What Does it Mean When You Cough Up Blood?

We all may cough when we’re sick, but not every illness and cough is weighted the same. Seeing blood in your spit after coughing for instance can be a scary occurrence whether it is a large or small amount. Coughing up blood, known medically as hemoptysis, occurs when you cough or spit up blood mixed with mucus due to a pulmonary or bronchial hemorrhage.

Hemoptysis is a common side effect of conditions like asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and deadly cancers. Coughing up blood is one of the most common symptoms of lung cancer and in 2016, there were over 8,240 hospitalizations for hemoptysis in the United States. Although coughing up blood is serious, in some cases, it can go away within six months. Experiencing hemoptysis can be alarming and lead to confusion. Lung Cancer Center has gathered comprehensive information about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hemoptysis.  Learn more about hemoptysis and what it means for you.

Potential Causes of Coughing Up Blood

If you have a strong cough or a respiratory illness, your airways can become irritated and cause them to bleed. Excessive and intense coughing has the potential to dry your throat, leading to irritation. As coughing continues, your airway can become further irritated and begin to bleed. Eventually, you may begin to cough up this blood, called hemoptysis. The most common cause of hemoptysis worldwide is tuberculosis; however, there are a variety of causes of hemoptysis. According to research, most patients coughing up mucus with blood at a doctor’s office have:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Other Diseases

Others experiencing coughing up blood, skip the doctor’s office and go straight to the hospital due to the severity. In hospital settings, the most common causes of hemoptysis are, Bronchiectasis, Lung cancer, Bronchitis, and Pneumonia. Rare causes of serious hemoptysis include:

  • Injury to the arteries in the lungs
  • Severe heart failure
  • Abnormal tissue deposits
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary embolism

How to Treat Hemoptysis Symptoms

Treating blood in phlegm is dependent on the cause. Home remedies for coughing up blood often include over-the-counter throat lozenges and cough suppressants. You should go to the doctor if coughing up blood persists after home remedies.

If your hemoptysis is accompanied by dizziness and shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention. Additionally, if your cough produces large amounts of blood, more than a few teaspoons, you should see a medical professional. There are several treatments available to control hemoptysis at later stages of lung cancer. The primary treatment for hemoptysis often occurs when the cause of coughing up blood is unknown. These treatments often put a temporary pause on hemoptysis and medical professionals search for the cause. Initial treatment for general hemoptysis includes:

  • Intubation
  • Ventilation
  • Oxygenation
  • Lowering a lung

After finding the source of the bleeding, treatment might differ for hemoptysis patients. These therapies often slow or clot blood in the airways, limiting the chances of coughing up blood. Treatment could include:

  • Iced saline
  • Blood vessel narrowing medications
  • Blood clotting medication
  • Laser therapy
  • Argon plasma coagulation (APC)
  • Cryotherapy
  • Embolization

Does Lung Cancer Cause You to Cough Up Blood?

Lung cancer can cause bleeding in the airways, which can lead to hemoptysis. Lung cancer causes you to cough up blood alongside other symptoms. You can cough up blood during any stage of lung cancer. Additionally, this symptom does not influence a patient’s life expectancy. Recent studies have shown the mortality rate for hemoptysis ranges from 4 to 19 percent. Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

What Diseases Cause Coughing up Blood?

It is important to determine the cause of your hemoptysis. Possible causes of coughing up blood include:

  • Chest trauma
  • COPD
  • Mesothelioma / Asbestos Related
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Drug use
  • Foreign body
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • Lung abscess
  • Lung cancer
  • Mitral valve stenosis
  • Parasitic infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Tuberculosis

No matter the cause of your hemoptysis, we understand the difficulties of this symptom. Lung Cancer Center can help you or a loved one seek treatment for hemoptysis or lung cancer. Get in touch with our team of experts today to learn more.