What are Bleeding Varices?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
Woman with a headache
Woman with a headache

Bleeding varices are veins in the stomach, esophagus, and other parts of the digestive tract that have ruptured due to blockages of blood flow to the liver and other organs. The most common symptoms of bleeding varices are feelings of fatigue and weakness, difficulty urinating, bloody stools and vomit, increased heart rate, and pain in the chest and stomach. When not treated immediately, blood loss from ruptured varices can be fatal. It is essential to visit a licensed physician if experiencing some or all of the symptoms of bleeding varices so that a proper treatment plan can be enacted.

The most common cause of bleeding varices is cirrhosis, a disease which causes extensive scarring of liver tissue and disrupts proper blood flow into and out of the organ. When blood cannot flow through the liver, it begins to back up in the portal vein and subsequently into smaller veins in the stomach and esophagus. Varices begin to dilate, strain, and eventually rupture. Massive amounts of blood can be lost in a matter of hours from ruptured varices, creating a potentially life-threatening situation.

Symptoms of bleeding varices vary depending on their severity and level of progression, though most people immediately begin to feel weak and lightheaded due to blood loss. They may begin vomiting blood or passing bloody stools. Many people have difficulty urinating because of extreme drops in blood pressure. As the body is forced to absorb more blood and fluid, swelling and constant pain develop in the chest, stomach, and limbs.

Individuals who have cirrhosis or unusually high blood pressure should monitor their bodies closely to identify the first symptoms of bleeding varices. A doctor can perform an endoscopic test to determine if varices have been damaged. If varices have indeed ruptured, immediate surgical treatment is necessary to stop internal bleeding. A surgeon might tie an elastic band around varices to stop bleeding or insert an artificial tube to carry blood between the liver and the heart. With immediate treatment and follow-up medication, many patients are able to recover from bleeding varices.

Medical professionals generally focus on preventing ruptured varices by treating the factors that can lead up to complications. Patients at risk of developing cirrhosis, hypertension, and heart problems are usually instructed to eat healthy foods that are low in sodium, avoid smoking and alcohol, and engage in regular exercise. Many individuals are prescribed medication to prevent high blood pressure and relieve tension on their livers, portal veins, and hearts.

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