Gastrointestinal Bleeding: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Digestive system

The digestive or gastrointestinal tract goes from the mouth to the anus. It is often called the GI tract.

Bleeding can happen anywhere in the GI tract. It may be caused by an ulcer, an infection, or cancer. It may also be caused by medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Light bleeding may not cause any symptoms at first. But if you continue to bleed for a while, you may feel very weak or tired.

Sudden, heavy bleeding means you need to see a doctor right away. This kind of bleeding can be very dangerous. But it can usually be cured or controlled. The doctor may do some tests to find the cause of your bleeding.

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.
  • Do not take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), without talking to your doctor first. Ask your doctor if it is okay to use acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • The bleeding may make you lose iron. So it's important to eat foods that have a lot of iron. These include red meat, shellfish, poultry, and eggs. They also include beans, raisins, whole-grain breads, and leafy green vegetables. If you want help planning meals, you can make an appointment with a dietitian.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have sudden, severe belly pain.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your stools are maroon or very bloody.

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 belly pain.
  • You vomit or have nausea.
  • You have trouble swallowing, or it hurts when you swallow.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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