Bleeding that occurs in the esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum, or anus (GI tract) is referred to as gastrointestinal bleeding. Often the result of a preexisting condition or other internal issue, GI bleeding can have many potential causes.
Presented symptoms will vary depending on the specific location of the bleeding within the gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding within the GI tract isn’t always noticeable without testing to confirm it. Possible signs of GI bleeding include blood in vomit with upper GI tract bleeding and blood in stool with lower GI tract bleeding.
Obscure GI Bleeding
If the cause of GI bleeding cannot be determined from initial testing, it’s referred to as obscure GI bleeding. This type of gastrointestinal bleeding often occurs in the small intestine and other areas along the GI tract where detection is difficult.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can be caused by many conditions. Your doctor can attempt to find the source of your bleeding to determine the cause. Here are some possible causes of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Upper GI bleeding is commonly caused by peptic ulcers. These are open wounds that occur in the stomach or duodenum lining. Peptic ulcers usually occur as result of an infection caused by H. pylori bacteria.
In addition, enlarged esophagus veins may tear and bleed due to a condition known as esophageal varices. Upper GI bleeding can also occur when the walls of the esophagus are torn.
One of the leading causes of lower gastrointestinal bleeding is colitis, a condition that occurs when the large intestine is inflamed. There are many causes of colitis, including food poisoning, Crohn’s disease (ulcerative colitis), parasites, and reduced flow of blood in the colon.
Another main cause of gastrointestinal bleeding is hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins in the anus or rectum. They may rupture and bleed, leading to rectal bleeding.
Lower GI bleeding may also be caused by an anal fissure, which is damage to the anal sphincter, caused by hard stools or constipation.
Diagnosis involves determining the location of the bleeding. Treatment depends on the specific cause of GI bleeding. A thin device with a camera attached to it called an endoscope is often placed down the throat and along the upper portion of the GI tract to look for signs of bleeding. A colonoscopy may also be performed.
The risk of experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding can sometimes be reduced by improving dietary habits. Patients who have experienced some type of GI bleeding should avoid alcoholic beverages and other possible irritants until the underlying cause is identified and treated.
Methods of preventing upper and lower GI bleeding rely on preventing the related symptoms. Eating right, working out lightly, and avoiding drinking and smoking can help encourage a healthy lifestyle.
If you have any signs of GI bleeding, get medical attention as soon as possible.