Coughing up blood can be a rather confusing (and alarming) symptom. On one hand, it can be caused simply from bleeding in the mouth or nasal area. Blood from these areas becomes mixed with the mucous or phlegm that is coming up from the respiratory tract, giving the appearance of blood in phlegm matter, without necessarily disclosing the origin. Oddly enough, it is also not uncommon for blood tinged phlegm to be found in people who are suffering from certain types of gastrointestinal troubles as well, even though it may seem to be related to a cough or respiratory illness. However, there are some characteristics of bloody phlegm that can make it easier to tell where it is coming from.
When bloody mucus is present, signs that point to disease and other health conditions as opposed to bleeding from the gums or gut include color and consistency. When blood comes from a cough, it may take on a bubbly or airy appearance. This is because the combination of mucus mixed with blood and air can create a fluffier and frothier consistency. Additionally, bloody mucus may show streaks that are very bright in characteristic red color, if not littered throughout. Of course, a deeper and more closely resembling rust color is also not unusual. There are a great many conditions that may commonly or rarely lead to blood in phlegm, but we have detailed ten of the most common below. The majority of them is related to respiratory conditions and disease and are either directly related to conditions of the lungs or very intimately connected.
Emphysema literally refers to the outright destruction of the delicate sacs of air that are found in the lungs. As time goes on, the damage becomes more and more severe, eventually leading to a noticeable decrease in the ability to breathe. Later destruction in the form of the actual fibers that hold the air sacs in place can lead to even more difficult breathing. Emphysema is one of the most common health conditions known for producing COPD signs and symptoms. As such, it is no wonder that the majority of emphysema symptoms are related to breathing difficulty. Aside from blood in phlegm, which often occurs as a later symptom of the condition, other emphysema symptoms include a decrease in mental alertness, gray or blue fingernails, rapid heartbeat and extreme shortness of breath.
2. Mitral Valve Stenosis
The name of this condition does very little to describe the physiological effects of it (which is often shortened to mitral stenosis). Essentially, the condition refers to the narrowing of the mitral valve of the heart, which in turn can block blood flow. One of the most common causes of mitral valve stenosis is rheumatic fever. Mitral stenosis symptoms vary but most often include swollen ankles and feat, palpitations of the heart, shortness of breath and a tendency to develop more common respiratory illnesses more frequently. Of course, blood in phlegm is also a common sign of the condition.
Pneumonia refers most commonly to a community acquired condition characterized by an infection of the lung (or, lungs). It can be caused by fungi, bacteria or viruses and can be contracted by breathing in or coming into contact with some of the germs that can cause it. Pneumonia symptoms vary from person to person based on several factors such as their overall health and the severity and duration of their illness. Most commonly, fever, chills and shaking, shortness of breath, and a greenish color or blood in phlegm along with a cough. Other less common pneumonia symptoms or those associated with more severe occurrences of the condition include stabbing chest pain, headaches and confusion.
4. Lung Cancer
When cancer begins specifically in the lungs, it is referred to as lung cancer. Those who smoke are at a higher risk of developing the condition, although chemical exposure, alcohol use and the presence of preexisting conditions like emphysema can also increase the likelihood of the formation of one of the many types of lung cancer. Lung cancer symptoms are normally not present until the disease has worsened, with the early stages often devoid of any type of visible symptoms. However, bone and chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing and hoarseness and headaches are not uncommon. Of course, some of the more characteristic symptoms include a new or worsening cough, a “smoker’s cough” or one that is persistent, or blood in phlegm from coughing up small amounts of blood.
5. Pulmonary Embolism
When a blood clot, air, fat or even tumor cells cause a blockage in an artery found within the lungs, the condition is known as a pulmonary embolism or embolus. While blood clots are among the more common pulmonary embolism causes, parasites and even amniotic fluid have been associated with causing embolisms. More common than not however, pulmonary emboli result from deep vein thrombosis, where a blood clot that forms in the lower parts of the legs and becomes dislodged, only to migrate upwards and become lodged again, in the arteries of the lungs. Typically, aside from coughs that may or may not contain blood in phlegm and mucus matter, the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include an increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing and shortness of breath. Sometimes less commonly dizziness, sweating and blue skin may appear.
6. Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Although pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) may seem very similar to pneumonia, it is different in many ways. For starters, the lung infection is specifically related to one type of bacterium, known as M. tuberculosis. Additionally, this bacterium may lie dormant for long periods of time, only becoming active days or even weeks after the initial contact with the bacteria. Infants, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop serious cases of pulmonary tuberculosis. Weight loss, fever, fatigue, sweating, chest pain, wheezing and difficulty breathing are some of the most common symptoms of the condition. However, mucus laden coughing and, that which contains blood in phlegm matter, can also occur with pulmonary TB.[/learn_more]
Bronchitis occurs in two forms, acute (occurring for short periods of time) or chronic (occurring frequently for longer periods of time). While both forms of the condition (characterized by the inflammation and swelling of the airways that lead to the lungs) are known for producing mucus producing coughs, the latter (or the even more serious obstructive chronic bronchitis) is associated with blood containing phlegm or mucus. Aside from this telltale slimy symptom, fever, fatigue and wheezing are all not uncommon with bronchitis. And, chest pain and discomfort are also related to the condition.
8. Systemic Lupus Erythematosis
Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) is neither a lung, nor a heart condition. Thus, its relationship to bloody phlegm may seem somewhat muddled. However, the autoimmune condition actually boasts a rather wide range of symptoms that span nearly every physiological system of the body, including the respiratory tract. Symptoms of the predominantly female condition include fever and fatigue, loss of hair, sores in the mouth, nervous condition symptoms, skin symptoms and arrhythmia. Additionally, blood in phlegm has also been known to occur in people with SLE.
9. Pulmonary Edema
When fluid builds up in the sacs that are supposed to contain air in the lungs, the result is pulmonary edema, and it is commonly associated with congestive heart failure. The condition is characterized by the heart’s inability to pump blood throughout the body as it should, which can lead to backups in the veins, which can push fluid into the spaces in the lungs that are normally supposed to be filled with air. Aside from anxiety, restlessness and decreased levels of alertness, other symptoms of a pulmonary edema include sweating, pale skin and wheezing or gurgling noises while breathing. Of course, blood in phlegm or even coughs producing bloody froth may occur.
10. Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease that is characterized by the formation and buildup of mucus in the G.I. tract, lungs, and elsewhere throughout. The mucus is often thick and sticky and although it is very common, it is considered to be a serious and life threatening condition. Because cystic fibrosis can affect so many parts of the body, symptoms vary widely. When the G.I. tract is affected, abdominal pain and nausea may persist. When the respiratory system is affected, congestion and coughing up blood may occur. A full inventory of symptoms however, will vary greatly from person to person.