What causes vomiting blood?

Vomiting blood can result from many different conditions. Common causes of gastrointestinal bleeding include inflammation, infection, and underlying disease processes such as malignancy.

Vomiting blood may be caused by conditions in the esophagus such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) or esophageal varices (swollen veins in the esophagus). Sometimes, a severe nosebleed can result in vomiting blood if the blood flows into the back of the throat and causes retching. Vomiting blood may also occur from internal injuries to the organs in the digestive tract following trauma.

Common causes of vomiting blood

Common causes of vomiting blood include:

  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Peptic ulcer

Other causes of vomiting blood

Other causes of vomiting blood include:

  • Bleeding disorders, such as hemophilia or von Willebrand’s disease
  • Nosebleed (epistaxis)
  • Mallory-Weiss tear (laceration in the lining of the esophagus)
  • Medication effects (caused by medications such as warfarin, clopidogrel)

Serious or life-threatening causes of vomiting blood

In some cases, vomiting blood may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Esophageal varices (swollen veins in the esophagus that have the potential to rupture)
  • Internal injury from trauma
  • Perforated peptic ulcer (bleeding stomach or intestinal ulcer)
  • Stomach cancer

Questions for diagnosing the cause of vomiting blood

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your vomiting blood including:

  • Have you been vomiting before the bleeding started?
  • When did you first begin vomiting blood?
  • Did you vomit material that looks like coffee grounds?
  • Have you ever had an ulcer, such as a peptic ulcer or a duodenal ulcer?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • How much alcohol do you consume?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of vomiting blood?

Because vomiting blood can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Need for blood transfusion
  • Recurrent bleeding
  • Shock
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection
  • Stomach cancer
  • Stomach wall perforation


  1. Gastrointestinal bleeding. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003133.htm.
  2. Bleeding in the digestive tract. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bleeding/.
  3. Laine L, Jensen DM. Management of patients with ulcer bleeding. Am J Gastroenterol 2012; 107:345.
  4. De Berardis G, Lucisano G, D'Ettorre A, et al. Association of aspirin use with major bleeding in patients with and without diabetes. JAMA 2012; 307:2286.
  5. Collins RD. Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2012.

What is vomiting blood?

Vomiting blood indicates the presence of bleeding in the digestive tract. The bleeding comes from the upper part of the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and part of the small intestine.

Vomiting blood may be caused by many different conditions, and the severity varies among individuals. The material vomited may be bright red or it may be dark colored like coffee... Read more about vomiting bloodintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with vomiting blood?

Vomiting blood may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with vomiting blood

Vomiting blood may accompany other symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal system including:
Read more about vomiting bloodsymptoms

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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