Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is bleeding in the digestive tract. The digestive tract is divided into two sections. The upper digestive tract includes the: The lower digestive tract includes the: GI bleeding is a potentially serious symptom that requires care from your doctor.

  • Causes

    GI bleeding is a symptom caused by many possible conditions.

    Causes in the upper digestive tract may include:

    • Peptic ulcer—a sore in the lining of the stomach or the upper portion of the small intestine
    • Esophageal varices—abnormally swollen veins within the lining of the esophagus
    • Mallory-Weiss tears—tears in the lining of the esophagus
    • Gastritis—inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the stomach
    • Esophagitis—inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the esophagus
    • Benign tumors—abnormal tissue growth that is not cancerous
    • Stomach arteriovenous malformations

    • Cancer—cancer in the
      esophagus,
      stomach, or small intestine

    Causes in the lower digestive tract may include:

    • Angiodysplasia—abnormal growth of blood vessels in the intestine

    • Diverticulum—a pouch that forms on the wall of the large intestine
    • Diverticulitis—occurs when the pouch becomes inflamed
    • Colitis—inflammation of the colon (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohns disease)
    • Hemorrhoids—enlarged veins in the anus or rectum
    • Fissures—tears in the anus

    • Polyps or
      colon cancer

  • Definition

    Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is bleeding in the digestive tract.

    The Digestive Tract
    si55551180 97870 1 digestive tract
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The digestive tract is divided into two sections. The upper digestive tract includes the:

    • Esophagus—the muscular tube that transports food from the throat to the stomach
    • Stomach
    • Upper portion of the small intestine

    The lower digestive tract includes the:

    • Lower portion of the small intestine
    • Large intestine
    • Anus

    GI bleeding is a potentially serious symptom that requires care from your doctor.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.


    Tests may include:

    • Blood tests
    • Breath test
    • Stool test to check for blood
    • Endoscopy—a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to examine the digestive tract and collect tissue samples
    • Colonoscopy—a thin, lighted tube inserted through the rectum and into the colon to examine the lining of the colon
    • CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the digestive tract
    • Nasogastric aspiration—a tube placed through the nose and into the stomach removes contents to check for bleeding
    • Barium x-ray—x-ray that uses contrast material to see internal structures
    • Radionuclide scanning—the use of small amounts of radioactive material and a camera to create blood flow images of the digestive tract
    • Angiography—an x-ray of the blood vessels

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of gastrointestinal bleeding, take these steps:

    • Get treatment for
      Helicobacter pylori
      infection
    • Reduce your intake of alcohol or NSAIDs if possible
    • If you smoke, talk with your doctor about how you can quit

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of GI bleeding include:

    • Bleeding disorders (some more than other)
    • Excessive
      alcohol use

    • Long-term use of steroids, blood-thinning medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or
      aspirin
    • Smoking
    • Prior GI or vascular surgery
    • History of gastrointestinal disease or bleeding
    • History of ulcers

    • History of bacterial infections, such asHelicobacter pylori

  • Symptoms

    Upper digestive tract bleeding symptoms may include:

    • Blood in vomit
    • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
    • Black, tarry stool
    • Blood in the stool

    Lower digestive tract bleeding symptoms may include:

    • Black, tarry stool
    • Blood in the stool


    It may be difficult to notice small amounts of blood in the stool. Your doctor can do
    tests
    to detect this.

    Sometimes, bleeding can occur suddenly and be severe. You may notice symptoms like:

    • Weakness
    • Lightheadedness or faintness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Abdominal pain
    • Diarrhea
    • Paleness

    Bleeding that is light and occurs over a long period of time may make you feel tired and short of breath.

  • Treatment

    Treatment will depend on the cause of the bleeding. Your doctor may switch your medications or stop certain ones if it is suspected as the cause of your GI bleeding. You may need to make some lifestyle changes.

    Other treatments may include: