What is coughing blood?

Coughing blood is the production of blood or bloody mucus from the respiratory tract, which includes the lungs and main air passages. Coughing up blood from the respiratory tract is also called hemoptysis.

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The most common causes of coughing blood are bronchitis, lung cancer, pneumonia, tuberculosis, lung abscess, bronchiectasis (inflammation of the airways), and pulmonary embolism (blockage of the main lung artery). However, even medical tests and procedures can lead to coughing up blood, such as a bronchoscopy, respiratory tract biopsy, or tonsillectomy.

A bloody cough is usually bubbly or frothy because it is mixed with air and mucus from the lungs. You may have large amounts of blood (one or more teaspoons) or the mucus may appear streaked with blood, which can be bright red, pink, or brick-colored.

From a clinical perspective, a physician will first determine if you are truly coughing up blood from the lungs or if the blood is coming from the gastrointestinal tract (stomach or esophagus) or the upper airway (throat and nasal passages). Blood from the throat due to a violent, unrelenting cough (spitting blood), or the gastrointestinal tract due to a bleeding peptic ulcer is not the same as coughing up blood.

If you are coughing blood with chest pain, dizziness, fever, lightheadedness, or bloody stools or urine you should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. In addition to these types of symptoms, you should seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you are coughing up large amounts of blood (several teaspoons with each cough) and bleeding that won’t stop since these are medical emergencies. You should contact a medical professional any time you cough up blood or if you are concerned about the color, consistency, or amount of liquid or mucus produced from your cough.


What other symptoms might occur with coughing blood?

You may experience other symptoms while coughing blood, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. These symptoms may affect body systems other than the respiratory tract, such as the circulatory system and the digestive tract.

Other symptoms that may occur along with coughing blood

Coughing blood may occur with other symptoms including:

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What causes coughing blood?

A number of different respiratory conditions, diseases and disorders can cause coughing blood, many of which are serious, life-threatening situations. However, the source of the blood may be difficult to distinguish in some cases. Blood that is not coming from the lungs may be spit up from the throat or nose. Blood can also be swallowed and regurgitated from the stomach. 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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