Mallory-Weiss Tear

What is a Mallory-Weiss tear?

Your esophagus is the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. It plays a vital role in digestion. Sometimes, violent coughing or vomiting can tear the tissue of your lower esophagus and it can start to bleed. The condition is called a Mallory-Weiss tear.

What causes a Mallory-Weiss tear?

A Mallory-Weiss tear is most often caused from violent coughing or vomiting. Less common causes are a hiatal hernia, or childbirth, which can increase pressure in your abdomen.

What are the symptoms of a Mallory-Weiss tear?

It can be hard to tell that you have a Mallory-Weiss tear and that you are bleeding inside. But, you may have some of these signs and symptoms:

  • Vomit that is bright red or that looks like coffee grounds
  • Black or tar-like stools
  • Stools with blood present
  • Weakness, dizziness, faintness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Paleness
  • Abdominal or chest pain

How is a Mallory-Weiss tear diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of a Mallory-Weiss tear, your healthcare provider may check your stool for blood. Your doctor may also do an endoscopy. For this test, your doctor inserts a flexible tube through your mouth, down into your esophagus. A camera at the end of the tube lets the doctor to see the tear inside of your esophagus.

How is a Mallory-Weiss tear treated?

A Mallory-Weiss tear will stop bleeding and begin to heal on its own in most cases. Sometimes you will need treatment. An endoscope may be used to give you an injection or a heat treatment to stop the bleeding, or insert a clip that closes the tear and stops the bleeding.

What are the complications of a Mallory-Weiss tear?

In rare instances, a Mallory-Weiss tear leads to severe internal bleeding. You get a rapid pulse, a drop in blood pressure, problem producing urine, and shock. If bleeding goes untreated, it may result in anemia with fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Can a Mallory-Weiss tear be prevented?

There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent a Mallory-Weiss tear. Avoiding situations that cause violent vomiting (such as the stomach flu) or coughing (such as smoking), can help lessen your risk.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Blood in your vomit or stool is a serious symptom that calls for urgent medical attention. If you notice any of the symptoms of a Mallory-Weiss tear, contact your healthcare provider right away.

Key points

  • A Mallory-Weiss tear is a tear of the tissue of your lower esophagus.
  • It is most often caused by violent coughing or vomiting.
  • A Mallory-Weiss tear can be diagnosed and treated during an endoscopic procedure.
  • If the tear is not treated, it can lead to anemia, fatigue, shortness of breath, and even shock.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.

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