Gastrointesinal Emergency Signs and Symptoms

Gastrointestinal (GI) emergencies can cause a number of different symptoms, depending on the underlying condition. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and the severity of the symptoms does not always reflect the severity of the condition.

Signs and symptoms that may indicate a GI emergency include the following:

  • Acute gastrointestinal bleeding (e.g., blood in the stool, vomiting blood)
  • Change in bowel habits (e.g., acute diarrhea, severe constipation)
  • Inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas from the rectum
  • Inability to swallow (called aphagia)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes; caused by excess bilirubin [pigment in bile] in the blood)
  • Severe abdominal pain or swelling (distention)
  • Uncontrolled vomiting
  • Unexplained fever (may be caused by infection of the digestive tract)

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 28 Feb 2008

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015