Why Do You Throw Up Blood After Having Alcohol?

Anyone who has ever vomited blood after drinking can relate the fear and worry caused by this condition. Knowing what causes blood in the vomit, what to do about it and when to worry are essential facts to know.

Vomiting blood is called hematemesis in medical terms and is a relatively common occurrence after drinking. This should serve as a "wake-up" call that drinking is becoming problematic. Many novice drinkers will develop a strong aversion to excessive alcohol consumption after an episode of vomiting blood. The causes of bloody vomit range from mild to severe and potentially life threatening.

Symptoms of Throwing up Blood after Drinking

Symptoms can vary depending on the cause and degree of bleeding. Initial symptoms can include burning in the stomach, chest and throat, abdominal cramps, nausea and stomach pain. More serious symptoms include dizziness, weakness, severe pain in the chest, abdomen or back, shortness of breath and large amounts of blood in the vomit, passing out and circulatory shock.

When to see a doctor:

  • Massive bleeding due to vomiting
  • Large amounts of blood in the stool (large clots or maroon color)
  • Severe unrelenting pain
  • Dizziness or passing out
  • Ongoing vomiting with repeated blood with each episode
  • Fever
  • Any patient taking blood thinners (examples include coumadin, Plavix, Pradaxa)

Causes and Treatments of Throwing up Blood after Drinking

1. Gastrointestinal Tract Rupture

Vomiting is a violent act and generates pressure inside the abdomen, chest and specifically the esophagus. The sudden increase in pressure can result in rupture of the GI tract. The most common location of rupture is the esophagus and the contents of vomitus then spill out into the chest. This causes intense inflammation, infection and is fatal without prompt medical treatment.

Symptoms include sudden onset severe chest pain that can radiate to the back, sweating, shortness of breath or abdominal pain. The diagnosis is made based on history, symptoms and a chest x-ray will show abnormal findings giving clues to the diagnosis.

Treatment is emergent surgical repair of the rupture and evacuation of the vomit and food debris from the chest cavity. Antibiotics and supportive care in an intensive care unit (ICU) setting is usually required.

2. Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis results from chronic alcohol consumption, autoimmune diseases and from inherited diseases such as hemachromatosis. The end result is scarring of the liver and an increase in the blood pressure inside the portal (liver) circulation. Blood vessels begin to dilate and form collateral vessels to help return blood to the heart. The esophagus is affected and abnormal vessels called varices form. These abnormal blood vessels are prone to rupture and massive bleeding can ensue.

Symptoms can include vomiting large quantities of bright red blood, weakness and passing out and passage of blood per rectum. Rectal bleeding can cause black or maroon colored stools, but can also be bright red in color from rapid transit through the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment is aimed at stopping bleeding and includes medications and surgical options. Once cirrhosis develops, there is no reversing treatment but alcohol and any offending medications need to be stopped. Aspirin and non-steroidal medications need to be avoided. A low salt diet and

limiting excess protein is beneficial. Specialists can perform additional surgical or interventional procedures to relieve the pressure on the blood vessels and help prevent further bleeding.

3. Ulcer

Why are you throwing up blood after drinking? Because you have ulcer! Alcohol is acidic and irritates the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Excess alcohol intake causes the stomach lining to become inflamed and ulcerations can develop. Small amounts of blood may show up in the

stool initially along with blood if vomiting occurs. The ulcer can

erode deeper into the lining of the stomach or small intestine

resulting in large amounts of blood in the vomit. If an ulcer erodes

into a blood vessel, massive GI bleeding can result.

Common ulcer symptoms include mid-abdominal pain or discomfort in the lower chest. Symptoms may be temporarily relieved with OTC antacids. Pain can awaken the person in the early morning hours. Blood in the stool may occur and causes dark or black stool. Bright red or maroon colored stool implies brisk bleeding and is cause for immediate medical evaluation.

Treatment is avoidance of alcohol and use of OTC anti-inflammatory medications. Prescription therapy with acid reducing medications such

as proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers is helpful. More severe

cases require a procedure called endoscopy. Endoscopy is performed using a fiber optic camera that is passed through the mouth and down the esophagus into the stomach. During the procedure the doctor can inject and cauterize (burn) the vessel to stop the bleeding. Diet and lifestyle modifications are helpful such as avoiding acidic foods, excessive intake of carbonated beverages, taking prescription medications to decrease acid and avoiding alcohol and tobacco use.

4. Gastritis

This is an inflammatory condition that results from a variety of factors such as poor diet, anti-inflammatory medication use, alcohol and excess intake of carbonated beverages. Smoking also contributes to developing gastritis by decreasing the protective mucus secreted by the stomach. A bacterium, H. pylori, also contributes to this problem and is treated with antibiotic therapy if present. Gastritis causes the lining of the stomach to become irritated to such a degree that minor bleeding results. If this becomes more severe, an ulcer can develop and more serious problems can occur.

Lifestyle modifications such as cutting out soda, alcohol, smoking and eating a healthy diet are all important in treating gastritis. H. pylori infections are eradicated with antibiotic therapy combined with prescription strength acid reducing medications. Other medications such as antacids, proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers are all effective in treating gastritis.

5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Excess alcohol causes irritation of the stomach and intestinal lining.

Alcohol is a weak acid and excessive intake can lead to damage of the protective mucus in the stomach.

Symptoms are similar to gastritis and ulcer including pain, acid reflux, and nausea and vomiting. Dizziness, lightheadedness, abdominal pain and fatigue also occur. Prolonged excess alcohol leads to cirrhosis, pancreatitis and can also affect the heart.

Treatment is stopping drinking, eating a proper diet, maintaining hydration and using OTC antacids.

6. Medication/Drug Side Effects

Anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen all can lead to irritation and bleeding. Blood can be noted if vomiting occurs. These OTC medications decrease the mucus production and directly irritate the stomach lining. Aspirin also inhibits blood clotting by interfering with platelet function. Platelets are the blood cells that help with clot formation.

Now you have known the casues and consequences of throwing up blood after drinking, so do not neglect this issue. Seek medical help whenever necessary and quit alcohol if needed!

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