Digestive Problems and Bleeding Varices
Introduction to Bleeding Varices
Varices are dilated blood vessels usually in the esophagus or stomach. They cause no symptoms unless they rupture and bleed.
Bleeding from varices is a life-threatening complication of portal hypertension. Portal hypertension is an increase in the pressure within the portal vein (the vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver) due to blockage of blood flow throughout the liver.
This increased pressure in the portal vein causes the development of large, swollen veins (varices) within the esophagus and stomach. The varices are fragile and can rupture easily, resulting in a large amount of blood loss.
The most common cause of portal hypertension is cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is scarring which accompanies the healing of liver injury caused by hepatitis, alcohol, or other less common causes of liver damage. In cirrhosis, the scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows its processing functions.
What Are the Symptoms of Bleeding Varices?
Symptoms of bleeding varices include:
- Vomiting of blood
- Black, tarry, or bloody stool
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Shock (in severe cases)
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