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Hemoptysis

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Updated October 01, 2011

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Definition: Hemoptysis refers to the coughing up of blood from the respiratory tract. Hemoptysis is due primarily to the rupturing of tiny blood vessels near the surface of the bronchial tubes. Normally the bleeding is minor but sometimes it requires emergent care. In people with COPD, hemoptysis is generally indicative of an underlying lung infection.

The coughing up of blood is not the same as bleeding from the mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines. Blood that is expelled from the respiratory tract is generally frothy or bubbly in appearance, and may be bright red or rust-colored. Sometimes, only streaks of blood may be present in the coughed-up mucus, and this is still considered hemoptysis.

Causes of Hemoptysis

There are many conditions that may cause hemoptysis, including, but not limited to, the following:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Hemoptysis may be a sign of a serious underlying condition. Contact your health care provider as soon as possible if you notice any amount of blood in your mucus.

Sometimes, however, the presence of hemoptysis be an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • A cough that produces more than a teaspoon of blood
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Severe dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Blood in the urine or stools (black tarry stools is indicative of blood in the stools)
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