Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding refers to any bleeding that starts in the gastrointestinal tract.
Bleeding may come from any site along the GI tract, but is often divided into:
- Upper GI bleeding: The upper GI tract includes the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), stomach, and first part of the small intestine.
- Lower GI bleeding: The lower GI tract includes much of the small intestine, large intestine or bowels, rectum, and anus.
Lower GI bleeding; GI bleeding; Upper GI bleeding
- Dark, tarry stools
- Larger amounts of blood passed from the rectum
- Small amounts of blood in the toilet bowl, on toilet paper, or in streaks on stool (feces)
- Vomiting blood
Massive bleeding from the GI tract can be dangerous. However, even very small amounts of bleeding that occur over a long period of time can lead to problems such as
Once a bleeding site is found, many therapies are available to stop the bleeding or treat the cause.
GI bleeding may be due to conditions that are not serious, including:
Anal fissure Hemorrhoids
However, GI bleeding may also be a sign of more serious diseases and conditions, such as the following cancers of the GI tract:
Cancer of the colon
- Cancer of the small intestine
Cancer of the stomach
Intestinal polyps(a pre-cancerous condition)
Other possible causes of GI bleeding include:
- Abnormal blood vessels in the lining of the intestines (also called angiodysplasias)
- Bleeding diverticulum, or
Crohn's diseaseor ulcerative colitis Esophageal varices Esophagitis Gastric (stomach) ulcer
Intussusception(bowel telescoped on itself) Mallory-Weiss tear Meckel's diverticulum
- Radiation injury to the bowel
Review Date: 01/31/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.