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Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is bleeding in the digestive tract.
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The upper digestive tract is the:
The lower digestive tract is the:
GI bleeding can be a life-threatening problem that needs care right away.
GI bleeding has many causes.
Causes in the upper digestive tract:
Causes in the lower digestive tract:
Your chances of GI bleeding are higher for:
Upper digestive tract bleeding may cause:
Lower digestive tract bleeding may cause:
You many not see small amounts of blood in the stool. Your doctor can find it with testing.
Sometimes, bleeding can happen rapidly and be severe. This may cause:
Bleeding that is light and happens over a long period of time may make you feel tired and cause breathing problems.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history.
You may have:
Treatment depends on what's causing the bleeding. If medicines are causing problems, your doctor may stop or change them. You may need to make lifestyle changes.
The type you need depends on what is causing problems. They're used to:
For some people, more than one type may be needed.
Endoscopy can also be used to stop bleeding by:
Angiography can also be used to control bleeding. Other tools are used to find the bleeding. Medicines or other materials are injected into the blood vessels to control it.
Surgery may be used when other methods fail. It may be needed to treat some conditions such as diverticulitis or uncontrolled bleeding.
To help lower your chances of GI bleeding:
American College of Gastroenterology
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
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Common cancer types. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: hhttps://www.cancer.gov/types/common-cancers. Updated February 26, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gastrointestinal-bleeding. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Laine L, Jensen DM. Managment of patients with ulcer bleeding. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012;107(3):345-360.
Laine L, Smith R, Min K, Chen C, Dubois RW. Systematic review: the lower gastrointestinal adverse effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006;24(5):751-767.
Loke YK, Derry S. Risk of gastrointestinal haemorrhage with long-term use of aspirin: Meta-analysis. BMJ. 2000(7270);321:1183-1187.
Overview of GI bleeding. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gi-bleeding/overview-of-gi-bleeding. Updated January 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018.
Wilcox CM, Alexander LN, Cotsonis GA, Clark WS. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are associated with both upper and lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Dig Dis Sci. 1997;42(5):990-997.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 8/15/2018