Black Mucus

The color of your mucus can say a lot about your health, especially if you aren't feeling well. Light yellow or clear mucus is usually normal, while green and brown mucus can indicate an infection. Black mucus is not as common and can be concerning in its appearance and what it means for your health.

If you have developed black mucus from your nose or with a cough, there are a few possible explanations. This article will review what those are, whether they are serious, and what you should do about them.

Lung X-ray for lung cancer

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Symptoms of Black Mucus

Black mucus is a dark-colored mucus expelled from your nose or when you cough. It is usually the symptom of an overarching condition that usually comes with other symptoms like a cough, fever, shortness of breath, or other respiratory problems.

Causes of Black Mucus

Black mucus may also be called melanoptysis and is commonly found in coal workers who inhale black dust all day. Certain conditions are also associated with black mucus.

Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis (Anthracosis)

A type of pneumonia known as black lung is commonly found in coal miners. When inhaled, coal dust enters the tissues of the lungs. Over time, these deposits form masses and scar tissue. The black mucus expelled with coughing results from infections and destruction caused by this process.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs. It can cause permanent lung damage and appear with symptoms like a cough that produces blood or mucus.

Cancer

When cancer occurs in the lungs, it creates masses and destroys healthy tissue. Bronchopulmonary melanoma is a type of cancer that affects the lungs and is known for producing dark or black mucus.

Necrosis

Tissue damaged or destroyed by disease, infection or lack of oxygen turns dark or black as it enters a state of necrosis (tissue death). Coughs can bring up bits of this necrotic (dead) tissue, giving your mucus a dark or stained appearance.

Infections

Many types of infections cause mucus production, but some are known more than others for producing darker-colored sputum. One of these is Exophiala dermatitidis, a black yeast infection that is common in people with cystic fibrosis.

Another is Aspergillus niger, a type of fungal infection that can be caused by inhaling black mold spores. People with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk for developing allergic reactions and lung and other organ infections from inhaling aspergillus mold spores.

Finally, mucormycosis is a rare fungal infection that causes black mucus and can lead to dark or black lesions on other body areas.

Substance Use

Using substances like cigarettes can cause black mucus from smoke particles and other debris that collects in the lung tissues. Coughing up black mucus is also strongly associated with chronic cocaine-induced pulmonary injury.

Pollution

People who live in areas with dense air pollution or who work in certain industries may cough up dark black mucus. Like coal miners, people who live in highly polluted areas breathe in particles that can collect in the lung tissue and appear in mucus after a cough.

How to Treat Black Mucus

You may require antibiotics or antifungal medications if bacteria or fungi cause your black mucus. Other causes of black mucus, like coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (anthracosis), are not as easily treated.

Black mucus caused by severe disease or lung necrosis can result in tissue damage that cannot be reversed. Treatment instead focuses on oxygen supplementation and symptom relief.

Examples of treatments for severe lung disease include:

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Black Mucus

Exposure to pollution, irritants, or mold spores that you could inhale increases your risk for diseases that produce black mucus.

Some complications of diseases like black lung include:

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Black Mucus?

If you are coughing up black mucus, your healthcare provider will want to run tests on the mucus to identify the presence of any bacteria, viruses, or fungi that might be causing the problem.

Other tests may include:

There are few specific tests to pinpoint the cause of black mucus. Your healthcare provider may perform a physical assessment and ask about your personal and family medical history.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Anytime you develop a cough that doesn't resolve within a few weeks, it's a good idea to see a healthcare provider to rule out serious diseases or infections. Mucus production is typical in many disorders, but black mucus can signal more severe illness.

If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or a bluish tone to your lips or skin, seek medical attention immediately.

Summary

Mucus is a mixture of fluids and bits of tissues expelled with a cough or when you blow your nose. There are many colors of mucus, but black mucus often signals severe disease or infection. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medical history and your risk factors for conditions like fungal infections, tuberculosis, or even black lung disease.

A Word From Verywell

Coughing up black mucus is concerning. You should book an appointment with your healthcare provider if you notice this symptom. In some cases, it can be a sign of a severe infection, but it can also develop with treatable bacterial or fungal infections. Whether you have a known condition linked to black mucus or you live or work in an area where you are exposed to toxins or fungi, your provider can help you manage your symptoms.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.