Gastrointestinal bleeding

Bleeding may occur anywhere along the digestive (gastrointestinal [GI]) tract, from the mouth to the anus. Blood may be easily seen by the naked eye (overt), or blood may be present in amounts too small to be visible (occult). Occult bleeding is detected only by testing a stool specimen with special chemicals. Blood may be visible in vomit (hematemesis), which indicates the bleeding is coming from the upper GI tract, usually from the esophagus, stomach or the first part of the small intestine. When blood is vomited, it may be bright red if bleeding is brisk and ongoing. Alternatively, vomited blood may have the appearance of coffee grounds. It results from bleeding that has slowed or stopped, and the blood looks like coffee grounds because it has been partially digested by acid in the stomach.

A gastrointestinal bleed can cause:

  • Shock

  • Anemia

  • Death


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