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GI Tract Bleeding Can Have Many Causes

But it's a definite sign that something is wrong

SUNDAY, Feb. 23, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Gastrointestinal (GI) tract bleeding can be caused by a number of different diseases or conditions, some of which are life-threatening. GI tract bleeding isn't a disease in itself, but rather a symptom that something is wrong.

Most conditions that cause GI tract bleeding can be controlled or cured, such as hemorrhoids or ulcers, says the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

While the cause of bleeding may not be serious, it's important to pinpoint the source of the bleeding. It can come from one or more of the parts that make up the GI tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.

A person can have GI bleeding without being able to notice it. This type of hidden bleeding can be detected by testing the stool for blood.

There are a number of things that can cause GI tract bleeding. For example, stomach acid can cause inflammation and bleeding in the lower part of the esophagus. Bleeding in the esophagus can also be caused by a tear in its lining.

Bleeding in the stomach can be caused by certain bacterial infections or by medicines, ulcers and tumors and cancer. Ulcers in the upper small intestine can also cause GI tract bleeding, the institute says.

The large intestine and rectum are frequent sites of bleeding in the lower intestine. Hemorrhoids are the most common cause of visible bleeding in the GI tract. Inflammation can cause bleeding in the colon.

People who take blood-thinning drugs may have GI tract bleeding.

An endoscope -- a flexible tube that can be inserted through the mouth or rectum -- is a common method of finding and treating bleeding sites in the GI tract. The endoscope can be fitted with a camera to locate the site of the bleeding.

The endoscope can also be fitted with attachments -- a needle or cauterizing device -- to treat the site of the bleeding.

More information

Learn more about gastrointestinal tract bleeding at the University of Chicago.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; University of Chicago
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