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Hemoptysis | Coughing up Blood | Lung Disease

Hemoptysis is the act of coughing up blood.  This blood can come from the nose, mouth or throat and is released from the respiratory tract.  In many cases where an otherwise healthy, non-smoker coughs up blood tinged mucus, it generally is the sign of a mild infection.  In patients who are heavy smokers or who have a long history of smoking where the risk for lung disease is high, hemoptysis is usually a serious sign of illness.

Causes

There are many unrelated and underlying disorders and conditions that can cause hemoptysis.  Certain conditions ranging from heart problems and infection to trauma and lung disease are often causes of this condition.  Specifically, the list below presents most of the common causes:

  • Tuberculosis

  • Bronchitis

  • Aids (patients who suffer from pneumonia)

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Lunch cancer

  • Pulmonary embolism

  • Drug and/or alcohol use

  • Genetic and congenital diseases

  • Lung diseases and infections (such as aspergillosis or goodpasture’s syndrome)

  • Trauma to the chest

  • Autoimmune diseases (such as Wegener’s granulomatosis)

Symptoms

Hemoptysis—the coughing up of blood—is merely a symptom of a myriad of different underlying conditions, diseases and disorders (such as those from the list above).  The blood that is released can vary, but most times, the show of blood as it relates to hemoptysis is bright red, sometimes clotted and contains a frothy appearance.   It is important to have a specialist determine if the blood is in fact from the respiratory tract or not so that a diagnosis can be determined.

Treatment

Treatment for hemoptysis depends on the cause of the blood and how much of the blood is being released.  The underlying condition causing the blood release is a major factor in determining the course of treatment. Some individuals will experience a mild, occasional hemoptysis and treatment will most likely not be necessary; massive bleeding should be considered a medical emergency. Bronchial artery embolization, surgical resection and laser therapy are techniques that have been used to provide some relief for patients suffering from hemoptysis.