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Bleeding in New Jersey

Bleeding of the GI tract is a serious condition and requires medical attention. The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve. Gastroenterologist Angela Merlo, M.D., performs diagnostic testing and treatment of GI bleeding for adults and children.

Bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract can be chronic or acute and result in blood loss ranging from minimal to severe.  The bleeding can be so minimal as to go unnoticed until the loss accumulates over time.  Bleeding can lead to serious consequences such as anemia that affects the function of your body’s vital systems.  Bleeding can be life-threatening when severe and not properly treated. The diagnosis of bleeding in the GI tract must include the location of the bleeding as well as the cause. Regardless of the degree and location of the bleeding, you need treatment to prevent blood loss and other complications.

Having a specialist determine the source of your GI bleeding is critical to ensure proper treatment, reduce complications and the likelihood of future occurrences.  Fortunately, today’s advanced technology allows for precise diagnosis and treatment.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal bleeding depend on the location and extent of the blood loss and whether the blood loss is chronic or acute. Chronic low levels of blood loss allow your body to adjust until anemia becomes so severe that symptoms develop.

  • Anemia
  • Blood in stool
  • Chest pain with exertion
  • Craving ice to chew
  • Fatigue or exercise intolerance
  • Increased heart rate
  • Iron deficiency
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pale appearance
  • Shortness of breath

In some cases, people do not notice blood in their stools because the blood loss is minimal at any given time and stools appear their usual color. Detecting blood in your stool is also difficult because the color depends on the length of time the blood is within the intestines.  The color of the blood helps Dr. Merlo identify the likely location of the source.  When you have bleeding in the upper part of the GI tract that in expelled through the rectum, the blood tends to be tarry and black or purple. When the source of GI bleeding is closer to the rectal area, the blood appears bright red.

To determine if you have blood in your stools, Dr. Merlo may recommend a hemoccult test. The test involves chemical testing of a stool sample and can be performed during a regular office visit.

What Causes GI Bleeding?

There are many causes of GI bleeding which is why the right diagnosis is critical for proper treatment. Ulcers and erosions are the most common causes of bleeding in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.  Tears after vomiting, polyps or cancers are other causes. Another medical condition that may cause upper GI bleeding is esophageal varices, which are veins along the esophagus that are swollen with blood due to improper blood flow. Typically the condition occurs in patients with cirrhosis of the liver and is otherwise not common.

Polyps and diverticulosis are the most common causes of bleeding in the colon. Other causes are ulcers from infection or inflammation as in Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, cancers, and abnormal formation of blood vessels. Hemorrhoids are the most common sources of bleeding in the rectum. But polyps, cancers, ulcers and inflammation can also occur in the rectum.

How is GI Bleeding Diagnosed?

Depending on the location of bleeding in the GI tract, Dr. Merlo will recommend either a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy. Both of these diagnostic procedures use technologically advanced instruments that contain a camera for viewing the inside of your GI tract.

How is GI Bleeding Treated?

Upper endoscopy and colonoscopy allow for treatment remedies once the bleeding source is identified. Dr. Merlo is expert at the techniques of inserting specialized devices through either the endoscope or colonoscope to control bleeding by cauterization, injection of special medications or resection depending on the source. Occasionally advanced radiologic procedures such as angiography are also necessary. Replacement with intravenous fluids and blood transfusions may be necessary to restore balance to your body if blood loss is severe. In less severe cases, iron deficiency resolves with iron containing dietary supplements.

If you are experiencing GI bleeding, contact the Digestive Health and Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville or Princeton for the exceptional care you deserve. Dr. Merlo is an experienced Gastroenterologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of GI bleeding in adults and children.