Medical Q&As

Stools - black and tarry?

What does it mean when my stools are black and tarry? I have been experiencing this condition for 6 days.

Stools can be discoloured for a variety of different reasons. Iron therapy can sometimes make stools turn black and many beer drinkers will also have noticed that drinking stout can blacken the stools. However you use the term tarry, which usually indicates the presence of blood in the stools. Black tarry stools are sticky and usually some residue of the stool clings to the toilet bowl. They can sometimes be difficult to flush from the bowl. The stools are black and tarry because the blood contained therein has been partially digested. If the blood were coming from the large intestine or colon it would not have been digested and would appear as red blood coating the stool or perhaps just fresh blood dropping into the toilet bowl. Black tarry stools suggest that blood has been lost higher up in the gut such as from a peptic ulcer. I am not suggesting that you have an ulcer but simply mention that diagnosis as a possibility. I would advise that you visit your GP for further assessment.