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Gastrointestinal bleeding: What are the causes?

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Gastrointestinal bleeding is a serious indication of an issue inside the digestive tract. Remember that this can occur in any of the organs in the GI tract. In case the bleeding originates in the esophagus, stomach or primary region of the small intestines, it is called as upper GI bleeding. If the bleeding originates in the lower small intestines, large intestine, rectum or anus, it is called as lower GI bleeding.

The degree of bleeding experienced can vary from minimal traces of blood to life-threatening hemorrhage. In some instances, the amount of bleeding might be trivial that it is only revealed on microscopic analysis.

Causes of gastrointestinal bleeding

Upper GI bleeding

  • Peptic ulcers are the usual cause of gastrointestinal bleeding. The ulcers are caused by the H. pylori bacteria.
  • Enlarged veins in the esophagus can tear and bleed due to esophageal varices.
  • Presence of tears in the walls of the esophagus can lead to GI bleeding which is a condition called as Mallory-Weiss tear.

Lower GI bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding
Vomiting blood can indicate bleeding somewhere in the GI tract
  • Colitis occurs once the colon is inflamed. It might be due to an infection, parasite, food poisoning, diminished flow of blood to the colon and Crohn’s disease.
  • Hemorrhoids are enlarged veins in the rectum or anus that can veins can break and bleed, thus resulting to rectal bleeding.
  • Anal fissure is a tear in the muscular ring that forms the anal sphincter and typically due to constipation or passing hardened stools.

What are the indications?

If an individual is suspected with gastrointestinal bleeding, the following are likely to occur:

  • Stool appears darker than usual if the bleeding originates from the stomach or upper GI tract
  • Passing of blood from the rectum during bowel movement which is usually bright red in color
  • Vomiting blood can indicate bleeding somewhere in the GI tract

If any of these are present or the individual has vomit that appears as coffee grounds, consult a doctor right away. Remember that gastrointestinal bleeding might indicate a possible life-threatening condition that warrants immediate medical care. If the individual experiences weakness, paleness or shortness of breath, these are indications of severe bleeding.


Endoscopy can be beneficial not only in diagnosing gastrointestinal bleeding but also for treatment. With the help of the specialized scope with an attached camera and laser attachment along with medications, it can be used to put a stop to the bleeding. Additionally, tools can be used with the scope to place clips to the damaged vessels to stop the bleeding.

In case the cause are hemorrhoids, over-the-counter measures might work. If these do not work, the doctor might utilize a heat treatment to shrink down the hemorrhoids. As for infections, they are managed using antibiotics.

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