Vomiting Blood: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Severe vomiting or a high amount of vomiting can tear blood vessels in the throat, or damage to the esophagus or stomach. This can cause blood to come out with the vomit. Getting medical attention immediately when vomiting blood is advisable. In addition to tears in the esophagus, vomiting blood could be a symptom of issues like internal bleeding, tumors, organ damage from viruses (also called "hemorrhagic fever"), or ulcers, among other conditions.

This article covers the possible causes of vomiting blood, how vomiting blood is treated and diagnosed, the complications and risks of vomiting blood, and when to get help.

Man talking to doctor

andresr / Getty Images

Symptoms of Vomiting Blood

Blood that appears in vomit may look like:

  • Dark or light red or brown blood with food
  • Blood without food
  • Dark coffee-ground-like pellets

Causes of Vomiting Blood

Vomiting blood can be a result of long periods of vomiting or part of an underlying health issue. Common causes of vomiting blood are:

  • Gastritis, or when the stomach's lining is swollen: Causes of gastritis include bacterial infection, heavy alcohol use, or over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Ulcers in the stomach, esophagus, or intestine: Stomach ulcers are sores in the stomach's walls caused by acid that is meant to digest food. They can be caused by bacteria or over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Acid reflux or heartburn: Acid reflux occurs when the esophagus doesn't close completely, and food that goes into the stomach goes back into the esophagus, causing irritation.
  • Esophagus damage from long periods of vomiting or coughing.

Other causes of vomiting blood include:

  • Bleeding veins in the esophagus and stomach: Liver damage can cause swollen veins that can bleed with vomiting.
  • Tears in blood vessels in the throat: Long periods of vomiting can tear blood vessels in the throat.

What Medications Can Cause Vomiting Blood?

Medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may cause gastritis or ulcers that could lead to vomiting blood. Blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) can also cause vomiting or coughing that may include bright or dark blood.

How to Treat Vomiting Blood

If blood appears in someone's vomit, seeking help immediately is advisable, including an emergency room visit. In an emergency situation, treatment for vomiting blood might require:

  • Blood transfusions
  • Fluids
  • Surgery
  • Medications for stomach acid
  • Oxygen

To treat underlying health issues that can cause blood in vomit, a healthcare professional might recommend or prescribe:

  • Avoiding NSAIDs like aspirin or ibuprofen to prevent ulcers, acid buildup, or damage to the GI tract
  • Antacid medication to reduce stomach acid (like Prilosec, Pepcid, or Zantac)
  • Antibiotics to kill stomach bacteria that might cause ulcers or medications to prevent or treat ulcers
  • Changing lifestyle habits to treat stomach acid, like quitting smoking, dietary changes, or elevating the head when sleeping
  • Medications to protect the lining of the esophagus from acid reflux and irritation

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Vomiting Blood


If left untreated, conditions like stomach ulcers and gastritis can also result in life-threatening blood loss. Vomiting blood could also result in complications like:

  • Ulcers causing scarring, which can block the stomach from releasing food, or holes in the stomach or intestine
  • Higher risk of gastric cancer in the case of untreated gastritis
  • In the case of acid reflux, the esophagus could become damaged, which could increase the likelihood of cancer

You might be more likely to experience vomiting blood if:

  • You've experienced vomiting that has been occurring for a long time
  • You use pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin (NSAIDs) in excess
  • You're taking blood-thinning medications
  • You have an increased risk of acid because of susceptibility to some foods (like coffee, alcohol, tomatoes, or chocolate), being overweight, smoking, stress, or pregnancy

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Vomiting Blood?

In the case of vomiting blood, a healthcare professional might diagnose the cause via:

  • Questions about diet, lifestyle, and the timeline of the bleeding
  • Blood tests to check for blood count and chemistry
  • Liver function tests: Blood tests to measure proteins and enzymes in the liver, which may indicate disease
  • EGD (upper endoscopy): Inserting a tube with a tiny camera into the GI tract for examination
  • A rectal examination: This can include using a tube with a camera to examine the colon's contents
  • Inserting a tube through the nose to test for blood in the stomach by using a suction device
  • X-rays

When to See a Healthcare Provider for Vomiting Blood

If you notice blood in your own or someone else's vomit, get medical attention immediately or go to an emergency room, especially with the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness, fainting, or feelings of confusion or being unwell
  • Changes in breathing
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Stomachache
  • Black stools

Summary

Vomiting blood can occur with or without food. The condition can sometimes be the result of vomiting for a long time, which can result in torn blood vessels in the throat or damage to the GI tract, which includes the stomach, esophagus, and intestines. Causes of vomiting blood could also include health conditions like acid reflux, damage to the stomach or esophagus, liver problems, ulcers, gastritis, or medications like aspirin or ibuprofen or other (NSAIDs).

To diagnose the causes behind vomiting blood, a blood test, liver function test, or endoscopy (inserting a tube with a camera into the esophagus) might be necessary.

A Word From Verywell

If you see blood in vomit from yourself or a loved one, do seek medical attention immediately. Vomiting blood could indicate a dangerous condition, like internal bleeding, or it could result in blood loss or shock that can be life-threatening. The good news is that some conditions, like acid reflux or ulcers, can be helped with lifestyle changes and medications. However, blood in vomit should be treated as an urgent matter for which immediate medical attention is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes vomiting blood?

    Vomiting blood can sometimes be a result of vomiting for a long time, which can affect blood vessels in the throat or the lining of the GI tract (the stomach, esophagus or feeding tube, and intestines). Sometimes, acid reflux can damage the esophagus, which can cause bleeding, and liver damage can also lead to coughing up blood. Excess use of ibuprofen, aspirin, and other similar painkillers can also cause blood in vomit. Ulcers, which are sores in the stomach caused by acid can also cause it.

  • Can spicy food or stress cause vomiting blood?

    Though spicy food or stress can cause discomfort from acid reflux or an ulcer, it is not the primary cause of vomiting blood.

  • Can vomiting blood be dangerous?

    If you or a loved one experiences vomiting blood, getting medical attention immediately is advisable, including if that means a trip to the emergency department. This is because vomiting blood could be caused by internal bleeding that could be life-threatening. It could also result in excessive blood loss, which can necessitate a blood transfusion or oxygen.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Vomiting blood.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are VHFs?

  3. MUSC Health. Hematemesis.

  4. MedlinePlus. Gastritis.

  5. MedlinePlus. Peptic ulcer.

  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment for GER & GERD.

  7. MedlinePlus. Blood thinners.

  8. MedlinePlus. Esophagitis.

  9. Northwestern Medicine. GERD symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

  10. NHS. Heartburn and acid reflux.

  11. MedlinePlus. Liver function tests.

  12. MedlinePlus. Endoscopy.

  13. MedlinePlus. Sigmoidoscopy.

  14. NHS. Vomiting blood.

  15. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & causes of GER & GERD.

By Neha Kashyap
Neha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health care technologies, paying for health care, and simple measures that we all can take to work toward better health.