One of the diseases that freak us out the most is when one starts coughing up blood. Besides being a grotesque site, it also floods our mind with a lot of fears and anxieties. Seldom someone attempts to understand why it happens or how serious it is.
Coughing up blood, in medical terms, is known as Hemoptysis. It is actually the spitting of blood or bloody mucus from the respiratory tract, or simply from lungs and throat. Since it is mixed with mucus and air, it looks bubbly. It is usually bright red, however it can also appear rust-colored. At times the mucus may only contain streaks of blood. Hemoptysis can be tricky to rightly identify, since many times it is actually nothing but just a nose-bleed. Nevertheless, if it is Hemoptysis, it can be quite intimidating.
The most common misconception is that coughed up blood is an indication of lungs cancer. Obviously it is not true. There are a lot many, and diverse, reasons that can cause Hemoptysis… Lung cancer is just one of those reasons. In any case, this misconception actually works in our favor, since this fear of lung cancer makes the sufferer consult the doctor, and if it is lung cancer it can be detected in the early stage and the treatment can be started when it is not too late.
As mentioned earlier, there are different situations that involve the Hemoptysis, such as, Bronchitis, Pneumonia, Lung Neoplasm, Tuberculosis, Pulmonary Embolism, Pneumonic Plague, Cystic Fibrosis, Bleeding Disorders, Drug Induced Situations, Trauma, etc. In children Hemoptysis is commonly caused by the presence of a foreign body in the respiratory tract.
It is very imperative to distinguish between coughing up blood and blood that is brought in the mouth from other body organs. The later condition is called “Pseudohemoptysis”, in which blood doesn’t come from the lungs or bronchial tubes.
The treatment for Hemoptysis mainly depends on the root cause of the coughed up blood. Angiography is mainly used to locate the exact site of the bleeding. Generally the medical techniques, iced saline and topical vasoconstrictors (like adrenaline or vasopressin) are used to stop the blood discharge. However, there are few other models of treatment available too. If hemorrhage is occurring, then bronchial intubation is used to collapse the lung. Laser photocoagulation can stop bleeding during bronchoscopy. Finally, surgical option is also offered, but it is generally reserved as the last resort. It involves lobectomy or pneumonectomy. Certain types of lung cancer can be treated with Erlotinib or Gefitinib.
Having said all this, people must realize one thing that coughing up blood is not an indication that your death is near. Most of the times, Hemoptysis is accompanied by chills, fever, weight loss, night sweats, anxiety, and other such symptoms. However, it is due to the fear. This fear makes the person look sicker than he actually is. The best option is to timely consult the doctor and have your doubts cleared.
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