HomeGastro CareVomiting Blood (Hematemesis): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Vomiting Blood (Hematemesis): Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Overview

Vomiting blood or hematemesis refers to significant amounts of blood vomited. Small flecks or streaks of blood in the material you spit up may come from the teeth, mouth or throat and aren’t usually considered vomiting blood. Blood in your vomit can be bright red, or it may appear dark brown or black like coffee grounds.

Vomiting blood is quite an extreme concern in most cases.

Vomiting blood can be caused by serious conditions that can be a medical emergency, such as:

Internal injuries

  • Organ bleeding
  • Organ rupture
  • Bright red blood often indicates acute bleeding episode in your oesophagus or stomach. It may represent a fast-bleeding source.
  • Darker-coloured blood means your blood has been in your GI tract for a few hours. Usually, it represents a slower and steadier source of bleeding.
  • The colour of the blood you vomit can be analyzed to identify the cause and criticality of bleeding.

Causes of Vomiting Blood

There are several causes of vomiting blood that range in severity from minor to major.

Common causes of vomiting blood include:

  • swallowing blood after a nosebleed or oral surgery
  • a tear in the oesophagus due to excessive coughing or vomiting
  • a bleeding ulcer
  • gastritis (stomach inflammation)
  • severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Less common and more serious causes include:

  • Oesophagal varices
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Hemophilia
  • Anaemia
  • Stomach cancer
  • Esophageal cancer

All examples of vomiting blood should be reported to your doctor.

Symptoms of Vomiting Blood

Several symptoms may occur with vomiting blood. These symptoms may or may not be linked to the cause of the bleeding. It is recommended that you call for help if you experience serious symptoms like the ones mentioned below.

Severe symptoms

  • Blurred vision
  • Change in breathing patterns
  • Clammy skin
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Blurry eyesight
  • Confusion
  • Blood vomiting caused by an injury
  • Extreme abdominal pain

Non-severe symptoms

  • Vomiting stomach contents
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea

When to See a Doctor

Several potential health conditions are linked with vomiting blood. To ensure that you are safe and healthy, you must seek professional help for further diagnosis. If doctors notice any unusual symptoms, they will ask you certain questions about the symptoms to diagnose the problem.

Your doctor may generally recommend an imaging test. Imaging scans play a fundamental role in identifying the cause of the blood in the vomit , that can range from abnormal growths to ruptured organs. Some of the common imaging tests performed to diagnose vomiting blood include:

An endoscopy can help determine if there is blood in the stomach. Patients are sedated during this test. Your doctor inserts a small, flexible tube (endoscope) into your mouth. This tube goes all the way down to your small intestine and stomach.

The tube has a fibre-optic camera. This can further help doctors evaluate if there is an internal source of bleeding.

Your doctor may also ask you to get a blood test to check your total blood count. This can further help determine the volume of blood lost. In some cases, a biopsy may be required to understand if the source of bleeding is cancerous, infectious, or inflammatory. Based on this information, your doctor will suggest the most appropriate treatment for your condition.

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Complications of Vomiting Blood

Aspiration or choking is a major complication of vomiting blood. It can result in blood collection in the lungs. This can further hinder your ability to breathe properly. Blood aspiration in vomit is generally rare but extremely risky.

People mainly at risk for stomach contents aspiration include:

  • Individuals with a stroke history
  • Older adults
  • Individuals with a history of alcohol abuse
  • Individuals with a history of disorders impacting their ability to swallow.

Additionally, anemia is a complication of excessive bleeding. It indicates a deficiency of healthy red blood cells. Anemia is specifically noticeable when the blood loss is sudden and swift.

People with gastritis may develop anaemia after a significant amount of time. In such cases, anemia often occurs without any symptoms until the blood count drops.

Treatment

You will be required to get a blood transfusion depending on the amount of blood you lost. A blood transfusion plays a crucial role in replacing the blood you lost. This blood is supplied through an IV line injected into your vein.

Your doctor may also give you fluids through an IV to rehydrate the body. Your doctor, depending on the cause, may prescribe medicines to stop the vomiting or to reduce stomach acid. If you suffer from ulcer, your doctor will prescribe medicines to treat it.

In more serious cases of upper GI bleeding, your doctor can refer you to a gastroenterologist who may perform upper endoscopy to diagnose and treat the source of bleeding. In serious cases, like stomach or bowel perforation, surgery may be needed.

Medications restricting the vomiting altogether or controlling stomach acid are given to treat vomiting blood. Many patients may also notice ulcers during blood vomiting. Certain medications help treat them.

Conclusion

There are many causes of vomiting blood. Some may be extremely severe, while some are minor. Either way, you are recommended to seek medical help if you vomit blood.

Your doctor will perform the necessary tests to determine the cause. Your doctor may also prescribe you the medicines required to treat the bleeding.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are some of the foods that increase the probability of vomiting blood?

Many foods and beverages are linked to causing vomiting blood. Alcoholic drinks and highly acidic foods can cause vomiting blood.

  1. What are some of the symptoms that indicate shock during vomiting blood?

Some of the prime symptoms that indicate shock due to vomiting blood include a low urine output, dizziness on standing, pale skin, and rapid and shallow breathing.

  1. Is vomiting a comparatively small amount of blood normal?

The amount of blood you vomit does determine the seriousness of the situation. It is best to take a doctor’s advice in the event of vomiting even a tiny quantity of blood as this warrants investigation. .

  1. What does black vomit generally indicate?

Brown or black vomit may suggest internal bleeding. This type is often called coffee ground vomitus. The cause for this may vary. However, the common cause of black vomit is a problem in the gastrointestinal tract.  With coffee ground vomiting, the blood is not fresh or bright red. By the time the vomiting reflex was triggered, blood had been in your GI tract long enough to start drying, congeal and turn to a darker colour.

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