute Diarrhea: Antidiarrheal Medicines

In mild and acute diarrheal disease cases, antidiarrheal medications can help reduce the frequency of bowel movements. These are safe if no fever or bloody stools are co-occurring with diarrhea, in which case professional medical advice is required.⁸

IMODIUM® contains the active ingredient Loperamide and is available over the counter without a prescription. It helps calm the intestines to restore the normal functions and movement of the digestive system. IMODIUM® brings back the rhythm to your body by allowing it to start absorbing nutrients, fluids and salts as it should.⁹

Visit our FAQ section for more information about diarrheal diseases and how IMODIUM® can help you manage it.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538472/ - June 2012
  2. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(09)00344-8/pdf - February 17, 2009
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK411/  - 1990
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535229/ - December 2004
  5. https://www.asge.org/home/for-patients/patient-information/understanding... - 17 Mar 2020
  6. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/e-coli - February 7, 2018
  7. https://www.endo-world.com/resources/e-learning-patient-education/genera... - September 1992
  8. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-diarrhea-in-adults-beyond-the-ba... - Mar 27, 2018.
  9. https://www.imodium.com/anti-diarrhea-medicine/how-imodium-work