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Melena

AMBULATORY CARE:

Melena

is blood in your bowel movements. This is caused by bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal (GI) system or large bowel. Your bowel movements may be black or tarry, and have a foul odor. They may also be shiny or sticky.

Digestive Tract

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have signs of shock from blood loss, such as the following:
    • Feeling dizzy or faint, or breathing faster than usual
    • Pale, cool, clammy skin
    • A fast pulse, large pupils, or feeling anxious or agitated
    • Nausea or weakness

Seek care immediately if:

  • You continue to see blood in your bowel movements after treatment.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment

will depend on the cause. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicine may be given to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. This may help if your melena is caused by an ulcer. You may also need medicine to prevent blood flow to an injury or tear. Your healthcare provider may also make changes to medicines you take if they caused your melena. Examples include NSAIDs and blood thinners. Do not stop taking any medicines without talking to your provider.
  • Endoscopy may be used to treat the cause of your bleeding. Your healthcare provider may use heat to close a tear. He or she may clip tissue together so it can heal. Bands may be placed around bleeding varices to help them stop bleeding.
  • A blood transfusion may be needed if you lose a large amount of blood.
  • Surgery may be needed if you have severe bleeding or other treatments do not work. Surgery may be used to fix a tear in the lining of your stomach or intestine. You may need surgery to remove an obstruction or a tumor.

Manage or prevent melena:

  • Do not take NSAIDs or aspirin. These medicines can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Talk to your healthcare provider about other pain medicines that are safe for you to take.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help quitting. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can irritate your stomach. The lining of your stomach or intestine may also be damaged. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help to quit drinking alcohol.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, and legumes such as lentils. Healthy foods can help you heal and improve your energy.
  • Drink extra liquids as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.