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Hemoptysis: 10 Causes of Coughing Up Blood


Hemoptysis refers to coughing up blood. The source of the blood is typically the respiratory tract and can originate in the nose, mouth, pharynx (throat), bronchial tubes (airways leading to the lungs), or lungs. Hemoptysis can be classifies as mild or massive.

Mild hemoptysis is defined as streaking or a small amount of blood intermixed with mucus or pus. The majority of cases of mild hemoptysis are not life threatening. The definition of massive hemoptysis is unclear and ranges from 100-mL to 1,000-mL in a 24-hour period. Massive hemoptysis is a medical emergency and the death rate can be as high as 75-percent. Ten causes of hemoptysis are…

1. Pulmonary Embolus

Pulmonary embolus (PE) refers to a blood clot blocking a pulmonary artery in the lungs. The cause of a PE is usually a blood clot traveling to the lungs from the legs, which is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Risk factors such as prolonged immobility, surgery, smoking, obesity, pregnancy, and cancer may increase an individual’s risk of developing both DVT and PE. Rarely does an individual have a single pulmonary embolus.

Symptoms of a PE may include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever, swelling in the calf area, dizziness, and profuse sweating. Treatment of a PE most often involves anticoagulants (blood thinners) or thrombolytics (clot dissolvers). Treatment of a PE should be prompt and it is crucial treatment prevent it from increasing in size and the formation of new clots. A PE can be life threatening and a common complication may be pulmonary hypertension, which is a condition characterized by high blood pressure in the lungs.

Blood Clots

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