GI Blog

Unveiling the Silent Threat: Recognizing Gastrointestinal Bleeding

18 December 2023

Gastrointestinal bleeding, a prominent symptom of digestive disorders, demands timely identification for effective prevention and intervention. The ability to promptly recognize and address such bleeding is crucial, as it can prevent minor issues from escalating into more severe conditions.


Visible Indicators of Gastrointestinal Bleeding:


Hematemesis (Vomiting Blood): Observable red or "coffee ground" vomitus.

Melena (Black Stool): Dark, tar-like, foul-smelling stools.

Hematochezia (Bloody Stool): Passing bright red or maroon-colored blood with stools.


These visible signs typically indicate upper gastrointestinal bleeding, associated with conditions like peptic ulcers, gastritis, and esophagitis. Lower gastrointestinal bleeding, manifested as fresh blood in stools or dark purple stools, is commonly linked to issues such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, diverticula, ischemic colitis, and vascular abnormalities.


Before rushing to flush after using the restroom, take a moment to inspect – it might reveal more than you think!


According to healthcare professionals, seek immediate medical attention if symptoms like hematemesis, melena, hematochezia, cold limbs, or fainting occur. Timely medical consultation is essential to address gastrointestinal bleeding effectively.


Invisible Signs of Gastrointestinal Bleeding:


Gastrointestinal Occult Bleeding (GIB): Also known as hidden or occult bleeding, often detected through fecal occult blood tests or due to iron deficiency.


Symptoms of Blood Loss or Anemia: Dizziness, fainting, angina, or difficulty breathing.


Chronic gastrointestinal bleeding may lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Causes include tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, infectious colitis, drug-related colitis, and other vascular disorders.


Don't be complacent; undergo regular screenings!


Tumors often bleed slowly, with no apparent symptoms or visible signs. Professional examination by a doctor is crucial. Early symptoms of colorectal cancer, such as loss of appetite and occult blood in stools, may be subtle. Guidelines for screening and early diagnosis provide various screening methods:


Annual fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) for individuals aged 45–75.

Annual high-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood tests (HSgFOBT).

Triennial multiple-target stool DNA tests (mt-sDNA).

Decennial colonoscopy.

Quinquennial CT colonography (CTC).

Quinquennial flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS).


With the rising incidence of colorectal cancer, early detection is crucial. Professor Jiang Bo from Chongqing University Affiliated Tumor Hospital emphasizes that "colorectal polyps, a precursor to cancer, take an average of 8–10 years to transform into cancer. Our bodies give us ample time to intervene in this process."


Capsule endoscopy emerges as a significant breakthrough in gastrointestinal health. This non-invasive diagnostic tool utilizes a small, ingestible capsule equipped with a tiny camera to capture images of the digestive tract, providing valuable insights into various gastrointestinal conditions, including the early detection of gastrointestinal bleeding.


One of the key advantages of capsule endoscopy is its ability to visualize areas that are challenging to reach with traditional endoscopic procedures. As the capsule travels naturally through the digestive system, it captures high-quality images of the small intestine, an area often not fully explored with conventional endoscopy.


The procedure is patient-friendly, eliminating the need for sedation or uncomfortable insertion of traditional endoscopes. This makes it particularly suitable for individuals who may be hesitant to undergo more invasive examinations.


Capsule endoscopy is especially valuable in cases of obscure gastrointestinal bleeding, where traditional diagnostic methods may fall short. By providing a detailed and comprehensive view of the entire digestive tract, it assists healthcare professionals in making accurate diagnoses and formulating effective treatment plans.