If you’re coughing up blood from the lower respiratory tract, it is known as hemoptysis. According to a 2017 article, “Hemoptysis is defined as the expectoration of blood, alone or mixed with mucus, from the lower respiratory tract. It occurs in around 10% of patients with chronic lung disease.” While hemoptysis may be a distressing symptom, it may not always indicate a serious concern. However, it is important to be evaluated by physician right away just in case. We review everything you need to know about hemoptysis below.
There are generally three ways to classify the amount of blood you’re coughing up:
- Scant hemoptysis refers to a small amount of blood, like streaks or pink color to your saliva and mucus.
- Mild to moderate hemoptysis refers to blood volume averaging a little less than one half cup in a day.
- Massive hemoptysis refers to about one quart of blood coughed up in a day.
Causes of Hemoptysis
Unfortunately, in many cases of hemoptysis, the underlying cause is never identified. When it is, it’s usually attributed to one of the following conditions:
- Fungal infection
- Pulmonary embolism
- Taking certain medications, particularly blood thinners
A physician may conduct the following tests to diagnose the cause of hemoptysis:
- Physical exam
- Lab tests
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
You may be prescribed medications if your hemoptysis symptoms are caused by infection or inflammation. Commonly prescribed medications include anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics.
In the case of pulmonary embolism, treatment may include taking blood-thinning medications that you can pick up at Key Health Pharmacy; however, this can sometimes cause further bleeding.
If the cause is taking blood thinning medications, you doctor may instruct you to hold off on taking them until the hemoptysis resolves.
If you have cancer, you may undergo a combination of treatments such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
In severe cases, certain procedures may be necessary, such as:
- Bronchial artery embolization
When to See a Doctor
If you’re coughing up a small amount of blood, call a doctor to consult about your symptom and potential causes. If you’re coughing up large amounts of blood, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Whatever the cause, it’s important to be evaluated right away.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Arizona Desert Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists today.