Esophageal hemorrhage occurs when varices (enlarged veins) in the esophagus bleed extensively, according to the online medical library Merck Manuals. Merck Manuals reports that the primary cause of varices is cirrhosis of the liver, which is where tissue in the liver is replaced by non-functioning scar tissue. The American Liver Foundation reports that the most common cause of cause of liver cirrhosis in the United States is alcoholism, and is responsible for approximately 40 percent off deaths due to liver cirrhosis.
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The principle symptom of esophageal hemorrhage is sudden bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, according to Merck Manuals. Merck Manuals reports that the bleeding is often from the distal esopohagus, meaning the part of the esophagus closest to the stomach. According to the Mayo Clinic, blood that normally flows to the liver becomes blocked due to liver cirrhosis. The blood then backs up into the smaller and more fragile blood vessels in the esophagus. When the pressure in the vessels of the esophagus becomes too high, blood may leak from the vessels into the esophagus. If the pressure is excessively high, the varices may burst, resulting in a massive influx of blood into the gastrointestinal tract. The Mayo Clinic reports that about 1/3 of people with enlarged blood vessels in the esophagus will experience bleeding. Other symptoms of esophageal hemorrhage linked to bleeding are vomiting blood and the presence of blood in the stool. Bleeding in the esophagus is very serious: Merck Manuals reports that death from esophageal hemorrhage may be greater than 50 percent of cases.
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Because of the loss of blood from the blood vessels, there is a global reduction in blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. This can result in a reduction in urination due to less fluid being processed by the kidneys. The affected person may also experience intense thirst. If too little blood reaches the brain due to low blood pressure, he may experience dizziness and a lightheaded feeling.
Anther symptom of esophageal hemorrhage due to alcoholism, according to Merck Manuals, is hepatic encephalopathy. MedlinePlus, an online medical encyclopedia associated with the U.S. National Library of Medicine, details the causes and symptoms of this condition, which occurs when cirrhosis of the liver is severe. One of the jobs of the liver is to process toxic substances, such as ammonia, into non-toxic substances. If the liver is damaged due to alcohol-induced cirrhosis, these substances can build-up in the body and cause brain damage (encephalopathy). Importantly, MedlinePlus reports that one trigger of hepatic encephalopathy is bleeding from the esophagus.