Testing for GI Disorders and GI Bleeding

Rebekah Kuschmider
Rebekah Kuschmider
February 12, 2024
min read
Technically reviewed by: 
Taylor Steed
Testing for GI Disorders and GI Bleeding

What Are Gastrointestinal Disorders?

Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders refer to any disease or disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Also known as the digestive tract, The GI is the series of organs involved in eating, digesting, processing, and eliminating food. This includes the esophagus, liver, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, colon, rectum, and anus.1

GI disorders can be functional, where the GI tract looks normal but doesn’t move properly. Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, gas, and diarrhea are all examples of functional GI disorders.2

However, GI disorders can also be structural, where there are visible abnormalities in the GI tract that affect how it functions. Common structural GI disorders include hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, colon polyps, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.2

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Disorders

The common symptoms of GI disorders include:1

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Another common sign of a GI disorder is bleeding. Bleeding can occur in any part of the GI tract. The types of GI bleeds include:3

  • Acute: Sudden, severe bleeding. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate care.
  • Chronic: Bleeding that comes and goes over a long time.
  • Occult: Microscopic bleeding. Blood loss isn’t visible to the naked eye but may cause symptoms such as anemia.
  • Overt: Visible bleeding that may be noticeable in bowel movements or vomit.
  • Obscure: GI bleeding that can’t be identified via imaging tests.

Testing for GI Disorders

Most gastrointestinal disorders require testing to identify the cause. There are three types of tests typically completed to identify GI disorders:

  1. Stool Test: Stool tests can typically be completed at home using a stool test kit, also known as a fecal occult blood test kit or IFOB test. A stool test at home is one of the initial tests completed for potential GI disorders, as it identifies blood in your stool.
  2. Blood Test: A blood test is another initial test your doctor may complete to identify any potential GI disorders. Unlike a stool test, it must be completed at the doctor's office or a lab.
  3. Imaging Test: Imaging tests, such as colonoscopies, are used to examine the inside of your GI tract. They are typically completed after the stool and blood tests to identify the source of bleeding.
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Causes of GI Bleeding

GI bleeding can be caused by disorders at any location within the GI tract. The location of the bleeding can help identify the cause of the issue.

Anal Bleeding

In some cases, noticeable GI bleeding occurs in the anal area. This is typically related to mild conditions, such as:

Anal Fissures

An anal fissure is a crack or split in the tissues of the anal canal. These tears can lead to acute pain and bleeding that can be seen on stools or toilet paper. Most anal fissures heal within a few weeks and don’t require treatment. You can ask your doctor for a prescription cream to reduce pain. If an anal fissure doesn’t heal on its own, you should see a doctor to discuss treatment options.4


Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectum or anus: Also called piles, they can cause pain, anal itching, and rectal bleeding. You can use over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments to ease symptoms. Eating a diet rich in fiber can help ease constipation and reduce the irritation of hemorrhoids. In severe cases, a medical procedure is required to remove hemorrhoids.5

Bleeding in the GI Tract

There are other types of GI bleeding that occur further up the GI tract. Many GI bleeds are centered in the large intestine, which includes the colon and rectum. These conditions can cause blood in the stool, which may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye. These conditions include:


Also known as ulcerative colitis (UC), this is a type of inflammatory bowel disease similar to Crohn’s Disease. UC is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the colon. It usually cycles between periods of symptom flare-ups followed by periods without symptoms. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stool, abdominal cramping, and weight loss. You may need stool sample testing or imaging tests to diagnose UC. Treatments may include medication or surgery.6

Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum. They can be flat, raised, or stalk-like. They are usually benign, though some can develop into cancer. They may not cause any symptoms, but they can result in bleeding or changes to bowel habits. They can be detected with stool sample testing or colonoscopies. During a colonoscopy, your doctor can remove the polyps, which prevents the risk of them becoming cancerous in the future.7

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is cancerous growths anywhere in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a polyp that becomes malignant over time. Symptoms may include pain, changes to bowel habits, bleeding, or unexplained weight loss. Colorectal cancer can be detected with stool testing, such as at-home colon cancer test kits, or with a colonoscopy. Treatment includes surgery and chemotherapy.8


