Hematemesis is the formal term used to describe vomiting blood. Vomit in the blood is usually a sign of bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and it can be caused by a number of things. It is usually treated as a medical emergency because it can be a complication of some very serious medical conditions, and there are concerns about blood loss. Treatments for hematemesis vary, depending on why the patient is vomiting blood in the first place. Someone who starts to vomit blood should be taken to the hospital.
When the blood is bright red, it means that it has limited contact with the stomach juices. Darker blood has been partially digested in the stomach, and in some cases, hematemesis may look more like coffee grounds due to prolonged exposure to stomach acids. Patients can vomit blood alone, or pass blood with food. Sometimes, hematemesis is combined with melena, in which the stool is dark because it contains blood which has passed through the intestinal tract, and occasionally the patient experiences hematochezia, in which fresh blood is passed with stool.
One reason for a patient to experience hematemesis is because he or she has been vomiting so violently that there are small tears in the esophagus, as for example when someone has had a virulent stomach bug for several days. This condition can also be caused by cancers and ulcers. In a patient with hematemesis, a doctor may recommend a scoping of the esophagus to look for the source of the bleed, so that the bleeding can be stopped and the doctor can develop a long term treatment plan.
Sometimes, people think that they are vomiting blood and they are actually experiencing a nosebleed. Blood from the nose can drip down the back of the throat, causing a gag reflex and subsequent vomiting. Likewise, people may also cough up blood from the lungs, which is an issue of concern, but one which is separate from hematemesis.
In a patient who has lost a lot of blood, transfusion will be recommended to bolster blood volume. Diagnostic tests can be run to find out why the patient is vomiting blood. With a diagnosis, a doctor can make treatment recommendations which will address the problem in the long term. These recommendations can include surgery, medications, and dietary recommendations. The patient may be kept in the hospital until she or he stops vomiting blood and appears stable.