Esophageal Varices: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The esophagus

Esophageal varices (say "ee-sof-uh-JEE-ul VAIR-uh-seez") are veins in your esophagus that are bigger than normal. Your esophagus is a tube. It carries food from your throat to your stomach.

These veins get big because of extra pressure. This pressure makes the walls of the veins weak. Then they can rupture and cause very serious bleeding.

This problem is usually found in people who have serious liver disease.

Treatments include medicines and procedures to help lower the pressure in the veins. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment for you.

If you have bleeding from this problem, there is a risk that it will happen again. In this case, it's important to go back and follow up with your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take any other medicines. These include over-the-counter medicines, and natural health products, such as vitamins, and herbal products.
  • Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve). These can cause sores in your stomach or esophagus.
  • Do not drink alcohol. It increases your risk of bleeding. It can also make liver damage worse. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counselling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You feel very sleepy.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • Your stools are black and look like tar, or they have streaks of blood.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: August 9, 2016