Nosebleeds

Given the prominent position of the nose on the face and the fact that the nose is full of blood vessels, damage or trauma to the face often causes the nose to bleed. The nose may also bleed if the nasal membranes become too dry, either due to a dry climate or a dry winter.

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Symptoms

Causes and Risk Factors

A range of factors can increase the risk of a nosebleed, including:

  • Medications that slow blood clotting, such as wafarin, aspirin or anti-inflammatories
  • Low humidity, such as in a cold winter or a hot, dry summer
  • Infection
  • Trauma, such as a blow to the face or nose picking
  • Rhinitis
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

A nosebleed may also be caused by a tumor or an inherited bleeding problem, but these causes are less common.

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Diagnosis

Although most nosebleeds can be handled with home treatment, if nosebleeds recur or are difficult to stop, you should visit a doctor. The physician will perform a physical examination and may order blood tests to determine if a bleeding disorder is causing the nosebleeds.

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Treatments

Most nosebleeds can be stopped without professional intervention. To stop a nosebleed, using the thumb and index finger, pinch the soft part of the nose closed and press firmly toward the face. Then lean forward. If you lean back, blood is more likely to run back through the sinuses and into the throat, causing gagging.

Hold the nose for at least five minutes and sit with the head higher than the heart. If the bleeding continues, pinch the nose again for five minutes. If it stops, apply ice in a towel to the nose.

After the bleeding has stopped, do not blow your nose or put anything in it. Avoid straining during bowel movements, bending down to lift anything, and smoking. Keep your head higher than your heart and avoid hot liquids for a day.

If nosebleeds recur, lubricating the nose with an ointment, such as petroleum jelly or a saline mist, can help reduce the risk of another nosebleed.

You should see a doctor if the bleeding will not stop or is rapid, or if you feel weak or faint. You should also consult a doctor if your nose bleeds often. If necessary, a doctor may use a heating instrument or a chemical swab to stop a nosebleed. In certain cases, nasal packs are used to stop excessive bleeding. In very rare cases, surgery is required and a plug is inserted to stop the bleeding, called angiographic embolization.