Esophageal varices usually don't cause signs and symptoms unless they bleed. Signs and symptoms of bleeding esophageal varices include:
- Vomiting blood
- Black, tarry or bloody stools
- Shock (in severe case)
Your doctor may suspect varices if you have any of the following signs of liver disease:
- Yellow coloration of your skin and eyes (jaundice)
- A cluster of tiny blood vessels on the skin, shaped like a spider (spider nevi)
- Reddening of the skin on the palm of your hands (palmar erythema)
- A hand deformity known as Dupuytren's contracture
- Shrunken testicles
- Swollen spleen
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you've been diagnosed with liver disease, ask your doctor about your risk of esophageal varices and how you may reduce your risk of these complications. Ask your doctor whether you should undergo an endoscopy procedure to check for esophageal varices.
If you've been diagnosed with esophageal varices, your doctor may instruct you to be vigilant for signs of bleeding. Bleeding esophageal varices are an emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency services right away if you experience bloody vomit or bloody stools.
March 15, 2013
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed Sept. 12, 2010.
- Prevention and management of gastroesophageal varices and variceal hemorrhage in cirrhosis. Alexandria, Va.: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Documents/Bookmarked%20Practice%20Guidelines/Prevention%20and%20Management%20of%20Gastro%20Varices%20and%20Hemorrhage.pdf. Accessed Sept. 12, 2010.
- Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. Http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=$eid&isbn=978-1-4557-0295-4&uniqId=398813857-1936. Accessed Jan. 22, 2013.
- Coelho-Prabhu N et al. Current staging and diagnosis of gastroesophageal varices. Clinical Liver Disease. 2010; 14: 195.
- AskMayoExpert. Esophageal varices. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- What I need to know about cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis_ez/#prevent. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
- Schistosomiasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/schistosomiasis/gen_info/faqs.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.