Gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) occurs when the lining of your gastrointestinal tract becomes damaged. It can occur from internal causes and external forces. These include trauma or ulcers, inflammation, and tumors.
Gastrointestinal bleeds can vary in severity. In severe cases, GIB can cause life-threatening complications.
Gastrointestinal bleeding is a common medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract can have several causes. The most common cause is a rupture in the stomach or intestine.
It can result from a blow to the stomach, a sharp object passing through the intestine, or an ulcer. Other causes of gastrointestinal bleeding include tumors, hemorrhoids, and Crohn’s disease.
Upper GI Bleeding
There are varying causes of upper GI tract bleeding. The most common cause is ulcers. Ulcers can form in the stomach or duodenum, and they can bleed. Upper GI bleeding can also result from the following:
- Tears in the esophageal lining
- Enlarged veins in the esophagus
A peptic ulcer is a sore. It comes from the stomach lining or small intestine corrosion by stomach acid. Bacteria and Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, usually cause peptic ulcers.
If you have a peptic ulcer, you may experience the following:
- Abdominal pain
Additionally, you may notice blood in your vomit or get a black tarry stool. If you have any of these symptoms, see a gastroenterologist so they can treat the problem.
Tears in the Lining of the Tube That Connects Your Throat & Stomach
Tears in the esophagus can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. These tears can happen when you vomit forcefully or when you eat something sharp.
Abnormal, Enlarged Veins in the Esophagus
One of the more severe causes of gastrointestinal bleeding is esophageal varices. These are abnormal, enlarged veins in the esophagus that can rupture and bleed. They’re common in people with liver disease. Sometimes, the liver can’t pump blood through the veins due to scar tissue or clots. You can treat esophageal varices with medication. Some situations might call for surgery.
Esophagitis can lead to bleeding. It damages the lining of the esophagus, making it more susceptible to bleeding. Esophagitis can result from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), infection, and certain medications. It is best to see a gastroenterologist to prevent further damage to your esophagus.
Lower GI Bleeding
The lower GI tract includes the small and large intestines, rectum, and anus. It is a significant culprit in gastrointestinal hemorrhage. There are several causes of lower GI bleeds, including:
- Colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Diverticular disease affects the large intestine. Small pouches that can bleed form in the intestine lining. If the bleeding is severe, it can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease can cause bleeding, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It is a general term for disorders that cause digestive tract inflammation.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two IBD subtypes. Both disorders can cause inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. If you have IBD, you’ll likely experience periods of flare-ups followed by remission. IBD is a chronic condition; it can last for months or even years.
Tumors in the gastrointestinal tract can also bleed. While not always cancerous, these tumors can bleed and cause significant blood loss. See a doctor immediately if you have GI bleeding with a tumor. They could recommend a lab test to help with diagnosis.
Colonic polyps are growths on the colon lining and can bleed if irritated or inflamed. They are usually benign, but in some cases, they can turn into cancer. Have them checked out by a gastroenterologist if you’re experiencing any bleeding.
Hemorrhoids are the most often reported reason for lower GI hemorrhage. The most common cause of lower GI bleeding is hemorrhoids. A vein in the rectum becomes swollen and irritated. These dilated blood vessels in the anal canal can bleed with bowel movements. Hemorrhoids can be inside the rectum or under the skin around the anus.
Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus, which can cause bleeding when you have a bowel movement. They’re often caused by passing large or hard stools. Anal fissures can be painful, and you may see blood in your stool or toilet paper. You may also experience itching, burning, and pain during bowel movements.
Proctitis causes inflammation of the rectum, which can also cause rectal bleeding. A virus or bacteria is the most common cause, but proctitis can also result from an injury or surgery. Pain, bleeding, and discharge from the rectum are symptoms. You can treat proctitis with antibiotics, pain relief, and lifestyle changes.
Gastrointestinal bleeding can be either obvious or hidden. Obvious bleeding is when you see blood in your vomit or stool. Hidden or occult bleeding is when the amount of blood in your stool is not visible.
The symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding depend on where the bleeding is.
- You may see blood in your vomit if the bleeding is from your stomach.
- You may see blood in your stool if the bleeding is from your small intestine.
- If the bleeding is from your large intestine, you may see blood in your stool or toilet paper after you wipe.
If you have gastrointestinal bleeding, you may also go into shock. Symptoms of shock from gastrointestinal bleeding include:
- Pale skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
GI bleeding often causes pain, fever, nausea, vomiting blood, and weakness. If left untreated, GI bleeds can cause serious problems such as organ failure or even death.
How to Prevent Gastrointestinal Bleeding
Treatment for GI bleeding usually depends on the cause of the bleeding. There are a few things you can do to prevent gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Avoid taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin. If you must take them, take the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible.
- Manage any chronic medical conditions that could cause bleeding well. These are conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and hepatitis.
- Ask your doctor about alternatives if you’re using medication that could cause bleeding. Some examples of these medications are blood thinners and anticancer drugs.
GI bleeding treatment may involve stopping the bleeding until the problem has healed. Surgery works in other cases.
Schedule a Consultation Today
Gastrointestinal bleeding can cause a lot of anxiety, confusion, pain, and discomfort. Yet, you can treat gastrointestinal bleeding with the correct information and care. While some causes of GI bleeding are benign, others can be life-threatening.
If you’re experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. The team at Gastroenterology Group of Northern New Jersey provides you with the best possible care. Our experienced and board-certified gastroenterologists diagnose and treat GI bleeding.
We offer preventive care and cutting-edge treatments for complex GI conditions. Additionally, we create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Get the treatment you need right away. Contact us to schedule a consultation with Gastroenterology Group of Northern New Jersey.