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What causes blood tinged sputum? 25 possible conditions

Blood-Tinged Sputum Overview

Blood-tinged sputum is expectorated mucous matter from the airways that is tinged or streaked with blood. The blood can be either bright red or dark red in color. It’s also referred to as blood-streaked sputum, or sputum contains blood.

Blood-tinged sputum is different from coughing up blood with or without very little sputum (hemoptysis). Hemoptysis can be a potentially life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. Sputum that is streaked with blood may be due to something as benign as irritation of upper-airway passages due to dry, ambient air. It may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, like pneumonia or a blood clot in the lung, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.

Associated Diagnoses

Associated diagnoses include:

  • bronchitis
  • nosebleed
  • laryngitis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • acute mountain sickness
  • aspiration pneumonia
  • bronchiectasis
  • congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • goodpasture syndrome
  • hookworm infections
  • legionnaire’s disease
  • lung cancer
  • non-small cell carcinoma
  • parrot fever
  • tuberculosis
  • pneumonia
  • pulmonary edema
  • pulmonary embolism
  • mitral stenosis
  • trauma
  • dehydration or dry environmental conditions

Diagnosis and Treatment

It will be important for your doctor to determine that blood is indeed originating from the respiratory tract. A complete history and physical examination will be required, along with diagnostic studies such as a chest x-ray and sputum culture and sensitivity. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

When To Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if blood-tinged sputum is accompanied by:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • persistent cough
  • fever
  • chills
  • night sweats
  • blood in the urine

When To Call 911

Call 911 and seek immediate medical attention if blood-tinged sputum becomes:

  • air hunger or gasping for breath
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • chest pain
  • sweating profusely
  • pain or numbness in the arm, hands, or fingers
  • pallor or blanching of the arm, hands, or fingers
  • dizziness or fainting
  • frank bleeding or coughing up copious blood or blood clots

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Lung Cancer Overview

Lung cancer is a cancer that originates in the lungs. Lung cancer often goes undetected in the early stages, since symptoms don't usually present themselves until the advanced stages of the disease.

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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition that affects the chambers of your heart. CHF refers to fluid buildup around your heart.

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Bronchiectasis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes of the lungs are permanently damaged and enlarged, which causes infections and blockages in the airways, and gives the skin a blue appearance.

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Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is bacteria that that attack your lungs. It is a potentially deadly disease, but it is curable if you get medical help right away and follow your doctor's instructions. The bacterium (germ...

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Pulmonary Edema

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Pulmonary edema is a condition in which the lungs fill with fluid. When this occurs, the body struggles to get enough oxygen, often resulting in breathlessness, coughing, excessive sweating, and bluish skin or lips.

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Mitral Valve Stenosis

Mitral valve stenosis, also known as mitral stenosis, is when the mitral valve opening is narrowed. This means that not enough blood can flow through it.

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Pulmonary Embolism

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that affects blood flow to the lungs. It can damage part of the lung due to restricted blood flow, decrease blood oxygen. The most common symptom is shortness of breath.

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Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer that affects the larynx. The larynx is your voice box and it contains cartilage and muscles that help you talk. This type of cancer can damage your voice. When not treate...

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Chronic Bronchitis

People often develop acute bronchitis after a viral chest infection. Blue-colored lips ankle or foot swelling can result.

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Acute Mountain Sickness

Acute mountain sickness (altitude sickness or high altitude pulmonary edema) occurs in high altitudes, especially when exercising. A lack of oxygen can give the skin and lips a blue tinge.

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Getting a Handle on Aspiration Pneumonia

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Aspiration pneumonia is an inflammation (usually due to an infection) of your lungs and bronchial tubes that occurs after you inhale foreign matter.

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Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a recessive genetic disorder that affects cells that produce mucous, sweat, and digestive juices. It may cause severe problems in the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestine

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Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. General symptoms include chest pain, fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

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Ebola Virus and Disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ebola disease is a rare, often fatal illness. One of its late-stage symptoms is a bleeding rash over the entire body.

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Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, is a fungal infection that starts in the lungs and can potentially spread to the rest of the body. Fever, chills and sweating are common.

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Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is a cancer that affects the thyroid, a gland at the base of the throat that forms an important part of the endocrine system.

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Legionnaires' Disease

Legionnaires' disease is a serious type of lung infection, or pneumonia, caused by bacteria. Fever, chills, cough, and head and muscle aches are common symptoms.

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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. Swelling of the face is one potential sign of lung cancer.

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Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common kind of lung cancer, comprising 85 to 90 percent of lung cancer diagnoses. It does not grow as quickly as the other type of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. A severe and long-lasting cough, fever, and night sweats could indicate an active TB infection.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.