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What causes vomiting blood? 25 possible conditions

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.



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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.

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Cirrhosis is the severe scarring and poor function of the liver caused by long-term exposure to toxins such as alcohol or viral infections.

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Stomach Cancer (Gastric Adenocarcinoma)

Stomach cancer occurs when cancerous cells form in the stomach lining. Because it's difficult to detect, it's often not diagnosed until it's more advanced.

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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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Acute Gastritis

Acute gastritis is a sudden inflammation or swelling in the lining of the stomach. It causes severe and nagging pain. Fortunately, the pain usually only lasts for a short time. Acute...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus that can be caused by acid reflux or certain medications. You may develop a sore throat or heartburn.

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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.

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Peptic Ulcer

Peptic ulcers are painful sores in the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or small intestine. Peptic ulcers are a fairly common health problem.

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Liver Cancer

Liver cancer causes destruction of liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function normally. Cancer that originates in the liver can spread from the liver to other parts of the body.

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Hepatic Vein Thrombosis (Budd-Chiari Syndrome)

Hepatic vein thrombosis (HVT) is an obstruction in the veins of the liver caused by a blood clot. This condition blocks blood flow from the liver to the heart. Without proper blood flow, the liver stops getting th...

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Acquired Platelet Function Disorder

Platelets are a type of blood cell. They play an important role in healing from injuries. Platelets help your body to form blood clots and stop bleeding. Some people’s platelets don’t function the way the...

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Glomerulonephritis is a serious illness that can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment. The condition is sometimes called nephritis.

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Christmas Disease (Hemophilia B)

Also called hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia, Christmas disease is a rare genetic disorder in which your blood does not clot properly. A common symptom is unexplained or excessive bruising.

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Preeclampsia is a condition in which a pregnant women has high blood pressure and protein in her urine after the 20th week of pregnancy. Abnormal swelling of the face and hands can be a sign of preeclampsia.

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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.

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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...

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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.