Bleeding in the Digestive Tract
Bleeding in the digestive tract can be the result of many conditions and should never be taken as a sign of any particular problem without consulting a medical specialist. Rather, a proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist is needed to ascertain the source of the bleeding. Fortunately, the underlying condition can be cured or controlled in majority of cases.
Bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can occur in one or more areas. These may include the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum or anus. The source may be small or large and the blood may or may not be apparent. Luckily, simple tests can be performed to check for blood that is not visible, known as occult blood.
The signs of bleeding in the digestive tract can be numerous and will depend on the location and the nature of the underlying problem. If you have bright red blood in your stool, the bleeding is much likely lower in the digestive tract, originating from the rectum or lower colon. If the bleeding is higher up in the colon or small intestine, the blood in the stool is darker. If the blood is black and tarry, this usually indicates bleeding in the stomach, esophagus, or duodenum. If this is the case, your vomit may take on the appearance of coffee grounds.
Sudden, massive bleeding can be extremely serious and may lead to shock. You should seek immediate treatment if you have any of the following symptoms accompanied by bleeding in your GI tract.
- Shortness of Breath
- Cramps / Abdominal Pain
Less rapid, chronic bleeding can lead to fatigue and lethargy over time and may lead to anemia. If you notice blood in your vomit or stool, or experience the symptoms above, contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Tabib today.
Diagnosing bleeding in the GI tract begins with taking your complete medical history and a physical examination. Dr. Tabib will take a full account of your symptoms, which can help him in identifying the location of your bleeding. In some cases, certain foods or medicines (beets, Pepto Bismol) can change the color of your stool. A lab test can confirm the presence of blood in your stool. He may also test you for anemia.
Endoscopy is usually the first technique used to determine the exact location and nature of the problem. Using a long, thin, flexible camera, Dr. Tabib can explore your digestive tract for signs of distress and irregularities. In some cases, a capsule endoscope equipped with a camera can be swallowed to provide a visual of your GI tract.
Barium X-rays, angiography and radionuclide scanning are less often used techniques for identifying the source of bleeding. These processes involve the use of special dyes or nuclear liquids to find the source of the bleeding.
Treatment for Bleeding in the Digestive Tract
The endoscope is the most versatile tool for treating bleeding in the digestive tract. Special instruments can be passed through the scope and used at the site of the bleeding. Sometimes, special chemicals are injected to stop the bleeding. In other cases, a heater probe or coagulation device can be used to cauterize the site, using heat to stop the bleeding. If polyps are found, they can also be removed using the endoscope.
Following this initial treatment, the underlying cause of the bleeding will usually need to be addressed and controlled. Medications can be used to prevent recurrent bleeding in many cases, especially those caused by infection, esophagitis, ulcer and irritable bowel syndrome. Your treatment will depend on the cause of your bleeding.
If you think you may be suffering from bleeding in the digestive tract, contact us to schedule your appointment with Dr. Tabib today.