What is black stool?

Black stool is a condition in which the feces are very dark or black in color. Black stool may be normal in some cases and caused by ingesting certain substances or medications, such as iron supplements. However, black stool can also be caused by a serious condition, such as bleeding in the digestive tract caused by a peptic ulcer.

Black stool that is tarry in texture and foul smelling is often a symptom of upper gastrointestinal bleeding from the esophagus, stomach or small intestine. This is called melena. Rectal bleeding of bright red blood with clots, sometimes mixed with stool, is called hematochezia. Hematochezia is often caused by bleeding from the lower digestive tract, including the colon, rectum or anus.

Very small amounts of blood in the stool may be seen by the naked eye and not significantly change the color of stool. This is called fecal occult blood, which can be a symptom of a serious disease and may be found with regular, routine medical testing.

Black stools can be a symptom of a serious condition, such as esophageal varices or peptic ulcer. Seek prompt medical care if you have unusually dark stools or any change in the color or texture of your stool. If your stools are black and tarry in texture, bloody, or if you have major rectal bleeding, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with black stool?

Black stool may be accompanied by other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that may accompany black stool include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping

  • Abdominal swelling or bloated feeling

  • Read more about black stoolsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes black stool?

Black stool can be a symptom of a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions, including infection, inflammation, trauma and malignancy. Common causes include stomach ulcer (peptic ulcer) and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract from the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofe... Read more about black stoolcauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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