Esophageal varices may not present any symptoms, unless these blood vessels leak blood or rupture. When there is a small leak in vessels, a symptom can be dark stool. When there is heavy bleeding from these blood vessels, it can lead to symptoms, such as bloody stool, vomiting blood and feeling lightheaded, states the United States National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus.
When esophageal varices either bleed or rupture, it is a medical emergency and the condition requires prompt treatment to avoid any complication. Some other symptoms of esophageal varices are hypotension and a fast heart rate. When the condition is severe, shock may also occur, notes WebMD. Some possible complications of esophageal varices are pneumonia, coma and sepsis.
Certain types of liver disease, such as severe cirrhosis or liver failure, may be risk factors for esophageal varices, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Due to this fact, doctors may also check for symptoms or signs of liver disease, such as ascites, jaundice and spleen enlargement when diagnosing esophageal varices.
A cause of esophageal varices, which are dilated blood vessels, is portal hypertension in which there is an elevation in the pressure within the portal vein, the vein that moves blood from organs in the digestive tract to the liver. This can lead to blood flowing into smaller veins of the lower region of the esophagus, causing them to dilate and possibly rupture. A rupture is a life-threatening condition that requires treatment to stop any bleeding and prescribe medication for portal hypertension, as noted by Mayo Clinic.