Hematemesis is a Latin word for vomiting blood. The appearance of blood may point to the site of bleeding. For instance, blood originating from the esophagus is fresh and light red while blood coming from the stomach may be dark red and resemble coffee grounds.
One may vomit small amounts of blood or there is profuse bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract. All in all, hematemesis is a sign of serious underlying problem which must be diagnosed and treated promptly.
Causes of Vomiting Blood
There are several medical conditions associated with vomiting blood. For instance, vomiting blood is usually connected with the presence of peptic ulcer. It is also possible for one to vomit blood because of inflammation of the stomach lining. This inflammation is frequently connected with prolonged intake of certain drugs such as NSAIDs. In people suffering from liver cirrhosis, vomiting blood is a sign of esophageal varices, enlarged veins in the esophagus that protrude inside the lumen of the organ and are easily damaged by hard foods. Finally, vomiting blood is always connected with cancers of the esophagus and stomach.
Vomiting Blood and Esophageal Cancer
Vomiting blood is not the main sign of esophageal cancer, but it eventually affects patients suffering from this malignant tumor. Most patients in the beginning complain about swallowing problems while vomiting blood only occurs if cancer grows rapidly. In such case the growth of cancer is not accompanied by adequate growth of blood vessels supplying the tumor with necessary nutrients. Some parts of the tumor become necrotic and the tumor may start to bleed. Bleeding from esophageal cancer is also possible to occur during radiation therapy.
The most significant problem when there is fresh blood coming from the esophagus is that if the bleeding is heavy, it may easily cause lethal outcome. Not so serious bleeding may stop spontaneously or after one is administered some drugs or even thanks to some surgical procedures.
Bleeding from the esophagus in patients suffering from esophageal cancer is not a good prognostic sign and may point to progression of the disease and soon lethal outcome. In spite of that, each and every patient must be treated adequately and with care.
People who have developed an esophagotracheal fistula should fear from esophageal bleeding even more. Namely, in them once the bleeding occurs the blood may easily pass from the esophagus into the trachea and go down into lower portions of the lungs, accumulating in the airway. The presence of large amounts of blood in the airways leads to asphyxiation.