What is hematemesis?

If a person begins to vomit blood, a serious condition known as hematemesis may be indicated. Hematemesis is a very dangerous condition in which a person bleeds internally, and vomits as a result. This condition requires immediate attention by a qualified physician. You need to consider this an emergency. It is very hard to tell if this is a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of hematemesis

Symptoms that suggest a person may be bleeding internally include:

  • brown or black vomit
  • bowel movements that produce dark, tar-like stools

Hematemesis is considered a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment.

What causes hematemesis?

There can be many causes of hematemesis, such as:

  • bleeding ulcers
  • prolonged and vigorous retching that causes tears in the esophageal mucosa (known as Mallory-Weiss Syndrome)
  • gastric or intestinal varices
  • vascular malfunctions of the gastrointestinal tract
  • tumors in the stomach or esophagus
  • gastroenteritis, gastritis, or peptic ulcers┬ácan cause internal bleeding
  • radiation exposure
  • hemorrhagic fever

Other causes that may not be life-threatening include:

  • oral surgery that may cause the swallowing of some blood
  • some nose-bleeds cause blood to enter the digestive tract
  • coughing hard and excessively

While these causes may not be life-threatening, it is difficult to determine the true cause of this condition.

What to tell your doctor

Be prepared to tell your doctor important facts about this condition. The doctor may ask questions such as:

  • Has this ever happened before?
  • When did you first begin vomiting blood?
  • How much blood did you vomit?
  • Was the color bright red, or darker?
  • What medical conditions do you have?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Do you drink alcohol or smoke?


If a patient has minimal blood loss, medication is usually prescribed. If the blood loss is significant, fluids and or blood is administered.

Hematemesis is considered a medical emergency. The blood loss that a person may experience in an episode of hematemesis can be life threatening. The person could go into shock (known as hypovolemic shock) as a result of this bleeding, and possibly even die.