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Gastrointestinal Bleeding (cont.)

What are the signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding?

Acute gastrointestinal bleeding first will appear as vomiting of blood, bloody bowel movements, or black, tarry stools. Vomited blood from bleeding in the stomach may look like "coffee grounds." Symptoms associated with blood loss can include

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale appearance
  • Vomiting of blood usually originates from an upper GI source.
  • Bright red or maroon stool can be from either a lower GI source or from brisk bleeding from an upper GI source.
  • Long-term GI bleeding may go unnoticed or may cause fatigue, anemia, black stools, or a positive test for microscopic blood.

What causes gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding?

The causes of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding are classified into upper or lower, depending on their location in the GI tract. Because GI bleeding is a symptom of many conditions, these conditions are all risk factors for getting a GI bleed.

What are causes and risk factors for upper gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding?

  • Peptic ulcer disease: Peptic ulcers are localized erosions of the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. Ulcers usually occur in the stomach or duodenum. Breakdown of the mucosal lining results in damage to blood vessels, causing abdominal  bleeding.
  • Gastritis: General inflammation of the stomach lining, which can result in bleeding in the stomach. Gastritis also results from an inability of the gastric lining to protect itself from the acid it produces. Causes of gastritis include
  • Esophageal varices: Swelling of the veins of the esophagus or stomach usually resulting from liver disease. Varices most commonly occur in alcoholic liver cirrhosis. When varices bleed, the bleeding can be massive, catastrophic and occur without warning.
  • Mallory-Weiss tear: A tear in the esophageal or stomach lining, often as a result of severe vomiting or retching. Mucosal tears also can occur after seizures, forceful coughing or laughing, lifting, straining, or childbirth. Physicians often find tears in people who have recently binged on alcohol.
  • Cancer: One of the earliest signs of esophageal or stomach cancers may be blood in the vomit or stool.
  • Inflammation: When the mucous membranes break down, they are unable to counteract the harsh effects of stomach acid. NSAIDs, aspirin, alcohol, and cigarette smoking promote gastric ulcer formation. Helicobacter pylori is a type of bacteria that also promotes formation of ulcers.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/17/2016
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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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