Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding (Stable)

Your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes your esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine. You have signs of bleeding from your upper GI tract. You may have vomited or coughed up blood or coffee-ground like material. Or you may have black or tarry stools. Very small amounts of GI bleeding may not be visible and can only be found by a test of the stool.

Causes of upper GI bleeding can include:

  • Tear in the lining of the esophagus

  • Enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach, especially in someone with cirrhosis

  • An ulcer in the stomach or top of the small intestine

  • Severe irritation of the stomach

  • Inflammation of the digestive tract

  • Abnormal growth (tumor) of the upper digestive tract

A bloody nose or mouth or dental problems may cause you to swallow blood. You may vomit this blood up. This is not true GI bleeding. Iron supplements and medicines for diarrhea and upset stomach can cause black stools. This is not GI bleeding and is not a cause for concern.

Home care

You've had an evaluation for your bleeding. You will need to continue your care at home. Depending on the cause of your bleeding, care may include the following:

  • You may be given medicines to help protect your GI tract, treat your problem, and promote healing. Take these as directed.

  • Sometimes tests such as endoscopy may also be used to stop bleeding. An endoscope is a thin flexible tube with a light and a camera on the tip that is put into your stomach through your esophagus (throat).

  • Don't take NSAIDs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. They can irritate the stomach and cause more bleeding. If you are taking these medicines for other reasons, talk to your healthcare provider before you stop them. 

  • If you are on blood thinners, discuss the plan with your healthcare provider.

  • Don't use alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco. These can delay healing and make your problem worse.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. More tests may need to be done to find the cause of your bleeding.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away for any of the following:

  • Stomach pain starts or gets worse

  • Pain spreads to the neck, back, shoulder, or arm

  • Weakness or dizziness

  • Swelling of your belly

  • Red blood in your stool

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Severe dizziness

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Vomiting blood or large amounts of blood in the stool

  • Black, tarry stool

  • Chest pain or lightheadedness

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