Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding

Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is any type of bleeding that starts in your GI tract, also called your digestive tract. GI bleeding is a symptom of a disease or condition, rather than a disease or condition itself.

Every year, about 100,000 people in the United States go to the hospital for upper GI bleeding. About 20 to 33 percent of GI bleeding episodes in Western countries are in the lower GI tract. Men are twice as likely as women to have upper GI bleeding.

Bleeding may come from any site along the GI tract, but is often divided into:

  • Upper GI bleeding: The upper GI tract includes the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach), stomach, and first part of the small intestine.
  • Lower GI bleeding: The lower GI tract includes much of the small intestine, large intestine or bowels, rectum, and anus.

Acute GI bleeding is sudden and can sometimes be severe. Chronic GI bleeding is slight bleeding that can last a long time or may come and go.

The amount of GI bleeding may be so small that it can only be detected on a lab test such as the fecal occult blood test. Other signs of GI bleeding include:

  • Dark, tarry stools
  • Larger amounts of blood passed from the rectum
  • Small amounts of blood in the toilet bowl, on toilet paper, or in streaks on the stool (feces)
  • Vomiting blood

Massive bleeding from the GI tract can be dangerous. However, even very small amounts of bleeding that occur over a long period of time can lead to problems such as anemia or low blood counts.

For more info on GI Bleeding visit National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

*Information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the Colon Cancer Alliance and MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You

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