General Symptoms Related To Gastrointestinal Disorders

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Harvard Medical School
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General Symptoms Related To Gastrointestinal Disorders

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

General Symptoms Related To Gastrointestinal Disorders

Fever

Some abdominal problems that may result in fever include:

Abdominal abscess

Anal abscess or fistula

Appendicitis

Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)

Clostridium difficile colitis

Crohn's disease

Diverticulitis

Hepatitis

Hernia complication (strangulated hernia)

Liver abscess

Pancreatitis

Parasite infection

Perforation of the bowel

Peritonitis

Traveler's diarrhea

Ulcerative colitis

Viral gastroenteritis

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Nausea Or Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be caused by problems outside of the abdomen, such as a migraine headache, or a side effect of medication. These are expected symptoms in the case of pregnancy. Some abdominal conditions that may result in nausea or vomiting include:

Appendicitis

Bowel obstruction

Food poisoning

Gallstones

Gastritis

Gastroparesis (a complication of diabetes)

Hepatitis

Irritable bowel syndrome

Pancreatitis

Peptic-ulcer disease

Viral gastroenteritis

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Vomiting Of Blood

Note: if you are vomiting blood, go to the emergency room immediately.

Bleeding esophageal varices

Cirrhosis

Esophagitis

Gastritis

Mallory-Weiss tear of esophagus

Nosebleed

Peptic ulcers

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Loss Of Appetite

This symptom may be caused by something unrelated to the digestive tract, such as depression or a systemic viral infection. Some conditions in the abdomen that may cause loss of appetite include:

Cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts

Cancer of the liver

Cancer of the stomach

Cirrhosis

Esophagitis

Gallstones

Gastroparesis (a complication of diabetes)

Hepatitis

Parasitic infection

Peptic ulcer disease

Traveler's diarrhea

Ulcerative colitis

Viral gastroenteritis

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Weight Loss

When doctors speak of weight loss as a symptom, they mean weight loss that cannot be explained by diet or exercise. In gastrointestinal disorders, weight loss may occur from a loss of appetite, from an additional stress on the body (such as a cancer or infection) or from inefficient food absorption (malabsorption). Any unexplained weight loss should be reported to your doctor. Some gastrointestinal diseases that may cause weight loss include:

Achalasia

Bacterial overgrowth

Cancer of the esophagus

Cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts

Cancer of the liver

Cancer of the pancreas

Cancer of the stomach

Celiac disease (gluten sensitivity)

Chronic pancreatitis

Cirrhosis

Colon cancer

Crohn's disease

Parasite infection

Ulcerative colitis

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Yellowing Of Skin (Jaundice)

Bilirubin is a bile pigment normally found in low levels in healthy people. If bilirubin accumulates at higher-than-normal levels in the blood, the skin and whites of the eyes will take on a yellowish color, a condition called jaundice. Disorders that affect the liver, pancreas gallbladder or bile ducts can cause jaundice, including:

Acute viral hepatitis

Alcohol- and drug-induced hepatitis

Bile-duct disease or obstruction

Cancer of the gallbladder and bile ducts

Cancer of the liver

Cancer of the pancreas

Chronic hepatitis

Cirrhosis

Gallstones

Gilbert's syndrome

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Bronzed Skin

Hemochromatosis (a hereditary disorder of iron metabolism) can give the skin the appearance of being bronzed. Excessive absorption of iron leads to a marked increase in blood-iron levels. The excess iron is deposited in tissues throughout the body, including the skin.

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Urine Color Changes

Most of the time when urine is bright or darker yellow than usual, it is simply more concentrated and does not reflect a health problem. Urine color changes can be caused by certain foods (such as beets or asparagus) and by some medicines. The bile pigment bilirubin can turn urine dark in disorders that block or stop the flow of bile. Urine can also darken if it contains blood or byproducts of muscle breakdown. Common disorders that can cause dark urine are:

Bile-duct disease or obstruction

Cancer of the bladder

Cancer of gallbladder and bile ducts

Cancer of the kidney

Gallstones

Hemolysis (rapid destruction of red blood cells)

Hepatitis

Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

Rhabdomyolysis (rapid destruction of muscle)

Urinary tract infection

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Itching

General itchiness can result from the buildup of bile products or waste products in the blood because of kidney failure. Some abdominal conditions that can cause itching include:

Acute viral hepatitis

Blockage of the bile duct

Cancer of the pancreas

Cirrhosis

Drug-induced hepatitis

Primary biliary cirrhosis

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Secondary Symptoms Caused By Vitamin Or Mineral Deficiencies

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be caused by digestive disorders (especially malabsorption) or by liver or kidney disease. Symptoms from various vitamin and mineral deficiencies can include:

  • Scaling skin — caused by vitamin-A deficiency
  • Bruising — caused by decreased vitamin K production in the liver, poor vitamin K absorption in the intestine, or deficient dietary vitamin K
  • Numbness and tingling — caused by vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Muscle spasms — caused by vitamin D or calcium deficiencies
  • Bone pain — caused by vitamin D or calcium deficiencies

Disorders that can cause these types of deficiencies include:

Atrophic gastritis

Bacterial overgrowth

Celiac disease

Chronic pancreatitis

Cirrhosis

Crohn's disease

Kidney failure

Pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency)

Surgical removal of part of the small intestine or stomach

Surgical removal of part of the small intestine or stomach

Tropical sprue

Kidney failure

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Last updated January 07, 2009


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