Digestive Tract Bleeding Symptoms

Digestive tract bleeding is not a disease alone, but a symptom of another condition or disease. A patient may only have an undetectable amount of bleeding, or in some cases, the bleeding may be massive to life-threatening. The bleeding may occur over time or come on suddenly. Digestive tract bleeding symptoms can vary greatly and will depend on several factors.

Upper Digestive Tract

The upper digestive tract consists of of the stomach, duodenum, and esophagus. If a patient is bleeding from any of these, he or she may experience:

  • Coffee ground-looking vomit
  • Stool with dark blood mixed in
  • Vomit with bright red blood in it
  • Stools that are tarry or black
  • Stool that is coated with bright red blood or mixed with it

Lower Digestive Tract

The lower digestive tract consists of the small intestine’s lower portion, rectum, anus, and colon. If a patient is bleeding from any of these, he or she may experience:

  • Tarry or black stool
  • Stool with dark blood mixed in
  • Stool that is coated with bright red blood or mixed with it

Acute Bleeding

Acute bleeding is bleeding that comes on suddenly and is severe. Digestive tract bleeding symptoms from acute bleeding may include:

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Crampy abdominal pain
  • Paleness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Clammy and cold feet and hands
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Stool with dark red blood mixed in
  • Vomit with bright red blood in it
  • Decreased urine flow
  • Disorientation
  • Stool that is coated with bright red blood
  • Coffee ground-looking vomit

In addition to the above symptoms, acute bleeding may also cause rapid pulse, trouble producing urine, shock, and a drop in blood pressure.

Chronic Bleeding

Chronic bleeding is bleeding that occurs over time. The bleeding could occur over months, or even years if the bleed is very slow and minimal. If digestive bleeding is a chronic issue, the patient may experience:

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Lethargy
  • Stool that is coated with bright red blood
  • Vomit with bright red blood in it
  • Fatigue
  • Pallor
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Stool with dark red blood mixed in it
  • Stool that is tarry or black
  • Coffee ground-looking vomit

Chronic bleeding may also result in anemia. Anemia is a condition in which hemoglobin, an iron-rich substance, is low in the blood. Anemia may cause chest pain, fatigue, concentration problems, dizziness, headache, or shortness of breath.

Occult Bleeding

Occult bleeding is a type of bleeding best described as a slight bleed in the digestive tract. If occult blood is present in the stool, simple testing can be performed to detect it. Spectroscopic or microscopic examination, or a chemical test are able to detect occult bleeding.

Resources

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2010). Bleeding in the Digestive Tract. Retrieved on November 19, 2010 from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: https://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bleeding/

MedlinePlus. (2009). Gastrointestinal Bleeding. Retrieved on November 19, 2010 from MedlinePlus: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003133.htm