Hemoptysis refers to coughing up blood or blood-stained sputum, which can be an indicator of several health conditions. More commonly, certain ailments of the respiratory tract or the lungs can cause this condition.
Hemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood, or sputum streaked with blood from the respiratory tract. The blood or blood-stained sputum can come out from the nose, mouth, and the throat, as well as from the lungs and the airways. Sometimes, the blood or sputum may be bright red or pink and foamy, while at other times, it can be coffee-colored.
The color of the blood can indicate the source of bleeding. For example, bright red and foamy blood usually comes from the respiratory tract, while dark or coffee-colored blood can come from the gastrointestinal tract.
This condition is usually classified as mild or massive, depending on the amount of blood that is expelled. Massive hemoptysis is characterized by the loss of a large amount of blood, which can interrupt breathing and cause asphyxia (lack of oxygen). Massive hemoptysis is a medical emergency, as it can lead to life-threatening complications.
Mild hemoptysis on the other hand, is the condition where only a small amount of blood or blood-stained sputum is coughed up. It can be caused by a number of lung conditions, such as bronchitis (both acute and chronic), tuberculosis, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, aspergillosis, bronchiectasis, and pneumonic plague. Sometimes, it can also be associated with lung neoplasm and bronchogenic carcinoma.
Apart from lung diseases, heart conditions like congestive heart failure and mitral stenosis can be associated with this condition. In addition to these, some other possible causes are, an injury or trauma (especially chest injury), influenza, lung cancer, lung abscess, blood clotting disorders, aneurysms, Wegener’s granulomatosis, drug abuse (especially cocaine), and vascular disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
Coughing up blood is the most common sign or symptom of this condition. Sometimes, it also can be accompanied by a few other symptoms like chest pain, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting, and fever, depending on the underlying causes.
A systematic diagnostic approach is required to determine the exact cause or the source of bleeding. Sometimes, it can become quite difficult to distinguish whether blood is expelled from the lungs, respiratory tract, or the gastrointestinal tract.
If the condition is caused by a minor infection, and the amount of blood lost is also not significant, then it may not require any medical intervention. Antibiotics are usually used to treat hemoptysis, if it is associated with tuberculosis, aspergillosis, bacterial pneumonia, or bronchitis. If lung cancer is the root cause for coughing up blood, then the usual cancer treatment will be required to manage this condition.
Massive hemoptysis can be a life-threatening condition, if it is not treated immediately. If left untreated, it can cause death of the patient by obstructing his or her normal breathing. For the effective treatment of this condition, it is very important to locate the source of bleeding. Once the source of bleeding is located, physicians may opt for surgical resection (if abnormal tissues are responsible for causing the bleeding), or bronchial artery embolization, where certain substances are injected to stop the bleeding.
Another common method employed for controlling this condition is bronchoscopic laser therapy. So, the treatment for this condition depends on the causes, which can be determined only after evaluating the condition with the help of a physician. Therefore, one should talk to a physician even if a small amount of blood is coughed up.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.