Coughing Up Blood (Hemoptysis): All to Know

coughing up blood

Coughing up blood, also called hemoptysis, may indicate a serious medical condition such as infections, blood vessel problems, lung disease, or cancer. Coughing up blood requires prompt medical evaluation, unless it is caused by bronchitis

Causes of Hemoptysis

Hemoptysis can be caused by different reasons, they include:
  • Bronchitis (acute or chronic)
  • Lung cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Trauma from vehicular accident, gunshot wound, or others
  • Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions such as lupus
  • Pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
  • Use of cocaine
READ ALSO: Everything to Know About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Hemoptysis can be caused by bleeding outside the lungs and airways. Coughing up blood can be caused by severe nosebleeds or vomiting of blood from the stomach and airways. The blood is then coughed up.

Coughing Up Blood Tests

Hemoptysis tests focuses on determining the rate of bleeding and any risk to breathing. Tests that can be performed for coughing up blood includes:
History and physical examination. This involves your doctor examining you to get clues that can help establish a cause and diagnosis.
Chest X-ray. This test may indicate a mass in the chest, areas of fluid or congestion in the lungs.
Computed tomography (CT scan). A CT scan can reveal some causes for coughing up blood by producing detailed images of structures in the chest.
Bronchoscopy. This involves a doctor inserting an endoscope through the nose or mouth into the windpipe and airways. This procedure may help identify what causes hemoptysis.
Complete blood count (CBC). This test helps in checking the number of white blood cells, red blood cells with platelets in the blood.
Urinalysis. Urine tests can help reveal some causes of hemoptysis.
Blood chemistry profile. Blood test helps measure electrolytes and kidney function which may be cause the problem of coughing up blood.
Coagulation tests. Changes in the ability of the blood to clot can lead to bleeding and coughing up blood.
Arterial blood gas. Oxygen levels tests and carbon dioxide in the blood. Oxygen levels can be low in people with hemoptysis.
Pulse oximetry. A probe tests the level of oxygen in the blood.
READ ALSO: Asthma: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Treatments for Hemoptysis

Treatments for people coughing up blood helps to stop the bleeding and treat the underlying cause of hemoptysis. Treatments for coughing up blood include:
Bronchial artery embolization. This has to do with a doctor inserting catheter through the leg into an artery supplying blood to the lungs. The doctor helps to identify the source of the bleeding by injecting dye and viewing the arteries on a video screen. The bleeding artery is then blocked using metal coils or another substance.
Bronchoscopy. Tools on the end of the endoscope can be used to treat some causes of hemoptysis. An inflated balloon inside the airway may help stop bleeding.
Surgery. Coughing up blood may require surgery to remove a lung in severe cases.
Treating hemoptysis should address the underlying cause. Other treatments for people coughing blood may include:
  • Antibiotics for pneumonia or tuberculosis
  • Steroids for inflammatory conditions
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation for lung cancer
People with very thin blood because of medication use may require transfusion of blood products or other medications to curb blood loss.
READ ALSO: Bronchitis: All You Need to Know

When to See a Doctor

Acute bronchitis is probably one of the most common reason for coughing up blood. This typically resolves on its own without treatment. People with bronchitis with small amounts of blood in the mucus for less than a week can watch and wait for their condition to get better.
Hemoptysis can indicate a severe medical condition, endeavor to consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
  • Blood in mucus that lasts longer than a week
  • Night sweats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Fever higher than 101 degrees


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