Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that typically involves cycles of bingeing and purging. When blood comes up during vomiting, it may indicate throat damage or other complications.

Bulimia can affect people of all ages and genders. However, it is particularly common among teenage and young adult women. This condition typically involves eating large amounts of food and then getting rid of this food through purging.

Purging may involve taking laxatives or diuretics, exercising excessively, or self-induced vomiting. Self-induced vomiting can lead to serious health effects. Damage to the throat and esophagus can cause bleeding during vomiting.

This article further discusses blood when purging. It goes over what causes it, how long it takes for esophageal damage to occur, and how to treat it.

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Bleeding when vomiting can occur for a wide range of reasons. In some cases, people with bulimia use an object, such as a finger or toothbrush, to induce vomiting.

This can damage the soft tissues inside the mouth. If this occurs, blood that comes up during vomiting may originate from mouth injuries.

Repeated vomiting can also damage the esophagus over time. Some people may experience esophageal tears or, in rare cases, a ruptured esophagus. Damage to the esophagus can also cause blood to appear during vomiting.

People with bulimia also have a higher risk of dental complications, such as tooth sensitivity, mouth ulcers, or bleeding gums. Blood that comes from dental complications like these may also appear when vomiting.

Blood that comes up during vomiting may indicate a condition other than bulimia. For example, it may be a sign of:

Anyone experiencing bleeding while vomiting should contact a healthcare professional.

Learn more about bulimia.

If blood appears while vomiting, it may result from esophageal varices. These are enlarged veins found in the esophagus. They typically occur in people with cirrhosis, or liver scarring.

In many cases, esophageal varices do not cause symptoms. However, leaking or rupturing of these veins can cause severe bleeding.

Esophageal varices lead to bleeding in 25–40% of cases. If this happens, it can cause blood to come up during vomiting. It can also affect the appearance of stool. Bright red blood in the stool, or stool with a black and tarry appearance, may occur.

Learn more about esophageal varices.

Ongoing vomiting can damage the esophagus over time. People with bulimia have a heightened risk of severe esophageal complications, such as rupture of the esophagus, although it is rare.

The amount of time it takes for bulimia to damage the esophagus varies between people. In one case study, researchers examined an adult male with a 17-year history of bulimia. They found evidence of a condition known as Barrett esophagus.

This condition involves changes to the cells that line the esophagus. People with Barrett esophagus have an increased risk of certain types of esophageal cancer. This is a rare complication of bulimia that takes many years to develop.

In another case, a young woman with a 6-year history of bulimia received medical care for a growth in her esophagus. This growth contained cancerous cells. Doctors successfully treated it.

Frequent vomiting can also damage the esophagus, which leads to gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). Like other esophageal complications, this type of damage develops gradually over time.

The time it takes for esophageal damage to occur depends on the person and the severity of their condition. Seeking care for bulimia can help prevent these serious complications.

Experts recommend anyone who notices blood while vomiting to contact a healthcare professional.

People with bulimia may experience bleeding as a result of the condition. However, vomiting blood can also indicate other serious conditions, including alcohol-related liver disease and hemophilia.

People who experience bleeding during vomiting may need emergency medical care if they also:

  • have stomach pain
  • pass black stools
  • begin to breathe shallowly or rapidly
  • feel dizzy or lightheaded
  • experience confusion

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if these symptoms occur while vomiting blood.

Treating esophageal damage may involve surgical intervention in certain cases. Surgical treatment options may include:

  • esophagectomy
  • T-tube diversion
  • esophageal stenting

The right treatment option depends on the type of esophageal damage. For example, treating Barrett esophagus may involve:

  • medications, such as omeprazole or lansoprazole
  • endoscopic mucosal resection
  • endoscopic ablative therapies

To learn more about treating esophageal damage, a person can speak with a doctor. They can recommend the most effective treatment option.

Finding help for bulimia can involve many types of healthcare professionals.

For instance, a nutritionist or dietitian can help analyze any nutrient deficiencies and recommend an eating plan. A doctor can prescribe medications that may help address bulimia symptoms.

Different types of therapy can also help treat bulimia symptoms, such as:

Certain thoughts and feelings can exacerbate the cycle of bingeing and purging. An experienced and qualified mental health professional can help a person manage their mental health in a safe environment.

No two recovery journeys are the same. Recovering from bulimia may involve a combination of different treatments.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about purging.

What does a purge do to your body?

Purging through self-induced vomiting causes an extreme loss of fluids from the body. This can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can affect heart rate, blood pressure, and kidney health.

Purging can also impair electrolyte levels, damage teeth, and lead to mouth sores.

Is purging good for your stomach?

Frequent vomiting can cause many stomach problems. It can slow digestion, which may trigger bloating or stomach discomfort. Purging can also make it hard to recognize hunger cues and distinguish between feeling hungry and full.

Does purging burn fat?

Most people with bulimia do not lose weight by purging. Purging through vomiting can have a negative effect on metabolism, the gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine system.

Purging is not an effective or safe weight loss strategy. It can lead to serious health effects.

People with bulimia typically experience cycles of bingeing and purging. These cycles involve consuming large amounts of food and then purging these foods from the body. A common purging method involves vomiting. It can cause harm to other parts of the body.

When blood comes up during vomiting, it may indicate damage to the esophagus or soft tissues in the mouth. It might also occur because of dental complications, such as bleeding gums.

Anyone who notices blood while vomiting should contact a healthcare professional. The person may be experiencing a complication of bulimia.

Bleeding can also indicate another serious medical condition. Only a healthcare professional can identify what is causing the bleeding and how to treat it.