Anemia or Bleeding from the GI Tract

Anemia refers to a lack of healthy red blood cells. Having anemia can make you feel tired and weak. There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause.

Intestinal Bleeding Causes and Symptoms

Bleeding from the intestines can occur for many different reasons, and like most conditions can range from very mild to life-threatening.  Passage of red blood usually represents a source in the colon such as diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, colitis or less commonly a large polyp or cancer.  Passage of black tarry stools often represents bleeding from the upper GI tract (esophagus, stomach, or small bowel) such as from an ulcer or liver disease.  Other patients may not pass visible blood but are found to have anemia (low red blood cell counts) on a laboratory test or have a positive test for microscopic amounts of blood in the stool (stool cards).

While many patients with small amounts of intermittent bleeding likely have irritation from hemorrhoids, more serious causes cannot be ruled out without an examination.  Additional risk factors such as use of blood thinners, family history of GI cancers/polyps or colitis may also contribute.  Patients with bleeding or unexplained anemia should ALWAYS be considered for evaluation with colonoscopy and/or endoscopy to try and identify a bleeding source which could possibly be treated during the procedure.

Occasionally the bleeding source is found to be in the small intestine, outside the reach of our scopes.  In this situation, a pill-sized camera called a capsule endoscope can be swallowed and the images transmitted wirelessly to a device the patient wears for viewing by the physician.

Anemia or Intestinal Bleeding Treatment

Please contact our Gastroenterology Specialists for diagnosis and treatment of anemia or intestinal bleeding. To schedule a consultation, call 605.217.5500.