What causes vomiting blood? 23 possible conditions

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Vomiting Blood Overview

Vomiting blood (hematemesis) is the regurgitation of stomach contents mixed with blood, or the regurgitation of blood only. Vomiting blood sounds jarring, but in some cases, it may be triggered by minor causes such as swallowing blood from a mouth injury or from a nosebleed. Vomiting blood may also be caused by more serious conditions such as internal injuries or an organ rupture.

Regurgitated blood may appear brown, dark red, or bright red in color. Brown blood often resembles coffee grains when vomited.

If you vomit a large amount of blood, or if you vomit blood in conjunction with dizziness or changes in breathing, call 911 immediately.

Why Does Vomiting Blood Occur?

There are many causes of vomiting blood. They range in severity from minor to major and are normally the result of an injury or illness.

Vomiting blood may be caused by minor conditions such as:

  • esophagus irritation
  • nosebleeds
  • swallowing blood
  • tear in the esophagus due to chronic coughing

Other common causes of vomiting blood include:

  • stomach ulcers
  • aspirin side effects
  • gastritis
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) side effects
  • pancreatitis

More serious causes of vomiting blood include:

  • alcoholic hepatitis
  • cirrhosis
  • esophageal cancer
  • erosion of the stomach lining
  • pancreatic cancer

Children may also experience vomiting blood. This is usually caused by:

  • swallowing a foreign object
  • swallowing blood
  • birth defect

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

Symptoms That Accompany Vomiting Blood

Several symptoms may be present along with vomiting blood. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • nausea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting stomach contents

Vomiting blood can indicate a serious medical emergency. If you experience any of the following symptoms call 911:

  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • changes in heartbeat
  • changes in breathing
  • cold skin
  • clammy skin
  • confusion
  • fainting
  • severe abdominal pain
  • vomiting blood after an injury

Do not drive yourself to the doctor. Call 911.

At the Doctors

There are many potential health issues that could cause you to vomit blood. To come to a diagnosis, your doctor will begin by asking you questions about your symptoms, and whether or not you were recently injured.

Your doctor may order an imaging test to look inside your body. Imaging scans reveal abnormalities in the body such as ruptured organs or abnormal growths. Common imaging tests used for these purposes are:

  • CT scan (computed tomography scan)
  • Endoscopy (looking into your stomach with a tube passed through your mouth)
  • ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

Your doctor may wish to do an upper endoscopy to look for blood in the stomach. This procedure is done when you are sedated. Your doctor will place a small, flexible tube into your nostril or your mouth and down into stomach and small intestine. A fiber optic camera in the tube allows your doctor to see the contents of your stomach and examine you internally.

A blood sample may be taken to check your complete blood count. This helps to assess the amount of blood lost. Additional tests may be ordered based on your blood count result.

How Is Vomiting Blood Treated?

Depending on the amount of blood lost, you may need a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion replaces your lost blood with donor blood. The blood is fed into your vein through an intravenous (IV) line.

You might also require fluid to be given through an IV to rehydrate your body. Your doctor may provide you with medication to stop vomiting or to decrease stomach acid. If you have an ulcer, your doctor will prescribe medications to treat it. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Such severe cases may include a bleeding ulcer or internal injuries.

If certain foods may increase the likelihood of vomiting blood, your doctor will devise a special diet geared to decrease this risk.

Complications of Vomiting Blood

Choking is the main complication of vomiting blood. Depending on the cause, vomiting blood may cause additional health complications.

Anemia is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells and is another complication of excessive bleeding, particularly when the blood loss is rapid and sudden.

Vomiting blood caused by excessive bleeding can also lead to shock. The following symptoms are indicators of shock:

  • dizziness upon standing
  • rapid breathing
  • shallow breathing
  • low urine output
  • cold, pale skin

If not treated immediately, shock can lead to a decrease in blood pressure followed by coma and death. If you experience any symptoms of shock, have someone take you to the emergency room or call 911.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Bleeding Esophageal Varices

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding esophageal varices occur when swollen veins in your lower esophagus rupture and bleed due to excess pressure. This condition is a medical emergency and must be dealt with promptly.

Read more »



Gastritis is acute or chronic inflammation of the protective lining of the stomach. It's often caused by the bacterium H. pylori, but can also be the result of excessive NSAID, alcohol, or cocaine consumption.

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Most common in boys, intussusception occurs when a portion of the intestines become enfolded, causing a blockage. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stools, and others. It is potentially life-threatening.

Read more »



Cirrhosis is severe scarring and poor function of the liver caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections. Certain medications and disorder can also cause cirrhosis.

Read more »


Stomach Cancer (Gastric Adenocarcinoma)

Gastric cancer, also known as gastric adenocarcinoma, is a cancer that forms inside of the stomach. It is the most common type of stomach cancer worldwide, and most commonly affects men over the age of 40.

Read more »


Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer occurs when a malignant (cancerous) tumor forms in the lining of the esophagus, which is the muscular tube responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach. As the cancer grows, it can affec...

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Medullary Cystic Disease

Medullary cystic kidney disease is a rare condition that causes cysts to form on kidneys. Kidney failure may result, symptoms of which can include changes in skin color and itchy skin.

Read more »


Ebola Virus and Disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ebola disease is a rare, often fatal illness. One of its late-stage symptoms is a bleeding rash over the entire body.

Read more »


Stomach Ulcer

Stomach ulcers are painful sores in the stomach lining or small intestine. They occur when the mucus that protects the stomach from digestive juices is reduced. They are curable but can become severe if not treated.

Read more »


Types of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux symptoms are caused when stomach contents flow up from the stomach back into the esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn, stomach pain, and burping.

Read more »


Alcoholic Liver Disease

Damage to the liver from excessive drinking can lead to ALD. Years of alcohol abuse cause the liver to become inflamed and swollen. This damage can also cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage o...

Read more »



This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding is the name commonly used to describe blood loss. It can refer to blood loss inside the body (internal bleeding) or blood loss outside of the body (external bleeding). Blood loss can occur in almost any area o...

Read more »



Preeclampsia occurs when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and protein in her urine at any point after her 20th week of pregnancy. This condition is also called toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). I...

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Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a serious, potentially deadly flu-like disease spread by mosquitoes. Characterized by a high fever and jaundice, it is most prevalent in certain parts of Africa and South America. The disease is no...

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Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine as a result of erosion from stomach acids. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem, and it is estimated tha...

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Liver Cancer

Liver cancer causes destruction of liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function normally. There are several types, but it is classified in general as being primary or secondary. Primary live...

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Esophagitis is any inflammation or irritation of the esophagus (the tube that sends food from your throat down to your stomach). Common causes include reflux (stomach contents backing up into the esophagus), certai...

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The glomeruli are structures in your kidneys made up of tiny blood vessels. These knots of vessels help filter blood and remove excess fluid. If your glomeruli are damaged, your kidneys will stop longer work properly...

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Kaposi's Sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a cancerous tumor. It commonly appears in multiple locations on the skin and around the nose, mouth, genitals, and/or anus, but can also attack the internal organs. It's caused by a virus calle...

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Christmas Disease (Hemophilia B)

Christmas disease - also called hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia - is a rare genetic disorder in which your blood does not clot properly. If you have Christmas disease, your body produces little or no blood-clottin...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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