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
The amount of GI bleeding may be so small that it can only be detected on a lab test such as the fecal occult blood test. Other signs of GI bleeding include:
- 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
anemiaor low blood counts.
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:
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
Gastric (stomach) ulcer
Intussusception(bowel telescoped on itself)
- Radiation injury to the bowel