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Hemoptysis

Alternative names

Hemoptysis; Spitting up blood; Bloody sputum

Definition

Coughing up blood is the spitting up of blood or bloody mucus from the lungs and throat
(respiratory tract).

Considerations

Hemoptysis is the medical term for coughing up blood from the respiratory tract.

Coughing up blood is not the same as bleeding from the mouth, throat, or gastrointestinal tract.

Blood that comes up with a cough often looks bubbly because it is mixed with air and mucus. It is
usually bright red.

Common Causes

A number of conditions, diseases, and medical tests may make you cough up blood.

Diseases and conditions may include:

• Bleeding gums such as with gingivitis


• Blood clot in the lung
• Bronchiectasis
• Bronchitis
• Cystic fibrosis
• Esophageal cancer
• Goodpasture's syndrome
• Irritation of the throat from violent coughing
• Nosebleed
• Laryngitis
• Lung cancer (see metastatic lung cancer)
• Pneumonia
• Pulmonary aspiration (inhaling blood into the lungs)
• Pulmonary edema
• Systemic lupus erythematosus
• Tuberculosis
• Wegener's granulomatosis

Diagnostic tests that may make you cough up blood may include:

• Bronchoscopy
• Laryngoscopy
• Lung biopsy
• Mediastinoscopy
• Spirometry
• Tonsillectomy
• Upper airway biopsy

Home Care

Cough suppressants may help if this condition is due to throat irritation from violent coughing.
However, cough suppressants may lead airway obstruction in some cases. Always check with
your doctor first.

It is very important to note how long you cough up blood. You should also keep track of the
following:

• How much blood is mixed with the mucus


• Symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, or thirst, which might indicate a severe
amount of blood loss
• Other symptoms such as fever, chest pain, shortness of breath, and blood in the urine

Call your health care provider if

If there is any unexplained coughing up of blood, call an ambulance or go to the nearest


emergency department. This is very important if your cough produces large volumes of blood
(more than a few teaspoons), or if it is accompanied by severe shortness of breath,
lightheadedness, or dizziness.

References

Rakel RE. Textbook of Family Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2005:402-413.

Murray J, Nadel J. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders;
2000:497.

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