Gastrointestinal varices history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Syed Hassan A. Kazmi BSc, MD [2]


Patients suffering from gastrointestinal varices may present with other co-morbid conditions which lead to portal hypertension. Chronic liver disease and portal vein thrombosis commonly lead to the development of gastrointestinal varices. Patients with a family history of venous abnormalities, hypercoaguable states, autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (may lead to hepatic fibrosis), nephronophthisis 1, Joubert syndrome and related disorders 5, cranioectodermal dysplasia (Sensenbrenner syndrome), Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, Jeune asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy, renal-hepatic-pancreatic dysplasia, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal varices. Non-bleeding gastrointestinal varices do not produce any symptoms, however bleeding gastrointestinal varices may lead to hematemesis, abdominal pain, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, melena, bloody stools (in severe cases), shock (in case of loss of a large volume of blood).


Patients suffering from gastrointestinal varices may present with other co-morbid conditions which lead to portal hypertension. Patients may have the following history findings:

Family history

Patients with a family history of the following may be more prone to develop varices:[1][2][3][4][5][2]

Past medical

Patients with following findings on past medical history may have a higher chance of developing gastrointestinal varices:[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Social history

Patients may have the following social history findings:

  • Chronic alcohol intake
  • Poor adherence to medications
  • Smokers are more prone to develop bleeding of varices


Non-bleeding gastrointestinal varices do not produce any symptoms, however bleeding gastrointestinal varices may lead to the following symptoms:

Common symptoms

Common symptoms of bleeding gastrintestinal varices include the following:[12][13][14][15][16][17]


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  6. Orloff MJ, Orloff MS, Orloff SL, Girard B (1997). "Portal vein thrombosis in cirrhosis with variceal hemorrhage". J. Gastrointest. Surg. 1 (2): 123–30, discussion 130–1. PMID 9834338. 
  7. Siablis D, Papathanassiou ZG, Karnabatidis D, Christeas N, Katsanos K, Vagianos C (2006). "Splenic arteriovenous fistula and sudden onset of portal hypertension as complications of a ruptured splenic artery aneurysm: Successful treatment with transcatheter arterial embolization. A case study and review of the literature". World J. Gastroenterol. 12 (26): 4264–6. PMC 4087390Freely accessible. PMID 16830391. 
  8. Chofle AA, Jaka H, Koy M, Smart LR, Kabangila R, Ewings FM, Mazigo HD, Johnson WD, Fitzgerald DW, Peck RN, Downs JA (2014). "Oesophageal varices, schistosomiasis, and mortality among patients admitted with haematemesis in Mwanza, Tanzania: a prospective cohort study". BMC Infect. Dis. 14: 303. PMC 4065539Freely accessible. PMID 24894393. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-303. 
  9. Srinath A, Shneider BL (2012). "Congenital hepatic fibrosis and autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease". J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr. 54 (5): 580–7. PMC 4369775Freely accessible. PMID 22197937. doi:10.1097/MPG.0b013e31824711b7. 
  10. Ahmed M, Kesavan M, Jilani BN, Ahmed S, Deeb L (2016). "Systemic Mastocytosis as an Unconventional Cause of Variceal Bleeding: Think Outside the Box". Cureus. 8 (6): e629. PMC 4935436Freely accessible. PMID 27433408. doi:10.7759/cureus.629. 
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  12. Cremers I, Ribeiro S (2014). "Management of variceal and nonvariceal upper gastrointestinal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis". Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 7 (5): 206–16. PMC 4107701Freely accessible. PMID 25177367. doi:10.1177/1756283X14538688. 
  13. Fawaz KA, Kellum JM, Deterling RA (1982). "Intraabdominal variceal bleeding". Am. J. Gastroenterol. 77 (8): 578–9. PMID 7102642. 
  14. Sato H, Kamibayashi S, Tatsumura T, Yamamoto K (1987). "Intraabdominal bleeding attributed to ruptured periumbilical varices. A case report and a review of the literature". Jpn J Surg. 17 (1): 33–6. PMID 3494875. 
  15. Kim YD (2014). "Management of acute variceal bleeding". Clin Endosc. 47 (4): 308–14. PMC 4130884Freely accessible. PMID 25133116. doi:10.5946/ce.2014.47.4.308. 
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