Hemoptysis is the name given to the coughing up of blood or blood-stained sputum.
The blood could come from any part of your airways or lungs.
Most commonly, it is because of bronchitis or pneumonia, but there are other possibilities as well.
If a child coughs up blood, it is most likely because they breathed a foreign object into their airway.
It is easy to tell where the blood has come from by the color it is. Bright red blood has come from the respiratory tract while dark red-brown blood will be from the gastrointestinal tract.
Major injury of internal organs can also be the cause of coughing up blood, as can anticoagulant drugs like warfarin. The most common cause is usually the least serious though, and it is most often a small ruptured blood vessel that was caused by coughing spasm or an infection.
If a person is at risk of lung diseases, which includes smokers, hemoptysis can be the sign of a serious problem.
The blood, coming from some part of the respiratory tract, could be a sign of bronchiectasis which is a chronic infection of the bronchi; pulmonary embolism which is a clogged artery in the lung; tuberculosis or pneumonia.
The actual amount of blood is hard to measure, and so it is difficult to assess the severity of the problem from the blood alone.
Major hemoptysis is classified as such when there is enough blood to actually interfere with the breathing. This is a medical emergency as mortality rates are high from asphyxiation. But even mild hemoptysis can interfere with the breathing to some extent, and should not be ignored.
Having your condition diagnosed is important, particularly if you smoke, because there is no knowing if your condition will become more serious without warning.
Patients who have lung cancer are often diagnosed because of their hemoptysis, which has taken them to the doctor for diagnosis. While investigating the source of the blood, the cancer is discovered.
It has often been the tumor that has caused the bleeding in the first place. The diagnosis could be confirmed with any of a number of tests, like chest X-ray or CT scan, bronchoscopy, echocardiogram or lung biopsy.
Treatment of hemoptysis is usually aimed at the underlying cause of the bleeding, although there are cases when the cause cannot be determined.
Your condition will be monitored and checked regularly, possibly with additional tests. Coughing up blood is nothing to be trifled with; seek medical advice. If the amount of blood is excessive, more than ¼ cup, consider it an emergency.