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Should I talk to my doctor about my GI bleeding symptoms?

All GI bleeding should be discussed with a physician, particularly a gastroenterologist. Bleeding always occurs from some pathology, whether it’s as innocuous as hemorrhoids or as harmful as an ulcer or even cancer. Self-diagnosis is risky, as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease can be mistaken for benign hemorrhoids. Endoscopic evaluations (colonoscopy or upper endoscopy) are the main tests to find the cause of GI bleeding and ensure the etiology is benign. 

A black, tarry, and malodorous bowel movement is indicative of a bleeding source from the upper GI tract (esophagus, stomach, and small intestine). Ulcers and various other defects are easily found on upper endoscopy (EGD), and bleeding can be treated at the time of the EGD with various techniques -- injecting medications into the area, clipping a defect closed, ablating a high risk spot with heat, or putting rubber bands around swollen blood vessels. On the contrary, bright red blood often occurs from the lower GI tract, like from inflammation of the colon, hemorrhoids, or tumors. Finally, bleeding can also occur in a very slow fashion where there is no obvious blood loss seen in your stool, but yet your blood counts slowly decrease over time; occult bleeding is what unfortunately occurs frequently with tumors in early stages making preventative screening so important.   

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of GI bleeding including blood in your stool or vomit, you should speak with your doctor right away. GI bleeding can be a sign of ulcers or a more serious underlying condition. As with any appointment, be sure to discuss with your doctor the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications associated with GI bleeding.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.