What causes spitting blood?

Spitting blood can be the result of any condition of the digestive or respiratory tracts. Common digestive causes of spitting blood include inflammation or infection, internal injuries caused by trauma, and underlying disease processes such as cancers. Respiratory causes of spitting blood include pneumonia, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and trauma.

Gastrointestinal causes of spitting blood

Spitting blood can be caused by gastrointestinal causes including:

  • Esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus)
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Tooth extraction or dental work

Other causes of spitting blood

Spitting blood can be caused by other conditions including:

  • Bronchitis
  • Congestive heart failure (deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood)
  • Nosebleed
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Tuberculosis (serious infection affecting the lungs and other organs)

Serious or life-threatening causes of spitting blood

In some cases, spitting blood may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Esophageal varices (swollen veins in the esophagus that have the potential to rupture)
  • Internal injury from trauma to either the lungs or gastrointestinal organs
  • Lung cancer
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Perforated peptic ulcer (bleeding stomach or intestinal ulcer)
  • Pulmonary edema (buildup of fluid in the air sacs of the lungs)
  • Stomach cancer

Questions for diagnosing the cause of spitting blood

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your spitting blood including:

  • When did you first notice that you were spitting blood?
  • Can you see blood when you cough up something?
  • Is there blood in your stool?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of spitting blood?

Because spitting blood can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Need for blood transfusion
  • Shock
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


  1. Gastrointestinal bleeding. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003133.htm.
  2. Coughing up blood. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003073.htm.

What is spitting blood?

Spitting up blood indicates the presence of bleeding that may originate in the digestive tract or in the respiratory system. Spitting blood may be caused by many different conditions, and the severity varies among individuals. Spitting blood may accompany vomiting if it is from a gastrointestinal source, or it may occur with coughing if it is from a respiratory source.

Common gast... Read more about spitting bloodintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with spitting blood?

Spitting blood may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with spitting blood

Spitting blood may accompany other symptoms affecting the gastrointestinal system including:

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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