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Gastrointestinal Bleeding

What is gastrointestinal bleeding?

Gastrointestinal bleeding, also known as GI bleeding or gastrointestinal hemorrhage, is the presence of blood in the digestive tract. It can manifest as visible blood in the vomit (hematemesis) or stool (melena), or as occult bleeding that is not visible to the naked eye but can be detected through laboratory tests.

What causes gastrointestinal bleeding?

Gastrointestinal bleeding can be caused by a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Peptic ulcers: Open sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or duodenum.

  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining, often due to infection or irritation.

  • Esophageal varices: Dilated veins in the esophagus, typically associated with liver cirrhosis.

  • Mallory-Weiss tears: Tears in the lining of the esophagus, often due to severe vomiting or retching.

  • Diverticulosis: Small pouches that develop in the walls of the colon, which can bleed if they become inflamed or rupture.

  • Colorectal cancer: Malignant tumors in the colon or rectum can cause bleeding, especially as they grow and invade surrounding tissues.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can cause inflammation and ulceration in the digestive tract, leading to bleeding.

  • Gastrointestinal infections: Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites can lead to inflammation and bleeding in the GI tract.

What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding?

Symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding can vary depending on the location and severity of the bleeding, but may include:

  • Hematemesis (vomiting blood)

  • Melena (black, tarry stools)

  • Hematochezia (bright red or maroon-colored stools)

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness in severe cases

How to treat gastrointestinal bleeding?

Treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding depends on the underlying cause, severity of bleeding, and overall health of the individual.


Treatment options may include:

  • Supportive care: Intravenous fluids and blood transfusions may be given to stabilize the patient and replace lost blood volume.

  • Medications: Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antacids, or medications to reduce stomach acid production may be prescribed to treat ulcers or gastritis.

  • Endoscopic therapy: Endoscopic procedures such as endoscopic band ligation, sclerotherapy, or thermal coagulation may be performed to stop bleeding from ulcers, varices, or other sources.

  • Surgical intervention: Surgery may be necessary to treat severe or recurrent bleeding that does not respond to other treatments, or to remove tumors or repair damaged blood vessels.

The specific treatment approach will depend on the individual circumstances of the patient and should be determined by a healthcare provider, typically a gastroenterologist or paediatric surgeon, who can evaluate the cause and severity of the bleeding and recommend the most appropriate management strategy. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for optimising outcomes in patients with gastrointestinal bleeding.

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