What Causes GI Bleed?

Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding refers to bleeding that occurs anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the rectum. There are various potential causes of GI bleeding, and it can range from mild to severe. Common causes include:

  • Peptic ulcers: Open sores that develop on the lining of the stomach, small intestine, or esophagus. They can be caused by infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or other factors.
  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining, often caused by infection, excessive alcohol consumption, prolonged NSAID use, or stress.
  • Esophageal varices: Dilated blood vessels in the lower part of the esophagus, usually associated with liver cirrhosis. They can rupture and cause significant bleeding.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Chronic reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus can lead to irritation, inflammation, and bleeding.
  • Mallory-Weiss tear: Tears in the mucous membrane lining the junction of the esophagus and stomach, often due to severe vomiting or retching.
  • Diverticulosis: Small pouches (diverticula) that can form in the walls of the large intestine may bleed if they become inflamed or rupture.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause inflammation and ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to bleeding.
  • Colorectal polyps and cancer: Abnormal growths in the colon or rectum may bleed, especially if they become large or cancerous.
  • Hemorrhoids: Swollen blood vessels in the rectum or anus can cause bleeding, especially during bowel movements.
  • Blood vessel abnormalities: Conditions such as angiodysplasia (abnormalities in blood vessels), arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), or Meckel’s diverticulum can cause GI bleeding.
  • Infections: Infections of the gastrointestinal tract, such as gastroenteritis or certain parasitic infections, can lead to inflammation and bleeding.
  • Trauma: Injuries, surgeries, or other trauma to the digestive tract can cause bleeding.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as blood thinners, antiplatelet drugs, or NSAIDs, can increase the risk of GI bleeding.

If someone experiences symptoms of GI bleeding, including bloody or dark stool, vomiting blood, or abdominal pain, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Diagnosis and treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the bleeding, and medical professionals may use various diagnostic tests, such as endoscopy, colonoscopy, or imaging studies, to identify the source of the bleeding. Treatment may involve addressing the specific cause, medications, endoscopic procedures, or, in severe cases, surgery.