Blood-tinged sputum
Blood-tinged sputum is distinguished from frank hemoptysis—or coughing up blood without or with very little sputum—which can be a p...

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Definition

Blood-tinged sputum expectorated mucous matter from the airways (lungs, nose, mouth or upper airways) that is tinged or streaked with blood. The blood can be either bright red or dark red in color.

Alternative Names

Blood-streaked sputum, sputum contains blood.

Synopsis

Blood-tinged sputum is distinguished from frank hemoptysis—or coughing up blood without or with very little sputum—which 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, or it may a sign of a more serious medical condition, such as pneumonia or a blood clot in the lung, especially if accompanied by other symptoms.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Bronchitis
  • Nosebleed
  • Laryngitis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Acute mountain sickness
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Congestive heart failure
  • 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.

Call your provider if:

Blood-tinged sputum is accompanied by:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Blood in the urine

Call 911 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

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: September 25, 2007
Last Updated: September 30, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
Licensed from
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