Melena or Black Tarry Stool

There are a whole lot of health conditions that can happen inside the body. While things such as bruises, wounds, and other physical injuries can be easily addressed, disorders inside the body particularly in the digestive tract sometimes go unnoticed until too late.

One of the possible indicators of injury inside the gastrointestinal tract is appearance of melena or bloody stool. The term “melena” is used to describe the appearance of stool. If it smells foul and appears black, this warrants immediate health-care concern. Only the doctor has a good idea of why there is manifestation of melena. It could be from a certain type of food that the patient digested or it could represent infection somewhere in the intestine.

Possible causes of melena

Having black stool can mean anything. As mentioned earlier, it could be because the patient consumed foods that contain any of the following: black licorice, iron pills, bismuth-based medicines, and lead. Aside from that, possible root of melena can be:

  • Damage in the esophagus because of extreme vomiting
  • Irregular blood flow in the intestine area
  • Trauma in the body
  • Bleeding stomach
  • Ulcer
  • Abnormal blood vessel growth
  • Overstretching of the blood vessel Gastritis or inflammation in the lining of the stomach

However, there are certain cases wherein patients mistake bloody stools for black stool. If the patient sees blood, as in reddish stool, this means that the problem may be coming from the anus. On the other hand, if it is black in color this signifies that the infection is near the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. It is safe to say that the reason why the stool blackened is because the infection has been there for a while and needs to be treated immediately to prevent further complication.

The right time to call your physician

If the patient is not taking iron pills, the stool has no right to go black because this is very unusual. Paying a visit to the physician is a must. The doctor will perform several tests to determine the cause of melena. For example, the patient thinks that the cause of black stool is because of something he/she ate or because of hemorrhoids, the patient still needs to be examined by the doctor to rule out any complications and if there are some, to treat these health-care conditions as early as possible.

Say the patient is a child; normally the cause of black stool is constipation. But just to be on the safe side, go to the doctor.

Right diagnosing and treatment of melena

Just having black tarry stool is not a good indicator in determining the disease. With that, the doctor will have to perform several tests as well as medical background and check to properly give the possible reasons for having black stool.

A rectal exam can be done within the comforts of the doctor’s office. Once it is confirmed as melena, the doctor will most likely request for other diagnostic tests to be done such as barium studies, blood tests, stool culture, x-rays, colonoscopy, and gastroscopy. The results of these tests will assist the doctor in terms of giving the patient the right treatment for him/her.

Treatment varies on the severity of melena, if the doctor thinks that the patient lost too much blood, then blood transfusion will be required. The patient might also need to undergo some medical processes such as    interventional radiography embolization. This is the act of blocking the vessels in the body that causes the bleeding. Patients with such conditions may also be given antibiotics to lessen the acidity in the intestine and stomach area. But when all else fails, surgery is the last option.

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