Vomiting blood

Definition

Vomiting blood is regurgitating (throwing up) contents of the stomach that contains blood.

Vomited blood may appear bright red, dark red, or look like coffee grounds. The vomited material may be mixed with food or it may be blood only.

Considerations

It may be hard to tell the difference between vomiting blood and coughing up blood (from the lung) or a nosebleed.

Conditions that cause vomiting blood can also cause blood in the stool.

Causes

The upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract includes the mouth, throat, esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach and the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). Blood that is vomited may come from any of these places.

Vomiting that is very forceful or continues for a very long time may cause a tear in the small blood vessels of the throat. This may produce streaks of blood in the vomit.

Swollen veins in the walls of the lower part of the esophagus, and sometimes the stomach, may begin to bleed. These veins (called varices) are present in people with severe liver damage.

Repeated vomiting and retching may cause bleeding and damage to the lower esophagus called Mallory Weiss tears.

Other causes may include:

Home Care

Get medical attention right away. Vomiting blood can be a result of a serious medical problem.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room if vomiting of blood occurs. You will need to be examined right away.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The provider will examine you and ask questions such as:

Tests that may be done include:

If you have vomited a lot of blood, you may need emergency treatment. This may include:


Review Date: 12/27/2018
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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