Gastrointestinal bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding (GI) is not a disease, but a symptom of a disease. It is never considered “normal” and should always be brought to the attention of a doctor.  Your digestive or GI tract includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum, and anus. Bleeding can come from any of these areas. The amount of bleeding can be significant or so small that only a lab test can detect it.  There are many possible causes of GI bleeding, including hemorrhoids, ulcers, tears or inflammation in the esophagus, diverticulosis and diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, colonic polyps, or cancer in the colon, stomach or esophagus.

Evidence of bleeding in the digestive tract depends on the location and degree of blood loss.

Signs of bleeding in the upper digestive tract include

  • Bright red blood in vomit
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool

Signs of bleeding in the lower digestive tract include

  • Black or tarry stool
  • Dark blood mixed with stool
  • Stool mixed or coated with bright red blood

The test used most often to look for the cause of GI bleeding is called endoscopy. It uses a flexible instrument inserted through the mouth or rectum to view the inside of the GI tract. A type of endoscopy called colonoscopy looks at the large intestine.

CONDITIONS OF THE GI TRACT