Internal bleeding can easily go undetected
Bleeding of any kind can be dangerous. What makes gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding so threatening is that it could go undetected until the problem worsens? The GI tract includes the organs necessary to digest food and process waste. These are the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, colon and rectum. Bleeding is a possibility in any of those areas.
The degree of GI bleeding could be so small that only a lab test would diagnose the ailment. If someone is bleeding from the upper digestive track, signs include vomit that looks like coffee grounds or dark blood mixed with stool. GI bleeding in the lower digestive track, which is the colon or rectum, typically is black and shows itself in tar-like stool.
Many possible causes of GI bleeding include hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, tears or inflammation in the esophagus, diverticulitis or colonic polyps. Also cancer in the colon, stomach or esophagus would also cause the same effect.
“Bleeding from any orifice of the body is a very serious warning sign and must immediately be addressed,” says Dr. Sakhie Hussain, medical director and chairman of the section of gastroenterology at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “GI bleeding is not a disease but a symptom. The underlying diseases causing GI bleeding could be so diverse that at one end of the spectrum it may be as simple as constipation, straining and rupturing a few blood vessels or at the other end of the spectrum it could be cancer of the colon,” adds Dr. Hussain.
The test used most often to examine GI bleeding is endoscopy. For an upper GI endoscopy, a tube with a camera and a light source at its tip is passed down the esophagus to locate and view the cause of bleeding. The lower GI tract, which uses a similar procedure, is often associated with colonoscopies. Treatments vary on the diagnosis and cause of the bleeding.
Dr. Hussain recommends that you seek medical advice immediately if you experience pain or bleeding. “Many people have hemorrhoids and bleed and just keep thinking it is hemorrhoids and somewhere a cancer pops in and it goes uninvestigated. Never be your own doctor. Never treat yourself,” he says.
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