Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is a symptom of a disorder in your digestive tract. The blood often appears in stool or vomit but isn't always visible, though it may cause the stool to look black or tarry. The level of bleeding can range from mild to severe and can be life-threatening.
Sophisticated imaging technology, when needed, can usually locate the cause of the bleeding. Treatment depends on the source of the bleeding.
Signs and symptoms of GI bleeding can be either obvious (overt) or hidden (occult). Signs and symptoms depend on the location of the bleed, which can be anywhere on the GI tract, from where it starts — the mouth — to where it ends — the anus — and the rate of bleeding.
Overt bleeding might show up as:
- Vomiting blood, which might be red or might be dark brown and resemble coffee grounds in texture
- Black, tarry stool
- Rectal bleeding, usually in or with stool
With occult bleeding, you might have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
Symptoms of shockIf your bleeding starts abruptly and progresses rapidly, you could go into shock. Signs and symptoms of shock include:
- Drop in blood pressure
- Not urinating or urinating infrequently, in small amounts
- Rapid pulse
When to see a doctor
If you have symptoms of shock, you or someone else should call 911 or your local emergency medical number. If you're vomiting blood, see blood in your stools or have black, tarry stools, seek immediate medical care. For other indications of GI bleeding, make an appointment with your doctor.