Skip directly to content

Bleeding of the Digestive Tract

Text Increase:
Text Increase Normal
Text Increase Large
Text Increase Largest

The upper digestive tract includes the esophagus, stomach, and upper portion of the small intestine. The lower digestive tract includes the lower portion of the small intestine, the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum, and the anus.

Bleeding of the digestive tract is a symptom of a disease. Many conditions can lead to bleeding in the digestive tract such as ulcers or hemorrhoids. Treating the underlying causes of the bleeding is necessary. Some causes of bleeding may be life threatening.

Symptoms

The signs of bleeding in the digestive tract depend on the where within the digestive tract the bleeding originates and the severity.

Signs of bleeding in the upper digestive tract include:

  • Bright red blood in vomit
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool
  • Stool mixed or coated with bright red blood

Signs of bleeding in the lower digestive tract include

  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool
  • Stool mixed or coated with bright red blood

Causes and Risk Factors

Bleeding in the digestive tract can be a symptom of many different conditions.

Bleeding in the upper digestive tract can be due to:

  • Peptic ulcers
  • Esophageal varices, or enlarged veins, often caused by cirrhosis
  • Esophageal tears of the result of vomiting, hiatal hernia, or childbirth
  • Gastritis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Benign tumors and cancer

Causes of bleeding in the lower digestive tract include the following:

  • Diverticular disease
  • Colitis
  • Hemorrhoids or fissures
  • Angiodysplasia, abnormalities in the blood vessels of the intestine
  • Benign polyps or cancer

Diagnostic Tests

Symptoms of bleeding in the digestive tract can be caused by a variety of conditions so it’s important to make appointment with your doctor if you have any symptoms that worry you. Your doctor will start with a complete medical history to determine the frequency and duration of your symptoms.

Your doctor may also perform additional tests to aid in diagnosis including:

  • Physical exam
  • Test the stool for blood to rule out other factors or detect small amounts of blood
  • A blood test can help determine the extent of the bleeding and whether the patient is anemic
  • Endoscopy

Treatment and Procedures

Active bleeding in the digestive tract can be treated with endoscopy. Your doctor can use endoscopy to inject chemicals into the bleeding site, treat it with a heat probe, electric current or laser, or to close vessels with a band or clip.

If endoscopy is unsuccessful, the patient may require surgery to stop the bleeding. In addition, to prevent future bleeding, the underlying cause must be treated as well.

Your health is our greatest concern. Please contact the Center for Colon & Rectal Surgery at 407.303.2615for a private consultation today.