Bleeding esophageal varices : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Definition

Bleeding esophageal varices are very swollen veins in the walls of the lower part of the esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach) that begin to bleed.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver is the most common cause of esophageal varices. This scarring prevents blood from flowing through the liver. As a result, more blood flows through the veins of the esophagus.

This extra blood flow causes the veins in the esophagus to balloon outward. If these veins break open (rupture), they can cause severe bleeding.

Any cause of chronic liver disease can cause varices.

The swollen veins (varices) can also occur in the upper part of the stomach.

Pictures & Images

Digestive system

The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

Liver blood supply

Liver blood supply

The proper hepatic artery supplies blood to the liver.


Review Date : 8/22/2008
Reviewed By : Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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