The color of the vomited blood varies depending on how long the blood was in your gastrointestinal (GI) system. If you have a delay in vomiting, the blood will appear dark red, brown, or black. The presence of clotted blood within the vomit will make it look like coffee grounds.
This is a serious condition, and it requires immediate medical attention. Be sure to note the time and amount you vomited, and anything that might have caused the vomiting. If possible, you should take a sample of the vomit to your doctor for further testing.
Get emergency medical care as soon as you begin vomiting blood. Call 911 or local emergency services if you’re vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds and you’re also experiencing:
- unusually pale skin, or pallor
- chest pain
- bright red blood or large clots in the vomit
- severe abdominal pain
Coffee ground vomitus can occur due to various conditions, including gastric ulcers, esophageal varices related to cirrhosis, or gastritis. If you have this symptom, get medical attention as soon as possible to get an accurate diagnosis.
Some other possible causes of coffee ground vomitus include:
- stomach and esophageal problems related to cirrhosis from alcohol abuse, viral hepatitis, autoimmune diseases, or fatty liver disease
- cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, or stomach
- diseases such as Ebola virus infection, hemophilia B, or yellow fever
Coffee ground vomitus is often an indicator of GI bleeding. You should always see your doctor for an exam if you experience it.
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms, other health conditions, and medications you may be taking. After reviewing your medical history and performing a physical exam, your doctor will order one or more tests to determine the cause of the bleeding.
- Gastric occult blood testing is a test your doctor can use to look for blood in the vomitus.
- An upper GI endoscopy is a procedure in which your doctor inserts a small flexible scope with a camera down your esophagus.
- A barium study is a special X-ray that uses a contrast dye called barium, which you’ll swallow, to help your doctor identify problems in your GI tract.
- Liver function studies are blood tests that can help your doctor identify any diseases or damage to your liver.
- Fecal occult blood testing is a test that can detect blood in your stool.
- During a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, your doctor inserts a small scope with a camera through your anus and into the colon and rectum.
Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on these tests and begin a treatment plan to address your underlying condition.