Coughing up blood can mean one of several serious conditions, such as cancer, infection or serious problem with the blood vessels in the lungs, according to WebMD. In most cases, coughing up blood requires medical evaluation unless it is caused by bronchitis.
Additional reasons why a person coughs up blood, otherwise known as hemoptysis, include taking blood-thinning medication; having a pulmonary embolism; or the result of trauma to the chest area, such as from a car crash, states WebMD. Conditions that can cause hemoptysis include pneumonia, malignant or nonmalignant lung tumors, congestive heart failure, tuberculosis or an autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or Churg-Strauss syndrome. Hemoptysis can also result from blood that occurs outside of the lungs. Severe nosebleeds or vomiting up blood from the stomach can cause blood to enter the trachea.
The first concern with patients experiencing hemoptysis is to ensure the condition is not causing problems breathing, explains WebMD. The doctor can then run one of several tests, such as a computed tomography scan or a chest X-ray, to find where the bleeding is located. Treatment usually involves stopping the source of the bleeding. A doctor may use bronchial artery embolization to identify the source of the bleeding and block the artery with metal strips, thus stopping the bleeding. Tools at the end of an endoscope may also be used to stop bleeding.