What Can Cause a Cough with Blood?

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  • Written By: Amanda McMullen
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 07 May 2020
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A cough with blood occurs when an individual's cough produces mucus tinged with pink or red blood. The blood that an individual finds in his or her sputum might come from the lungs, passages that lead to the lungs, the throat, the nose or the mouth. Also known as hemoptysis, coughing up blood can be alarming even when it is not associated with a serious illness.

Coughing up blood might occur as a symptom of several medical conditions. In a non-smoking, healthy individual, a cough with blood is most commonly a symptom of a mild infection of the bronchial tubes. The infection causes the blood vessels to become irritated, and a persistent cough might cause some of them to burst, thus leading to blood in the mucus. In an individual who has a history of smoking, however, coughing up blood might signal a more serious condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung cancer.

A cough with blood might also be associated with tuberculosis, benign tumors of the lung or congestive heart failure. It also might be associated with pneumonia, pulmonary embolism or certain autoimmune diseases. To determine the cause of a cough with blood, a doctor may order a chest X-ray to check the lungs for tumors, pneumonia or pulmonary embolism. In addition, the doctor might order a complete blood count to check for infection or signs of lupus. To diagnose congestive heart failure, the doctor might look at the results of blood tests, take an ultrasound of the heart or perform an electrocardiogram.

The treatment for a cough with blood usually depends on the condition that causes it. If the underlying condition is a common infection, certain types of pneumonia or tuberculosis, a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic. If a tumor in the lung is causing the hemoptysis, or if the cause is congestive heart failure, surgery might be required. Autoimmune diseases might be treated with blood transfusions or vitamin supplements, and pulmonary embolisms usually are treated with anticoagulants or clot-dissolving medication.

The prognosis for individuals with hemoptysis is dependent on the severity of the condition that causes it. Minor conditions, such as mild infections, usually improve with treatment. More severe conditions, such as lung cancer and congestive heart failure, sometimes result in death. Hemoptysis itself, however, is not usually a serious health concern, unless the individual suffers from a bleeding disorder. Very few patients who cough up blood experience severe complications as a result of the symptom itself rather than the condition that causes it.

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Post 3

@candyquilt-- Don't panic just yet. Your doctor will run all of the necessary tests to find out what's wrong. If you don't smoke regularly, the blood may not have anything to do with the lungs. Once, I had a bad infection and I coughed so much that I ruptured a blood vessel in my throat. I was scared when I saw blood too but that's all it turned out to be. If you get bleeding again though, make sure to mention it to your doctor. Coughing and bleeding that do not go away may be a sign of something more serious. And make sure to stop smoking immediately.

Post 2

I caught a cold recently and have been coughing up a lung due to it. This morning, I was coughing very badly again and saw a little bit of blood on the tissue. I do smoke hookah sometimes. I'm very worried? Am I very ill? I made an appointment with my doctor and I'm very scared. I hope it's not serious.

Post 1

Even common upper respiratory infections can advance into pneumonia if left untreated. My neighbor had an upper respiratory infection first but he didn't get treatment or enough rest. He works outdoors and he was exposed to cold when he was sick. The cold made the infection advance into pneumonia. When he saw some blood in his mucus after coughing, he rushed to the doctor and was diagnosed and treated properly. He had to spend more than a week in bed but he's all better now.

Rather than waiting for things to get to this stage, it's better to see a doctor at the first symptoms of an infection like cough. Also, cold air really isn't favorable for the lungs. They prefer warm, moist air.

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