Symptoms & Causes of GI Bleeding

What are the symptoms of GI bleeding?

Symptoms of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding may include

  • black or tarry stool
  • bright red blood in vomit
  • cramps in the abdomen
  • dark or bright red blood mixed with stool
  • dizziness or faintness
  • feeling tired
  • paleness
  • shortness of breath
  • vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • weakness

Acute bleeding symptoms

You may go into shock if you have acute bleeding. Acute bleeding is an emergency condition. Symptoms of shock include

  • a drop in blood pressure
  • little or no urination
  • a rapid pulse
  • unconsciousness

If you have any symptoms of shock, you or someone should call 911 right away.

Chronic bleeding symptoms

You may develop anemia if you have chronic bleeding. Symptoms of anemia may include feeling tired and shortness of breath, which can develop over time.

Some people may have occult bleeding. Occult bleeding may be a symptom of inflammation or a disease such as colorectal cancer. A simple lab test can detect occult blood in your stool.

What causes GI bleeding?

Many conditions can cause GI bleeding. A doctor can try to find the cause of your bleeding by finding its source. The following conditions, which are listed in alphabetical order, include possible causes of GI bleeding:

Angiodysplasia. Angiodysplasia is when you have abnormal or enlarged blood vessels in your GI tract. These blood vessels can become fragile and bleed.

Benign tumors and cancer. Benign tumors and cancer in the esophagus, stomach, colon, or rectum may cause bleeding when they weaken the lining of the GI tract. A benign tumor is an abnormal tissue growth that is not cancerous.

Colitis. Ulcers in the large intestine are a complication of colitis. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause GI bleeding.

Colon polyps. Colon polyps can cause GI bleeding. You can have more than one colon polyp at a time. Some types of polyps may be cancerous or can become cancerous.

Diverticular disease. Diverticular disease can cause GI bleeding when small pouches, or sacs, form and push outward through weak spots in your colon wall.

Esophageal varices. Esophageal varices can cause GI bleeding. Esophageal varices are usually related to a chronic liver condition called cirrhosis.

Esophagitis. The most common cause of esophagitis is gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER happens when your lower esophageal sphincter is weak or relaxes when it should not. Stomach acid can damage your esophagus and cause sores and bleeding.

Gastritis. Some common causes of gastritis include

If untreated, gastritis can lead to ulcers or worn-away areas of the stomach lining that can bleed in your GI tract.

Hemorrhoids or anal fissures. Hemorrhoids can cause GI bleeding. Constipation and straining during bowel movements cause hemorrhoids to swell. Hemorrhoids cause itching, pain, and sometimes bleeding in your anus or lower rectum. Anal fissures are small tears that also can cause itching, tearing, or bleeding in your anus.

Mallory-Weiss tears. Severe vomiting may cause Mallory-Weiss tears, which can cause GI bleeding. You can have more than one Mallory-Weiss tear at a time.

Peptic Ulcers. The bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and use of NSAIDs can cause peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers can wear away your mucosa and cause GI bleeding.

Pills and a pill bottle on its side on top of a table.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause peptic ulcers, which can cause GI bleeding
Last Reviewed July 2016
Share this page
Facebook X Email WhatsApp LinkedIn Reddit Pinterest

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.