Gastrointestinal Bleeding: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

What Can a Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage Lead To?

Certain disorders occur within the digestive tract, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Gastrointestinal bleeding, also known as gastrointestinal hemorrhage, is any bleeding that is located anywhere within the digestive system. Any bleeding from the mouth to the rectum is gastrointestinal bleeding. Studies show that, on average, there are about 400,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States that account for two billion dollars in medical costs.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

What Is Gastrointestinal Bleeding?

Gastrointestinal bleeding has the potential to cause a significant amount of blood to be lost during a short period of time. It can present vomiting red or black blood, blood in the stool, or black stool. This condition can be mild or severe, and can become life-threatening very quickly.

Causes Of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

There are several causes for Gastrointestinal Bleeding, like Peptic Ulcer, Diverticulosis, GERD, Alcohol or Liver Disease. Other reasons for lower GI bleeding include colon polyps, tumors, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), anal fissures, and proctitis.

  • Peptic Ulcer

    The most common cause of gastrointestinal bleeding is from peptic ulcers. A peptic ulcer is a sore that develops on the stomach lining inside of the stomach or small intestine. Long-term use of certain anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil and Aleve contribute to the growth of a peptic ulcer. However, the most common cause is from the bacterium Heliobacter pylori. Too much stress on the ulcer may lead to gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Diverticulosis

    Sometimes the lining of the digestive tract can develop small pouches or pockets. It is a condition called diverticulosis, and it affects about 200,000 people annually in the United States. There typically no symptoms of diverticulosis until the pouches become inflamed. When inflammation is present, the condition worsens and can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • GERD

    Gastro esophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a form of acid reflux. The condition causes inflammation and irritation in the lower esophageal sphincter, where the esophagus meets the stomach.  GERD is commonly responsible for creating esophagitis, or inflammation of the throat. The irritation can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding, particularly along the lining of the lower esophagus.

  • Alcohol

    Drinking too much alcohol can wreak havoc on the digestive tract. It tears away at the tissue, causing it to become very sensitive. So sensitive, that the tissue can tear. The tears are called Mallory-Weiss tears, and they can create a substantial amount of bleeding. Alcohol can cause Mallory-Weiss tears anywhere in the digestive tract, form the throat to the intestines.

  • Liver Disease

    Certain liver diseases may contribute to gastrointestinal bleeding. A damaged liver causes veins in the esophagus to swell up to abnormal sizes and make them vulnerable to bleeding.

Treatment Of Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Treatment for gastrointestinal bleeding varies depending on the condition and the lifestyle of the patient. Patients who smoke or drink should quit their habits to allow the bleeding to subside. If damaging elements are removed, the bleeding can go away on its own. However, if the bleeding continues over time and the habits do not change, it can become chronic. It may not stop and worsen over time.

Doctors may also recommend an endoscopy. The procedure involves the use of an endoscope, which is a unique scope equipped with a small camera and a laser that goes down the throat. The device tunnels through the digestive tract and pinpoints the bleeding, and the laser attachment can help stop the bleeding. Antibiotics may also help inflammation.

How To Prevent Gastrointestinal Bleeding

The prognosis for a person with GI bleeding depends upon the cause and location of the bleeding, how bad the bleed is when the person sees the doctor, and any underlying medical conditions that may affect the patient’s recovery.

    • Alcohol & Upper GI Bleeding

      For those that consume alcohol, do so in moderation. Patients with high alcohol consumption are widely at risk for gastrointestinal bleeding within the upper digestive tract, which can result in death. Alcohol also accelerates the development of gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Over time, the inflammation can lead to erosion of the stomach lining, which plays a vital role in regulating stomach acid.

    •  NSAIDs Increase The Risk Of Lower GI Bleeding

      Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, are drugs that intend to reduce pain and fever, prevent blood clots, and reduce inflammation. They can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding, so it would be best to take these medications as rarely as possible. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, aspirin, Celebrex, and Naproxin.

    • Can Smoking Cause Gastrointestinal Bleeding?

      The risk of developing gastrointestinal bleeding increases significantly in individuals that smoke. Smoking not only causes peptic ulcers and other severe medical conditions, but it also can slow down the healing process for peptic ulcers. Furthermore, smoking interferes with ulcer medication, making the treatment less effective.

A Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage Can Become Chronic

Gastrointestinal bleeding is dangerous because symptoms may not be recognized until the bleeding becomes chronic. Chronic gastrointestinal bleeding is much worse because the condition may not be easily reversible. Be sure to take notice of any irregularities in the stool color. Look for red or black colors, and always notify a doctor when blood is present in vomit, blood, or stool. Doctors can usually treat gastrointestinal bleeding as long as patients take the condition seriously. The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of observation to determine the severity of a Gastrointestinal Bleed.

When Should You Go To An ER For GI Bleeding?

A Gastrointestinal Bleed is very serious and can be life-threatening. If you have any signs of gastrointestinal bleeding, come to The Emergency Center immediately. We are here 24/7/365 if you or your family needs emergency care. Never second guess whether or not an illness is severe enough to require emergency attention.

The Emergency Center provides up to 23 hours of Observation and offers 24/7 care with NO WAITING. Visit  The Emergency Center’s convenient 24-hour location.


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644