Overview of Coughing up Blood
Coughing up blood can be a result of a number of lung conditions. The blood can range from pink to red and may have mucus mixed in. The formal name for coughing up blood is hemoptysis. Any amount of coughing up blood can certainly be alarming, but coughing up mucus with a little blood is not typically serious. If you are coughing up an alarming amount of blood or at a frequent rate, then you will need to see a doctor immediately.
Causes of Coughing up Blood
There can be a lot of possible causes to coughing up blood, which may include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
- Drug use
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Lung abscess
- Parasitic infection
Sometimes when you are coughing up blood, it may actually be coming from somewhere else, such as your stomach. The first step to treatment is to understand where the blood is actually coming from. The most common cause of coughing up blood is typically chronic bronchitis.
How to Diagnose the Cause of Coughing up Blood
There are many tests that can be given when someone is coughing up blood. The main goal of the test is to determine the rate of bleeding and what are the risks to breathing. The first step of diagnosis will be to talk with your physician about your health history and what you are experiencing. A physical examination is usually completed as well. Your physician may then recommend a chest x-ray to see if there are any changes to lungs. The chest x-ray may show a mass, fluid, congestion, or may come back as completely normal. A computerized tomography (CT) scan may be requested if the x-ray does not show everything. A CT scan will give the physician a better view of the lungs. A bronchoscopy will help the physician to see directly into the airways and lungs, which may help identify the root of the problem. A complete blood count (CBC) may also be requested to see the number of white and red blood cells that are in the blood. A urinalysis can show any abnormalities that are in the urine. A blood chemistry profile will measure electrolytes and kidney function. A coagulation test will show the blood’s ability to clot, which may contribute to bleeding and coughing up blood.
How to Treat Someone that is Coughing up Blood
There are two parts to treatment in those that are coughing up blood. The first step of treatment is to stop the bleeding and the next step is to discover the root of the problem.
If bleeding does not seem to stop, your physician may recommend a bronchial artery embolization. This procedure requires a catheter being put through the leg into an artery that is supplying blood to the lungs. A dye is then injected and the arteries are viewed on a monitor. The physician will then be able to see the source of the bleeding and can block that artery. This will make the bleeding end and the other arteries can compensate.
A bronchoscopy can help treat some cases of bleeding. There are a variety of tools that can be used at the end of the endoscope to end bleeding. An example is a balloon inflated inside the airway.
In some severe cases of coughing up blood, surgery may be required. In extreme cases, your physician may recommend removing a lung.
There are also a few medications that may be recommended based on the cause. If the underlying cause of the coughing up of blood is an inflammatory condition, then your physician will prescribe you steroids. If it is diagnosed that you have lung cancer, then chemotherapy or radiation may help. Antibiotics may also be prescribed in cases of pneumonia or tuberculosis.
People that are on blood thinners may require a blood transfusion if they are coughing up too much bloods. There are also a number of medications that can be prescribed to thicken the blood too.
At Home Treatments for Coughing up Blood
Coughing up blood should only be treated at home if there is very little and it does not last for a long time. In most cases, you will want to see a physician for a diagnosis and treatment. Some medicines or remedies that stop coughing may be recommended. A cough suppressant may help the heavy coughing and will reduce the amount of blood that is coughed up. However, in some cases, these suppressants may lead to a blocked airway. If you believe you are at risk for this, consult your physician. If you decide to start treatment at home, then you will want to keep a detailed diary of how long you cough up blood, how often it happens, and how much blood is in it.
It is essential to call your physician if you experience any symptoms that seem extreme or if symptoms last too long. There is likely an underlying issue that your physician will need to diagnose and treat. Be ready to answer a series of questions from your physician, such as any other symptoms that may be occurring, how long has this been happening, does it get worse at night, how much blood you are coughing up, etc. This is why it is so important to keep a journal log of what is happening.
When to See a Doctor about Coughing up Blood
Coughing up blood is very serious. You will want to see a physician as soon as you believe you are coughing up blood at an alarming rate. There may be something else happening and may require immediate medical attention. The most common cause for coughing up blood is bronchitis, which will usually get better on its own, but sometimes this can be very serious too. Be on the lookout for these symptoms as well: chest pain, shortness of breath, soaking sweats at night, fever at above 101 degrees, weight loss, etc. You will likely be admitted into the hospital until the cause of the coughing up blood is discovered.