What is Mallory-Weiss tear?
Severe and prolonged vomiting can result in tears in the lining of the esophagus, which is the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Mallory-Weiss syndrome (MWS), or Mallory-Weiss tear, is a type of disease that marked by a tear in the mucous membrane, or inner lining, where the esophagus meets the stomach. Most tears heal within 7 to 10 days without treatment, but Mallory-Weiss tears can cause significant bleeding and depending on the severity of the tear, surgery may be necessary to repair the damage.
How common is Mallory-Weiss tear?
MWS is more common in males than females. It occurs more often in people with alcoholism. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, people between the ages of 40 and 60 are more likely to develop this condition. However, there are cases of Mallory-Weiss tears in children and young adults.
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of Mallory-Weiss tear?
The common symptoms of Mallory-Weiss tear are:
- Abdominal pain
- Severe vomiting
- Vomiting up blood, which is called hematemesis
- Involuntary retching
- Bloody or black stools
- Blood in the vomit will be dark and clotted, but sometimes it can be red, which indicates it is fresh. It will look like coffee grounds. Blood that appears in the stool will be dark and look like tar. If you have these symptoms, seek immediate emergency care. In some cases, blood loss from MWS is substantial and can be life-threatening.
It is noticed that MWS doesn’t always produce symptoms. This is more common in mild cases when tears of the esophagus create only a small amount of bleeding and heal quickly without treatment.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes Mallory-Weiss tear?
It is believed that the most common cause of MWS is severe or prolonged vomiting. While this type of vomiting frequently happens with illness, it also occurs due to chronic alcohol abuse or bulimia.
Although frequent vomiting typically is considered as the primary cause of MWS, there are some other conditions that can lead to a tear of the esophagus. These may include:
- Trauma to the chest or abdomen
- Severe or prolonged hiccups
- Intense coughing
- Heavy lifting or straining
- Gastritis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach
- A hiatal hernia, which occurs when part of your stomach pushes through part of your diaphragm
- Receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can also lead to a tear of the esophagus.
What increases my risk for Mallory-Weiss tear?
There are many risk factors for Mallory-Weiss tear, such as:
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, which is a rare disorder in which small tumors create excess stomach acids that lead to chronic ulcers
- Chronic erosive gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach lining that causes ulcer-like lesions
- Perforation of the esophagus
- A peptic ulcer
- Boerhaave’s syndrome, which is a rupture of the esophagus due to vomiting
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is Mallory-Weiss tear diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. If your symptoms manifest active bleeding in the esophagus, your doctor may do what is called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). You’ll need to take a sedative and a painkiller to prevent any discomfort during this procedure. Your doctor will insert a small, flexible tube with a attached camera, called an endoscope, down the esophagus and into the stomach. This can enable your doctor to see your esophagus and identify the location of the tear.
Your doctor will likely also order a complete blood count (CBC) to confirm the number of red blood cells. Your red blood cell count may be low if you have bleeding in the esophagus. Your doctor will be able to determine if you have MWS based on the findings from these tests.
How is Mallory-Weiss tear treated?
Fortunately, the bleeding that results from tears in the esophagus will automatically stop on its own in about 80 to 90 percent of MWS cases. This typically occurs in a few days and doesn’t require treatment.
Some other serious treatment options may include:
You may need surgery if the bleeding doesn’t stop on its own.
Surgical options include the following:
- Injection therapy, or sclerotherapy, delivers medication to the tear to close off the blood vessel and stop the bleeding.
- Coagulation therapy delivers heat to the torn vessel, sealing it off.
- Arteriography identifies the bleeding vessel and plugs it to stop the bleeding.
- Extensive blood loss may require the use of transfusions to replace lost blood.
Medications are used to reduce stomach acid production, such as famotidine (Pepcid) or lansoprazole (Prevacid) may also be necessary. However, the effectiveness of these medications is still under debate.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Mallory-Weiss tear?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Mallory-Weiss tear:
- If you have a blood disorder such as hemophilia that prevents your blood from clotting normally, you also may have recurrent bleeding.
- It’s important to treat conditions that cause long episodes of severe vomiting to prevent MWS. Excessive alcohol use and cirrhosis can trigger recurring episodes of MWS. Avoid alcohol and talk to your doctor about ways to manage your condition to prevent future episodes.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 22, 2017 | Last Modified: December 4, 2019
Mallory-Weiss tear. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/187134-overview . Accessed January 17, 2017.
Mallory-Weiss tear. http://www.healthline.com/health/mallory-weiss-tear#Overview1 . Accessed January 17, 2017.
Mallory-Weiss tear. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mallory%E2%80%93Weiss_syndrome . Accessed January 17, 2017.