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Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Also called: GI bleeding
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Summary

Your digestive or gastrointestinal (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 so small that only a lab test can find it.

Signs of bleeding in the digestive tract depend where it is and how much bleeding there is.

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

GI bleeding is not a disease, but a symptom of a disease. There are many possible causes of GI bleeding, including hemorrhoids, peptic 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.

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.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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Diagnosis and Tests

  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in
  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • Colonoscopy: MedlinePlus Health Topic From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in
  • (American College of Gastroenterology) Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in

Related Issues

  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Specifics

  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in
  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in
  • (American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy) Also in

Striking laughter

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Reference Desk

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in

Find an Expert

  • (American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy)
  • (American College of Gastroenterology)
  • From the National Institutes of Health

Children

  • (UpToDate)
  • (Nemours Foundation) Also in
  • (North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition) - PDF

Patient Handouts