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What is Gastrointestinal Bleeding? Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cohen   
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Gastointestinal (GI) bleeding describes any blood loss that occurs through the digestive tract.
What is going on in the body?

The GI or digestive tract is a passage that leads from the mouth to the anus. This tract also includes the:
# esophagus, a tube that connects the mouth to the stomach
# stomach
# intestines

Bleeding can occur anywhere in the GI tract due to various conditions.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes of this condition, including:
# peptic ulcer, which may occur in the stomach or small intestine
# gastritis, or inflammation of the lining of the stomach. This often occurs in those who have been using aspirin or pain medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Gastritis is also common in a person who is alcohol dependent.
# enlarged veins in the esophagus called esophageal varices, which are prone to rupturing. This condition is usually seen as a part of alcoholic liver disease.
# a Mallory-Weiss tear, which is a small tear in the inside lining of the esophagus, usually due to severe retching or vomiting
# diverticulosis, a condition that causes outpouchings of the walls of the colon
# infections in the gut, such as certain forms of infection-related diarrhea, or diverticulitis, an infection of the outpouchings that occur in diverticulosis
# cancers or tumors, such as colon cancer, stomach cancer, or esophageal cancer
# inflammatory bowel disease, a poorly understood condition that results in inflammation in the bowels
# hemorrhoids, which are enlarged veins around the anus
# abnormal blood vessels in the digestive tract, which may rupture
# inflammation of the colon from a lack of blood flow, or from radiation therapy
Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.
 What are the treatments for the condition?

Those with heavy bleeding may need blood transfusions. Fluids may be given through a an intravenous line, which is a thin tube inserted into a person's vein. Further treatment is often directed at the cause, if it can be determined. For example, those with:
# ulcers may need medications to reduce stomach acid, such as ranitidine or omeprazole
# cancer may need surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy
# an infection may need antibiotics

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Side effects depend on the treatments used:
# Blood transfusions may cause allergic reactions or infections.
# Antibiotics may cause allergic reactions and stomach upset.
Surgery carries a risk of infection and bleeding.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Some people may die even with treatment if the bleeding is heavy and cannot be stopped. This is not uncommon in those with bleeding from esophageal varices. Some people are able to return to normal activities right away, such as most people with hemorrhoids.
How is the condition monitored?

Periodic CBC blood tests may be done to make sure the blood counts are stable. Many people with bleeding are briefly monitored for further bleeding in the hospital. Other monitoring is usually related to the cause. For example, those with a stomach ulcer may need a repeat endoscopy procedure in the future to make sure the ulcer is healing properly.


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