Bloody or Tarry Stools
Also known as: black or tarry stools, bloody stools, melena, hematochezia
What are bloody or tarry stools?
If your bowel movements appear bloody, black or tarry and are foul-smelling, it might be the sign of internal bleeding or another more serious medical condition. On the other hand, certain foods or medications can also lead to stools that appear bloody or tarry.
What might cause bloody or tarry stools?
Bloody and tarry stools can have another of potential causes, including the following:
- Eating beets, foods with red coloring, blueberries, blood sausage or black licorice
- Taking pills that contain iron, activated charcoal or bismuth (this includes Pepto-Bismol)
- Bleeding in the esophagus, stomach or upper part of the small intestine (leads to black or tarry stools).
- Bleeding in the rectum or anus (leads to bloody stools).
- Abnormal blood vessels
- Stomach lining inflammation (gastritis)
- Complications of liver cirrhosis
- Certain cancers
- Swallowed maternal blood
- Clotting disorder
- Autoimmune disorder
- Intolerance to milk protein
- Anal fissure
How can it be treated?
If you suspect that a particular food is causing your stools to appear bloody, black or tarry and no other symptoms are present, then removing the offending food may relieve the symptoms. Still, it’s a good idea to discuss the symptoms with your doctor to rule out anything more serious. In addition, your doctor can recommend a potential change in medication if medication is the possible cause of your symptoms.
When should you seek medical attention?
Contact your doctor if you notice blood or any other unusual changes in the color of your stool or any fever associated with the blood in the stool. Seek immediate medical attention if you also vomit blood, feel dizzy or lightheaded.
Reviewed by: Shifra Koyfman, MD
This page was last updated on: August 26, 2020 03:18 PM
Learn more about
Cirrhosis of the Liver
Cirrhosis is a fancy term for scarring of the liver. It can occur due to alcohol abuse, hepatitis, and other reasons.
When the lining of the stomach becomes inflamed, this condition is known as gastritis.
Thrombocytopenia is the condition where there is a low platelet count and this results in bleeding because the blood doesn't clot properly.
Henoch-Schonlein purpura is a common inflammation and bleeding of the small blood vessels of the skin, mucous membranes, joints, intestines and kidneys in children between 2-6 years of age.
Blood can be present in the vomit for a number of reasons, including aggressive coughing, a nosebleed that is also present and more.