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Gastrointestinal Bleeding
(GI Bleeding)

Facts and definition of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding

  • Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is when bleeding occurs in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract includes your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. GI bleeding itself is not a disease, but a symptom of any number of conditions.
  • The causes and risk factors for gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding are classified into upper or lower, depending on their location in the GI tract.
  • Causes of upper GI bleeding include
    • peptic ulcers,
    • gastritis (bleeding in the stomach),
    • esophageal varices,
    • cancers, and
    • inflammation of the GI lining from ingested materials.
  • The most common causes and risk factors for lower GI bleeding include
  • Symptoms of GI bleeding often first appear as blood in the vomit or stool, or black, tarry stools. The person also may experience abdominal pain. Symptoms associated with the blood loss include
    • fatigue,
    • weakness,
    • pale skin, and
    • shortness of breath.
  • GI bleeding can usually be diagnosed by a digital rectal exam, an endoscopy or colonoscopy, and lab tests.
  • Treatment for GI bleeding usually includes hospitalization because blood pressure may drop and heart rate may increase and this needs to be stabilized. In some cases, IV fluids or blood transfusions are needed, and surgery may be required.
  • The prognosis for a person with GI bleeding depends upon the cause and location of the bleeding, how bad the bleed is when the person sees the doctor, and any underlying medical conditions that may affect the patient's recovery.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016
Medical Author:

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What Causes Stool Color Changes?

Stool color changes can occur for a variety of reasons, such as, suggests an underlying medical condition; substances that are added to stool; changes to substances normally present in stool; taking, eating, or drinking of certain liquids, foods, or medications.

Examples of colors of stools and the causes include:

  1. Black, tarry, sticky stools: Gastritis (bleeding from the stomach)
  2. Black stools (no odor, not sticky): Medications like iron pills or bismuth-containing medications (Pepto-Bismol)
  3. Yellow stools: Celiac disease, pancreatic cancer

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding »

Acute gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a potentially life-threatening abdominal emergency that remains a common cause of hospitalization.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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