Stomach Bleeding

Stomach bleeding (or digestive tract bleeding) is a symptom of a digestive disease instead of disease itself. A number of digestive conditions can lead to bleed, mostly of the conditions can be cured or controlled and very few may be life threatening.

The digestive tract bleeding may be from various locations that include the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon & rectum) and anus. Bleeding may occur from one or more areas; that is from a particular area such as in the case of ulcer on the stomach lining or a distinct problem such as inflammation in the entire colon.

Stomach bleeding

Sometime stomach bleeding may occur without any symptoms and without knowing it. This type of bleeding is called as hidden or occult. However, you can detect this with a simple test.

Stomach bleeding symptoms

Gastro digestive tract bleeding symptoms are of two categories they are:

  • Upper digestive tract bleeding symptoms and
  • Lower digestive tract bleeding symptoms

The upper digestive tract includes esophagus, stomach and the small intestine. The symptoms specific to esophagus and stomach bleeding include vomiting of bright red-colored blood or looks like grounded coffee.

Symptoms common to both upper and lower digestive tract bleeding are:

  • Stool of black or tarry color
  • Dark or bright-red blood mixed with stool
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Look pale
  • Long term bleeding causes anemia

Patient with acute bleeding may lead to shock, rapid pulse, blood pressure drop and difficult producing urine.

Stomach bleeding causes

Digestive tract bleeding is classifying into two categories; they are upper and lower digestive tract conditions.
Bleeding caused by upper digestive tract conditions

  • Esophageal varices - are enlarged veins in the lower end of esophageal walls, which rupture and start bleeding.
  • Mallory-Weiss tears - is tearing of esophagus lining caused by forced vomiting, coughing, hiatal hernia, or childbirth.
  • Esophagitis – is the inflammation and ulcer formation in the lining of the esophagus most commonly caused by GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
  • Peptic ulcer – is mostly causing by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infections and or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. It affects the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum (upper part of the small intestine).
  • Gastritis - is inflammation and ulcer formation in the lining of the stomach caused by regular use of NSAIDs, infections, Crohn's disease, illness and injuries.
  • Benign tumors and cancer - is an abnormal tissue growth in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum may cause bleeding.

Bleeding caused by lower digestive tract conditions

  • Diverticular disease - is causing by diverticula pouches in the colon wall, which bleeds.
  • Hemorrhoids - is enlargement of veins in the anus or rectum, which rupture and bleeds.
  • Fissures - are ulcers, cuts, or tears in the anal area.
  • Angiodysplasia - is an abnormality in the intestinal blood vessels and bleeding due to aging.
  • Polyps or cancer - in the colon often causes occult bleeding.

Stomach Bleeding Diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing stomach bleeding is assessing complete medical history, physical examination (pain or tenderness in the abdomen, etc.), bowel habits, and appearance of the stool (color).  

Stool test - Stool color may get influencing by iron supplements, bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol), or foods such as beetroots, greens. Therefore, stool test is useful even if the bleeding is not visible to human eye.

Blood test - is helpful to determine the severity of bleeding that is whether the patient is anemic.

Gastric Lavage - or stomach pumping; is a useful process to pump out the content of the stomach, when a person ingested a poison? In our case, it is applicable to test for the presence of blood, if does not contain blood means no bleeding (or bleeding stopped) or is likely in the lower digestive tract.

Barium X rays - is taking by swallowing barium or coated in the digestive tract to make the tract visible in x ray.

Radionuclide scanning - is by injecting a small amount of radioactive material into your veins. A special camera can detect and creates images of blood flow in the digestive tract.

Angiography - is by injecting a special dye into your veins to make blood vessels as well as blood vessel leaks visible in x-ray or CT scans.

Endoscopy - is a flexible tube with light and camera at one end and other end connected to a monitor. Doctor inserts this endoscope through the patient's mouth to examine the upper digestive tract from esophagus to duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Doctor inserts this endoscope through the patient's rectum to view the colon. This is useful to locate the bleeding spot as well as to do a biopsy (collecting a small sample of tissue for microscopic examination for cancer cells). If bleeding spot is not locatable is called as obscure bleeding. The doctor may repeat or use other methods to assess the obscure bleeding cause.

Enteroscopy - is a special endoscopy for better visual examination of the digestive tract. Common enteroscopys is a push-enteroscopy (a longer endoscopy), double-balloon enteroscopy (endoscope with balloons), and capsule enteroscopy (capsule with tiny camera; patent need to swallow it).

Exploratory laparotomy - is a surgical procedure to examine the digestive tract, if all other procedure failed to diagnose the bleeding spot.

Stomach Bleeding Treatment

Once the bleeding spot has identified, your doctor may use endoscopy or angiography to treat bleeding site by,

  • Injecting chemicals to block bleeding
  • Applying a heating probe, passing electric current, or laser to stop bleeding
  • Putting a band or clip across the affected area to arrest bleeding.

The above treatment options are to stop bleeding from the affected digestive tract area.

To complete proper treatment your doctor will prescribe medication to stop further bleeding due to the underlying condition, such as H. pylori and other infections, GERD, ulcers, hemorrhoids, polyps, or inflammatory bowel diseases.