Vomiting blood

    Vomiting blood

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    Definition of vomiting blood

    Vomiting blood (hematemesis) refers to significant amounts of blood in your vomit. Small streaks or flecks of blood in material you spit up or cough up isn’t usually considered vomiting blood. Blood in vomit may be bright red, or it may appear black or dark brown like coffee grounds.

    While vomiting blood may be caused by swallowed blood, as from a nosebleed or forceful coughing, truly vomiting blood usually represents something more serious and requires immediate medical attention. Bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine) from peptic ulcers or torn blood vessels is a common cause of vomiting blood. Call 911 if vomiting blood causes dizziness after standing, rapid, shallow breathing or other signs of shock.

    Causes of vomiting blood

    Vomiting blood may be caused by:

    1. Acute liver failure
    2. Alcoholic hepatitis
    3. Aspirin
    4. Benign tumors of the stomach or esophagus
    5. Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
    6. Defects in gastrointestinal tract blood vessels
    7. Dieulafoy’s lesion (an artery that protrudes through the stomach wall)
    8. Duodenitis (inflammation in the first part of the small intestine)
    9. Esophageal cancer
    10. Esophageal varices (enlarged veins in the esophagus)
    11. Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
    12. Gastric erosions (breakdown of tissue lining the stomach)
    13. Gastric varices (enlarged veins in the stomach)
    14. Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
    15. Mallory-Weiss tear (tear in the esophagus associated with pressure caused by vomiting or coughing)
    16. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    17. Pancreatic cancer
    18. Pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation)
    19. Peptic ulcer
    20. Portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the portal vein)
    21. Prolonged or vigorous vomiting
    22. Stomach cancer

    In infants and young children, vomiting blood may also result from:

    1. Birth defects
    2. Blood clotting disorders
    3. Milk allergy
    4. Swallowed blood, such as from the nose
    5. Swallowed object

    When to see a doctor

    Call 911 or emergency medical assistance

    Call 911 if vomiting blood causes signs and symptoms of shock, such as:

    • Rapid, shallow breathing
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness after standing up
    • Blurred vision
    • Fainting
    • Confusion
    • Nausea
    • Cold, clammy, pale skin
    • Low urine output

    Seek immediate medical attention

    Ask someone to drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if you notice blood in your vomit or begin vomiting blood. It’s important to quickly identify the underlying cause of the bleeding and prevent more severe blood loss and other complications.