What is Gastrointestinal Bleeding

July 20, 2015 Melanie Panchal

Gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) is blood loss from your gastrointestinal tract from any site from your mouth to your rectum. The level of bleeding can range from mild to severe and life threatening. Small amounts of bleeding over a long period of time can cause iron deficiency anemia with symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. GIB is divided into two different types: upper GIB and lower GIB.

The upper GI tract includes esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (the first /beginning portion of your small intestine). Possible causes of upper GIB include:

• ulcer disease (bleeding stomach ulcer)
• erosive gastritis or esophagitis (inflammation of either stomach or esophagus)
• esophageal varices (dilated veins in the esophagus due to liver cirrhosis)
• Mallory weiss tear (tear in the esophagus that may be bleeding)
• Abnormal vessels in the lining of the stomach or intestine called angiodysplasias
• possibly gastric cancer. 

Symptoms of upper GIB include:
• Vomiting bright red blood or contents that look like black coffee grounds
• Black tarry looking stools
• Upper abdominal pain 

The lower GI tract includes most of your small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. Possible causes of lower GIB include:
• diverticular bleed (bleeding from small pockets called divertula in the colon). May see moderate amount of blood from rectum usually without abdominal pain
• Abnormal vessels in the lining of the intestines called angiodysplasias
• Inflammatory bowel diseases - such as Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
• Ischemic colitis(lack of blood flow to the colon) - bloody stools with abdominal pain
• Intestinal polyps (pre-cancerous)
• Possibly colon cancer

Symptoms of Lower GIB include:
• Passing bright red blood from rectum, blood around the stool, or small to large amounts of blood in the toilet bowl
• Lower abdominal pain

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you need to contact your primary care provider or seek help from a medical professional. You will need to have labs drawn including complete blood count, a basic or comprehensive metabolic panel, and coagulation studies (blood clotting tests). Depending on the situation you may need a blood transfusion and intravenous fluids, which require hospitalization. Depending on your symptoms you may need a esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) for an upper GIB or a colonoscopy for a lower GIB. An EGD is a thin flexible tube with a camera at the end that is inserted into your mouth used to examine your esophagus, stomach, and beginning part of your small intestine. A colonoscopy is a thin flexible tube with a camera at the end that is inserted into your rectum and used to examine your colon and part of your lower small intestine. These procedures are done to find the source of bleeding. So if you have experience any of the symptoms above along with weakness, dizziness, and fatigue please seek help from a medical professional.

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