Gastrointestinal bleeding: Introduction
Gastrointestinal bleeding is an abnormal condition in which there is blood or bleeding that appears with vomiting, from the throat, from the rectum, or blood that accompanies or is mixed in with feces.
Gastrointestinal bleeding is a symptom of a wide variety of conditions. They include peptic ulcer, intestinal polyps, diverticula, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal prolapse, colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal abscesses, intestinal infections, constipation, or anal fissures. Gastrointestinal bleeding can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as aspirin, heparin, Coumadin, and ibuprofen.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can indicate a mild condition, such as hemorrhoids, or it can accompany a serious, even life-threatening condition, such as esophageal varices.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can appear in a variety of forms. Bright red bleeding may occur during vomiting or blood may be mixed with material that is vomited up (vomitus). Blood in small amounts may also be hidden in vomitus and not be visible to the naked eyes. Blood in vomitus may also have a dark, black or coffee-ground appearance. This is often diagnosed as upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Blood clots can also be present with upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can also appear in small amounts of bright red blood that is mixed with stool or that shows up on toilet paper after wiping. Bright red blood can also be discharged from the rectum in small to massive amounts without an accompanying bowel movement.
Another type of gastrointestinal bleeding occurs when there is blacken blood mixed in with stool. Stools may appear black and tarry, or maroon in color. Blood in the stool may also be in such small quantities that it cannot be seen by the naked eye (fecal occult blood). Bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool may be diagnosed as lower gastrointestinal bleeding or upper gastrointestinal bleeding, depending on the location in the gastrointestinal tract where bleeding occurs.
There are many complications and symptoms that can accompany gastrointestinal bleeding, depending on the underlying cause of the bleeding. Symptoms often involve the gastrointestinal system but can affect other body systems as well. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding and its underlying cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. A digital rectal examination and testing for fecal occult blood are generally performed at this time. A digital rectal examination involves inserting a finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities and obtain a sample of stool.
The stool sample is then tested for fecal occult blood, which can indicate invisible, hidden blood in the stool. Your health care provider may also examine the rectum in the office using an anoscope, which is inserted a short way into the rectum to look for causes of gastrointestinal bleeding, such as internal hemorrhoids.
Blood tests include a complete blood count (CBC), which can determine if there is significant enough bleeding to cause anemia. Blood clotting tests may also be done to evaluate how well the blood clots.
Making a diagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding may also include performing special imaging tests to see a picture of the insides of the gastrointestinal tract. These may consist of some combination of tests, such as a barium X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and a variety of tests using video imaging technology. These include sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. These tests involve passing a small flexible tube fitted with a camera through the anus into the colon to look for abnormal areas and sites of bleeding. During this procedure, samples of tissue may be taken to be tested to confirm a diagnosis. The upper areas of the gastrointestinal tract can be examined in a similar way through the mouth and esophagus in an endoscopy procedure.
A diagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because tiny amounts of blood may not be visible to the naked eye. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding varies greatly depending on the underlying cause and a variety of other factors. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated, while other may require intensive treatment. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding. ...more »
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Internal bleeding in the digestive tract.
More detailed information about the symptoms,
causes, and treatments of Gastrointestinal bleeding is available below.
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Symptoms
The types of symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding and its underlying cause can vary widely. The severity of symptoms can run the gamut from mild to extreme. The presentation of symptoms depends on the cause, the presence of complications and coexisting diseases, the age of the patient, and other factors.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can be microscopic and not ...more symptoms »
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Treatments
Treatment plans for gastrointestinal bleeding are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases and complications, the age of the patient, and other factors.
It is possible that some types of gastrointestinal bleeding will resolve by themselves. Many causes of gastrointestinal bleeding, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, ...more treatments »
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Misdiagnosis
Gastrointestinal bleeding is a symptom of many different conditions, so a thorough medical evaluation is needed to ensure an accurate diagnosis of the disease or condition that is causing gastrointestinal bleeding. For example, if gastrointestinal bleeding appears to be caused by obvious external hemorrhoids, some patients may also need a colonoscopy to ensure ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Gastrointestinal bleeding
See full list of 21
symptoms of Gastrointestinal bleeding
Treatments for Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Treatments for gastrointestinal bleeding emergencies:
- See also treatment of anemia - because anemia can result from gastrointestinal bleeding and its blood loss.
- more treatments...»
See full list of 6
treatments for Gastrointestinal bleeding
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to Gastrointestinal bleeding:
- Colon & Rectal Cancer: Home Testing
- Fatigue: Related Home Tests:
Wrongly Diagnosed with Gastrointestinal bleeding?
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Related Patient Stories
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Deaths
Read more about Deaths and Gastrointestinal bleeding.
Types of Gastrointestinal bleeding
Read more about Types of Gastrointestinal bleeding
Diagnostic Tests for Gastrointestinal bleeding
See full list of 7
diagnostic tests for Gastrointestinal bleeding
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Complications
Review possible medical complications related to Gastrointestinal bleeding:
Causes of Gastrointestinal bleeding
See full list of 198
causes of Gastrointestinal bleeding
More information about causes of Gastrointestinal bleeding:
Disease Topics Related To Gastrointestinal bleeding
Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Gastrointestinal bleeding:
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Gastrointestinal bleeding
Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder
called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be correctly diagnosed.
Women with the condition tend to...read more »
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance.
The digestive system...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's ...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Gastrointestinal bleeding
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research related physicians and medical specialists:
- Digestive Health Specialists (Gastroenterology):
- Rectal/Anal Health Specialists (Proctology):
- Blood Health Specialists (Hematology):
- more specialists...»
Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:
Hospitals & Clinics: Gastrointestinal bleeding
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to Gastrointestinal bleeding:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to Gastrointestinal bleeding,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Latest Treatments for Gastrointestinal bleeding
See full list of 12
latest treatments for Gastrointestinal bleeding
Evidence Based Medicine Research for Gastrointestinal bleeding
Medical research articles related to Gastrointestinal bleeding include:
Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Animations
More Gastrointestinal bleeding animations & videos
Research about Gastrointestinal bleeding
Visit our research pages for current research about Gastrointestinal bleeding treatments.
Gastrointestinal bleeding: Broader Related Topics
Types of Gastrointestinal bleeding
Gastrointestinal bleeding Message Boards
Related forums and medical stories:
User Interactive Forums
Read about other experiences, ask a question about Gastrointestinal bleeding, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:
Definitions of Gastrointestinal bleeding:
Bleeding in any segment of the GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT from ESOPHAGUS to RECTUM.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Contents for Gastrointestinal bleeding:
User Surveys and Discussion Forums