Gastrointestinal Bleeding Definition

Gross (obvious) or occult (microscopic) bleeding along any section of the gastrointestinal tract. Gross bleeding generally is obvious. Occult bleeding often occurs with intestinal polyps. Fecal occult blood test (fobt) is one method used to detect microscopic blood in the stool.

Several kinds of FOBTs are available for home use, though it is imperative to follow up with the doctor when the results are questionable or positive.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding Causes

Gastrointestinal bleeding can result from numerous conditions as well as excessive doses of anticoagulant medications or irritation from medications such as aspirin and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (nsaids). The most common sites are the stomachduodenum, sigmoid colon, and rectum. There are three ways in which gastrointestinal bleeding presents:

  • hematemesis is the vomiting of bright red blood, signaling bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract (usually the esophagus, stomach or duodenum)
  • hematochezia is the passing of bright red blood rectally, indicating bleeding from the lower gastrointestinal tract (usually the sigmoid colon or rectum) or from hemorrhoids
  • melena is the passing of dark, tarry stools that signal bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract

All gastrointestinal bleeding requires medical evaluation to determine its cause. Persistent bleeding, even when the amounts of blood appear small, results in anemia.

The diagnostic path may include endoscopy of the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (egd) and colonoscopy respectively, as well as barium swallow and barium enema. Treatment targets the underlying condition, and may include blood transfusion when the blood loss is significant.

Conditions that can cause Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Conditions that can cause Gastrointestinal Bleeding
anal fissurebarrett’s esophagus
colitisdiverticular disease
esophageal cancergastritis
hemorrhoidsinflammatory bowel disease (ibd)
intestinal polyppeptic ulcer disease
stomach cancer


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