Diverticulosis is when small pouches or bubble-like formations develop inside the wall of the colon. It’s common and usually related to aging. The changes to the colon usually don’t cause any problems, but they can cause bleeding. Eating a high-fiber diet and drinking plenty of water for easier bowel movements can reduce the risk of bleeding.9 Occasionally, the pouches can develop an infection called diverticulitis. This may require treatment with antibiotics, a short-term liquid diet, or surgery. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis can be detected with stool sample testing and an imaging test, such as a CT scan or colonoscopy.9


Ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the digestive tract or rectum. They can develop as a side effect of conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, solitary rectal ulcer syndrome, and constipation. Rectal ulcers can lead to blood in the stool, rectal pain, or painful bowel movements. Your doctor can identify a rectal ulcer using imaging tests, such as a colonoscopy. Many rectal ulcers improve with a high-fiber diet to reduce constipation. Treating underlying conditions can also alleviate ulcer symptoms.10


Gastritis is inflammation in the soft mucous lining of your stomach. It can be an acute condition due to an infection or something you ingested. It can also be chronic, in which case it may be related to another health condition. Gastritis can lead to ulcers, or sores, that bleed. Your doctor will need to do imaging tests, such as an endoscopy, to diagnose gastritis. You may be able to manage chronic gastritis with diet changes. Gastritis due to infection may require antibiotics.11


This is an abnormal swelling of blood vessels in the large intestine. The blood vessels become fragile and susceptible to bleeding. The condition is usually age-related. Doctors can detect angiodysplasia with stool sample testing, blood tests, and imaging tests. Doctors can treat the condition with angiography to close the blood vessel that is bleeding or by cauterizing the site of the bleeding. In rare cases, surgery is required to remove the affected section of the colon.12

Diagnose Your GI Disorder Today

Don't let an undiagnosed disorder wreak havoc on your system. Diagnox Health is empowering you to take charge of your health with at-home test kits. With our new, easy-to-use Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), you can identify hidden blood in your stool and begin diagnosing your GI disorder.

If you have blood in your stool, talk to your doctor about the tests you need to diagnose the cause of bleeding and determine the best course of treatment.

  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine Staff, “Digestive Disorders,” Johns Hopkins Medicine. [Accessed January 9, 2024].
  2. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Gastrointestinal Diseases,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  3. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Gastrointestinal (GI) Bleeding,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  4. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Anal Fissures,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  5. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Hemorrhoids,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  6. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Ulcerative Colitis (UC),” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  7. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Colon Polyps,” “ Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  8. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Colorectal (Colon) Cancer,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  9. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Diverticulosis,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  10. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Rectal Ulcers,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  11. Cleveland Clinic Staff, “Gastritis,” Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed January 9, 2024]
  12. Mount Sinai Staff, “Angiodysplasia of the colon,” Mount Sinai. {Accessed January 9, 2024]
About the Author
Rebekah Kuschmider

Rebekah has been writing about culture, health, and politics since 2010. She has a masters degree in Arts Policy and Administration from The Ohio State University. Her work has been seen at WebMD, The Candidly, MedicineNet, YourTango, Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, Salon, Role Reboot, The Good Men Project, SheSaid, Huffington Post, and Mamamia. She is a former cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union. Rebekah lives in Maryland with her husband, two kids, and a dog who sheds a lot.

About the Reviewer
This blog was
Technically reviewed by: 
Taylor Steed

Taylor Steed played a crucial role in ensuring the quality of this blog by serving as its editor and proofreader.

The blog was also reviewed by the Diagnox content team. Diagnox Staff consists of a multidisciplinary team of scientists, content writers, and healthcare professionals with an expertise to create and review high-quality, informative, accurate, and easy-to-understand content for both professionals and everyday readers. Our staff follows strict guidelines to ensure the credibility and authenticity of the information, reviewing them independently and verifying them by various scientific and technical sources to ensure accuracy. Our review team believes in delivering knowledge free from bias to improve public health and well-being.

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