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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is melena?

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

What causes melena?

How is the cause of melena diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. Tell him or her when you first saw blood in your bowel movements and the amount you saw. Tell him or her about any recent illness you had. Include any chronic medical conditions. Tell your provider if you recently took NSAIDs or aspirin, and how much you took. Foods such as beets, red or purple sports drinks, and certain medicines can look like blood in bowel movements. These are not harmful and do not need to be treated. Tests will be used to find out if you do have blood in your bowel movements:

How is melena treated?

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

What can I do to manage or prevent melena?

Call 911 for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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