Is Phlegm with Blood a Symptom of a Serious Disease?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Phlegm with blood can occasionally be a sign of a serious disease, but is often the product of minor bleeding in the respiratory system. This condition occurs whenever an individual sees streaks of blood in their spittle, typically following a coughing fit. If a person sees blood in their phlegm, he or she should contact a doctor immediately. Most serious illnesses in which bleeding in the lungs occurs are also accompanied by additional recognizable symptoms that can help doctors identify the source of the disease.

This symptom primarily indicates that there is blood somewhere along the respiratory tract, which includes the nose, sinus cavities, throat, and all regions of the lungs. A nosebleed is the least serious cause of phlegm with blood. A ruptured membrane in the upper regions of the nose can drip blood into the back of the throat, which is then coughed up by the sufferer. This type of injury usually heals on its own within a few hours, or can be cauterized by a medical professional in a doctor's office.


If a nosebleed is not the source of the phlegm with blood, then the next most likely cause is the lungs. Blood in the lungs is generally indicative of a potentially serious problem or disease. Bronchitis and pneumonia are two respiratory diseases which can cause the lungs to bleed, and both are easily treatable with prescription medication and bed rest. These conditions are the product of an infection in the lungs which can cause either a swelling of the bronchial passageways or swelling of the alveoli. Coughing up blood is a rare side effect of these two infections, but does occur on some occasions, and is also typically accompanied by shortness of breath, fever, and chest congestion.

Tuberculosis and lung cancer are two of the most serious causes of phlegm with blood. Tuberculosis is an infection that affects the lungs and can spread through the respiratory tract and into other major organs of the body. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and night sweats, and this infection, when left untreated, often results in death. Tuberculosis can be treated by several doctor-recommended drug courses which last between two and six months, depending on the severity of the disease. This disease has been virtually eradicated in developed countries, like the US and the UK, and preventative vaccines are available for individuals living in countries where tuberculosis still occurs.

Lung cancer is the appearance of cancerous tissue in the lungs, and can eventually spread to any vital organs of the body. The appearance of phlegm with blood usually does not appear until the disease has become extremely advanced. Sufferers with lung cancer may also experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, headache, and sudden weight loss. This type of cancer is sometimes treatable with prescription medication, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy when diagnosed in the early stages.


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Post 1

Obviously, if a person is having frequent nosebleeds or bloody mucus, a trip to the doctor is in order. However, during the winter especially, when the air is very dry, nosebleeds can be a little more common, or seeing blood when you blow your nose.

Blood-flecked sinus drainage is also not uncommon in the winter. Using a nasal spray that addresses dry nasal passages may help. Also, try using an over the counter decongestant for a couple of days to see if the blood clears out of the mucus. If so, it's probably just irritated sinuses.

Still, if the bleeding increases, or hangs on, do see a doctor to check for other conditions.

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