Coughing Up Blood

What Is Coughing Up Blood?

Coughing Up Blood and phlegm can be very disturbing and bring about so much stress in a person’s life. However, if you are in your young age and you have no bad medical history, then you have no cause to worry.

On the contrary, if you are an elderly person and to make matters worse you have a history of being a chronic smoker, then you have every reason to be worried if you exhibit the characteristics of blood in cough. This condition of having traces of blood in your cough, sputum and phlegm is scientifically known as hemoptysis.

Coughing Up Blood

The condition can express its symptoms either by the presence of small amounts of scarlet blood in your cough or in advanced stages where thick blood stained sputum may be the order of the day.

Observation of these symptoms means that there is some blood oozing from your breathing system, precisely in the lungs. The blood is attributed to an extended cough, or even worse you could be having an infection that may have prolonged to this adverse stage.

However, if you ever cough out blood that is scarlet in color with some traces of food like substances, then you should be very wary of your medical situation. This condition means that the blood is oozing from some part of the digestive system. Such a situation should warrant that you seek professional help from your physician.


To take upon verifying Coughing Up Blood

If by any chance you observe the following symptoms, make sure you visit your doctor for checkup and treatment.

  • Presence of blood in cough that exceeds a few droplets
  • Severe chest pain, nausea and falling short of breath
  • Presence of blood in stool and urine
  • Deprived appetite

The onset of either of the above-named symptoms together with blood in cough should make you worried about your health condition. Such cases should not be ignored but should warrant you to seek help from your doctor.

The presence of blood in sputum and cough usually indicates the presence of a prevailing medical condition that should not be left untreated. There are some infections that attribute the existence of blood in your cough. These illnesses include:

  • An infection of the breathing tract
  • Diseases such as cancer
  • An abnormality of the blood vessels in the breathing system, essentially the lungs

The presence of blood in cough should not remain untreated unless the onset of the ailment is due to bronchitis. Make sure not ignore the symptoms as the condition may be more serious than it looks.

What Causes Coughing Up Blood?

Hemoptysis can be attributed to many factors. There is not one cause that can be held liable for blood in cough and the more need to get observed by a medical physician to determine the root cause of the ailment. The causes range from:

  • Bronchitis (acute or chronic). Most of the cases of hemoptysis are brought about by bronchitis. However, this condition is rarely fatal.
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Continued use of anticoagulation
  • Cancer of the lungs
  • Tuberculosis
  • Abuse of crack cocaine
  • Trauma
  • Inflammatory of the blood vessels in the breathing system.
  • Pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)

Not all cases of hemoptysis is a result of blood from the airway. Some of the blood in cough may come as a result of continued nose bleeding and in some occasions, blood vomited from the digestive system may find its way into the breathing system and be coughed as hemoptysis.

Surprisingly, there are many people who suffer from hemoptysis, but even after visiting a physician, the root cause of the problem fails to be deduced. Majority of these cases come to a halt by themselves. The presence of blood in their cough disappears gradually until there is no more.

Diagnostic Tests

As there is no specified cause of Coughing Up Blood, testing must be done to deduce what brings about the setting of the condition. However, this is done after defining the levels of bleeding and if the oozing blood may cause breathing complications. This is followed suit by various tests that narrow down to the following:

  • Physical examination as well as revisiting the medical history. This is the primary test that doctors will carry out. By the end of the questioning and observation, the physician will have several clues on what the cause might be.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan). This computerized test checks and brings forth images of the chest, and if there is the prevalence of blood, the system will show.
  • X-ray of the chest. The outcome of this test may either show the presence of fluid-filled cavities in the lungs or may come out just as fine, indicating a normal and healthy system.
  • Urinalysis. This simple test may yield handsome results as it could detect certain causes of hemoptysis.
  • Coagulation tests. This checks for the body’s ability to allow blood clotting. Interference could cause slow clotting of blood and hence the coughing of blood.
  • Pulse oximetry. This is an insight into the levels of oxygen in the blood circulated the body.


Upon detection of the root cause of the Coughing Up Blood, the doctor devises a procedure that will not only halt the bleeding within the system but also eliminate the primary cause of the problem. The curing process narrows down to:


Some materials when tied at the end of an endoscope may go a long way in stopping the bleeding.

Bronchial artery embolization

A catheter is inserted into one of the arteries in the feet that circulate blood to the lungs. A safe dye is added and the results displayed on a giant screen. This indicates the source of the blood. Quick blockage of the artery is done to stop the bleeding while the deficit is covered by the remaining arteries.


If hemoptysis is persistent and severe such that it is fatal, pneumonectomy must be carried out to reduce the threat posed by the condition.

Other treatments

  • Administering of steroids in case of inflammatory
  • Antibiotics to address pneumonia
  • Chemotherapy for cancer patients


Coughing Up Blood can be both fatal and less life threatening. However, it is not the patients’ work to determine the fatality or otherwise of the condition. The presence of blood in a cough should be reason enough to make you seek medical attention so as to get checked and treated accordingly.


  1. Mason, R. Murray and Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, 5th edition, Saunders, 2010. Cahill, B.C. Clinics in Chest Medicine, 1994; vol 15: pp 147-167.
  2. Hirshberg, B. Chest, 1997; vol 112: pp 440-444.
  3. Adelman, M. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1985; vol 102: pp 829-834.
  4. Chang, J.C. Sarcoidosis, 1987; vol 4: pp 49-54

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