Friday, October 14, 2016

The Sight of Blood

With one obvious exception, blood normally remains out of sight. Its appearance may not be ominous but always requires an explanation from someone with more experience than you. Here are some pearls.

Bleeding gums.  Asked for the cause, doctors think of leukemia and other sources of clotting deficiency. It’s true that if your blood clots poorly, this is often the first sign. However, the most common cause of bleeding gums is poor dental hygiene.

Coughing up blood. Anyone who reads the classics knows that this means you have tuberculosis. That’s rare these days. I’ve never seen it. Mostly it’s the result of an ordinary respiratory infection. Coughing up a few flecks of blood is usually not worth pursuing, but don’t make the decision on your own.

Blood in the stool. Accompanied by pain this usually means an anal fissure, a crack in the skin. Blood in the stool is one of the seven warning signs on cancer, but I encounter bowel cancer as often as tuberculosis. The blood I see is from a fissure, hemorrhoids, or colitis.

Vomiting blood is a serious matter and also urgent. I send guests to an emergency room although a few flecks may be the result of stomach irritation. When that happens, I may make a housecall, and sometimes what I see in the toilet is not blood. Again, don’t make the decision on your own.

What types of bleeding are always ominous?... That’s a question too depressing for this blog. Google it.   

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