When you observe dark stool during a bowel movement, do you become concerned? Certain changes within the body that occur unexpectedly often leave an impression that there is something amiss. One of the things that many people get concerned about is the passing of dark colored stool. But what is dark stool really and what does it mean?
Stool is the waste product of the human digestive system. The color of the stool varies from time to time, depending on the general health of the person, the food taken in or the illness he or she is currently suffering. The normal color of the stool ranges from light brown to dark brown or may even appear blackish. Dark brown stool is often the result of iron supplements taken by the body.
Melena-Dark Bowel Movement
Dark stool is oftentimes called false melena which is caused by certain minerals, medications, supplements or food consumed by the person. Real melena, however, is a case of dark stool where drops of blood are present. If blood is not evident by just looking at it with the naked eye, the doctor will request for a test to determine the presence of blood in the stool. The blood found in the stool can be caused by various reasons, which can either be esophageal varices, gastritis or ulcer. If melena is diagnosed, the attending physician oftentimes orders other diagnostic tests to identify the exact location of the bleeding. Some of these tests may include barium studies, stool culture, gastroscopy, colonoscopy, blood tests and x-rays.
Causes of Dark Stool
There are different causes for dark stool, and normally it is caused by the food we eat. But when they are associated with other diseases, this spells another story. Constant observation is needed and if symptoms persist, consultation with a medical professional should be taken.
• Gastritis – a disease where there is inflammation of the lining of the stomach caused by overconsumption of certain foods, such as spicy foods, alcohol, smoking or prolonged intake of NSAIDs. \Gastritis can also develop after a trauma or surgery and are sometimes linked to other medical conditions.
• Esophageal varices – these are dilated veins that are located on the wall of the lower part of the esophagus. When the veins begin to rupture, it may cause blood to appear either on the vomit or on the stool. This is a serious disease brought by portal hypertension through the cirrhosis of the liver.
• Bleeding Ulcer – this is almost the same with gastritis but with different origins. This is caused by a certain bacterium known as H. pylori or Helicobacter pylori. The infection is often treated with antibiotics, depending on the level of severity. NSAIDs are proven to cause irritation to the stomach lining, causing bleeding ulcers, after prolonged usage.
If dark stool is accompanied by acute symptoms and if it persists for several days, it is best to assume that there is something wrong with your body. In such situations, you must get in touch with a doctor immediately so that the root cause can be determined and proper treatment is started in time.