The nose is located in a part of the body where there is a rich presence of blood vessels and because it protrudes out of the face, the nose is more vulnerable to attacks and trauma which may cause injuries and bleeding.
Nosebleeds can be very frightening even though most cases are minor and easily treated. Nosebleeds can be categorized into two major types:
- Anterior Nosebleeds: More than 90% of nosebleeds are anterior nosebleeds. This type of nosebleed comes from a blood vessel that is located at the front of the nose. This type of nosebleed is easy to control.
- Posterior Nosebleeds: They mostly affect elderly people and are less common than anterior nosebleeds. Posterior nosebleeds are a lot more complicated as they come from an artery that is located at the rear part of the nose. This type of nosebleed is best treated under the management of an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist.
Symptoms of Nosebleeds
Most of the time, the bleeding only comes out of one nostril. The bleeding may be light or sometimes heavy enough to overflow and spill into the other nostril so that both sides are affected by the bleeding. Blood may also drip back into the throat or down into the stomach. This may cause the affected person to spit out or vomit blood.
Other symptoms of nosebleeds may include:
- Symptoms associated with heavy loss of blood such as light headedness, dizziness and fainting. This symptom usually occurs when there is excessive loss of blood during nosebleed. However, this is very rare.
- Easy bruising or additional bleeding from other parts of the body. For instance, patients may experience bleeding gums when brushing their teeth or blood in the urine or feces.
What Causes Nosebleeds?
There are a number of conditions that may cause the nose to bleed. The most common causes include:
- Broken Nose: This is when there is a fracture of the bone or cartilage in the nose. This may cause swelling or bleeding of the nose. This type of nosebleed is a medical emergency and must be given immediate medical attention.
- Foreign Bodies: This mostly occurs amongst children and sometimes amongst adults who pick their noses or clean it with sharp objects. When foreign/sharp objects are introduced into the nose, it may cause injuries or infections that would cause the nose to bleed.
- Allergic Rhinitis: Allergic Rhinitis is also known as Hay Fever. It occurs when a person is exposed to allergens such as dust, pollens or other types of allergens. Allergens cause the body to release histamines, a chemical that helps the body to defend itself from allergens. Histamines may however cause some other reactions in the body such as itchy eyes, bleeding or running nose and sneezing.
- Hypertensive Crisis: Nosebleeds may also occur during a hypertensive crisis.
- Common Colds: Nosebleeds are also very common during winter due to dry air moving through the nose which may irritate the membranes lining the insides of the nose, causing crusts to form and bleed when irritated.
- Thrombocytopenia: This is a medical condition characterized by an inability of the blood to clot causing bruising, excessive bleeding or nosebleeds.
- Deviated Septum: The Cartilage in the nose that separates each nostril is called the septum. The septum is normally located at the center of each nostril but in some people, the septum may be slightly tilted to one side, causing one nostril to become larger than the other. In cases where the unevenness is severe, other complications like difficulty breathing, blocked nostrils and nosebleeds may occur.
- Hemophilia B: This is also known as Christmas disease. It is a rare genetic disorder characterized by excessive or unexplained bruising.
- Factor X: Easy bruising and nosebleed is one of the common symptoms of Factor X deficiency, a condition which occurs when there is insufficient protein in the blood.
- Leukemia: Leukemia may also cause nose bleeding. Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood cells.
- Ear Barotrauma: Ear Barotrauma is caused by changes in air pressure which may affect the ears. Ear barotraumas may sometimes cause nosebleeds.
- Ebola Virus: Ebola virus may also cause bleeding rash all over the body, including the nose. Ebola Virus is a fatal disease that requires immediate medical attention.
- Skull Fracture: Skull fracture, a condition where the cranial bones or the skull is fractured may also cause nosebleeds.
How to Treat Nosebleeds at Home
Simple cases of nosebleeds can be treated at home without the attention of a medical doctor. Nosebleeds can be stopped at home by taking the following steps:
- Sit up straight and be very calm.
- Avoid tilting your head to the back so that the blood is not swallowed. Instead, lean your head forward.
- Use your thumb and your index finger to pinch the nostrils together for 10 minutes.
- Try to prevent blood from flowing into the stomach by spitting it out.
- Do not place icepacks on the nose as they do not help.
- It may also help to add moisture to the air with a humidifier or a vaporizer in cases where nosebleeds are caused by exposure to dry air in the home.
- Get professional help if the bleeding fails to stop after pinching the nose for ten minutes or if the bleeding becomes too heavy.
How to Prevent Nosebleeds
- Keep your home humidified to prevent dry air, which may cause nosebleeds from seeping in.
- You may apply ointments like Vaseline to the insides of your nostril before bedtime on winter nights to avoid excessive drying out.
- You may also use a saline spray to keep the nostrils moist and free from infections.
- Blood thinners like aspirin, heparin, ginseng, ginger and vitamin E may also cause nosebleeds. If you regularly suffer from nosebleeds, inform a doctor before using blood thinners.
- Citrus fruits contain bioflavonoids, a class of antioxidants that also help to strengthen the blood vessels and keep them from rupturing. Therefore, consuming citrus fruits daily may help to prevent nosebleeds.
- Avoid exposing yourself to allergens.
- Avoid scratching your nose very hard or picking it. Also, do not insert sharp or dangerous objects in your nose.