What are the symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding?

Gastrointestinal bleeding includes bleeding from any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. The gastrointestinal tract is divided into the upper gastrointestinal tract that includes the mouth, esophagus and stomach while the lower gastrointestinal tract includes the small and large intestine and the rectum. The bleeding is categorized as apparent and occult which means that it is not visible to the naked eye. Most of the disorders due to dilated vessels in the esophagus, ulcers in the stomach and colon cancer can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. When it comes to the symptoms, they can range from subtle to dramatic. By enrolling in a first aid course, you will learn how to manage some of these conditions.

Vomiting of blood

The vomiting of blood which is an overt symptom of gastrointestinal bleeding tends to gain immediate attention. Vomiting of bright red blood occurs if bleeding is in the upper gastrointestinal tract, typically from a perforated ulcer or from dilated veins in the esophagus or stomach known as varices which are common among individuals with severe liver disease.

Gastrointestinal bleeding

Shock is a life-threatening condition in which the decrease in the flow of blood to the vital organs that can occur as the only indication of severe occult bleeding.

The coffee ground emesis which is characterized for brownish, grainy appearance manifest once the bleeding has reduced down or ceased. The stomach acid changes the normally reddish blood into brown. If the individual vomits large amounts of blood, it can lead to shock or death rapidly and entail immediate medical care.


The bleeding can lead to anemia which is low red blood count. Anemia can occur since the small amounts of blood are lost due to unforeseen bleeding.  Overt bleeding can also lead to anemia but in such cases, the cause is apparent. The indications of anemia include fatigue, paleness, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath upon exertion. These symptoms manifest since the level of oxygen drops below normal when the level of red blood cells increase. Since oxygen is transported by the red blood cells, lack of oxygen to all parts of the body occurs.


Shock is a life-threatening condition in which the decrease in the flow of blood to the vital organs that can occur as the only indication of severe occult bleeding. Abrupt collapse, pallor, low blood pressure, dizziness, anxiety, diminished urine output and rapid heartbeat can occur. Heart attack or chest pain due to the low supply of blood to the heart can worsen the diagnosis.

Rectal bleeding

It is important to note that rectal bleeding can occur as visible bleeding or as blood that is combined with the stool. The bleeding from the upper or inferior gastrointestinal tract can lead to rectal bleeding. The visible blood that moves quickly via the lower gastrointestinal tract from the upper tract can also cause hemotochezia which is the passage of gross blood from the rectum.

Blood that has combined with stool causes black-colored, tarry stools known as melena can indicate upper tract hemorrhage but can also originate from the small bowel or right part of the colon which lies farthest from the rectum. Take note that it usually takes between 100-200 milliliters of blood to cause melena. As for occult rectal bleeding, it can be detected by testing a stool sample.


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