General Health

Causes and Tips for Sufferers of Frequent Nosebleeds

A sudden nosebleed can be scary stuff. Most of us have experienced a bit of bloodshed after blowing our nose a little too vigorously, however, frequent nosebleeds can indicate an underlying health condition and should be taken up with your primary care provider.

Here are the potential health reasons and a few tips to help with your frequent nose bleeds…

1. Colds & Allergies

If you’re prone to seasonal allergies, meaning allergies to the common culprits of grass, pollen, and mold you may be honking up a storm (aka: blowing your nose) more frequently than normal. As allergy sufferers can attest, the beginning of spring often ushers back those annoying allergy symptoms.

Research from Washington University’s Sinus Institute, point to congestion with frequent nose blowing due to allergies as a major culprit of nose bleeds. Add irritation, dryness, and inflammation inside the nasal tissues and you could end up with a nose bleed.

2. Nasal Injuries

We’ve all done it before and I’m sure most of us will do it again at some point, but there are many people (like children) who tend to over do it! Finger picking the delicate tissues inside the nose or jamming a tissue way up there to scratch a relentless itch can easily result in accidental injury or a nose bleed. Also, injury to a blood vessel on the inside lining of your nose can lead to frequent nose bleeds. In this case, the blood vessel may need to be cauterized (burned with an electric current from a laser or silver nitrate).

Not only that, but doing so after already suffering a nosebleed will only prolong the healing process. Prevention talked to Jerold Principato, MD, who said it takes around seven to 10 days to heal a ruptured blood vessel. The bleeding only stops when a clot forms and then later turns into a scab as it heals. If you pick the scab off, you’ll just continue the process all over again.

3. Blood-Thinning Medications

According to research from the Mayo Clinic, several blood-thinning drugs can increase your risk of nosebleeds. Common blood-thinning medications (i.e., aspirin) as well as anticoagulants taken to prevent blood clots (i.e., Warfarin/Coumadin, Plavix, and Jantoven) can lead to frequent nose bleeds because they impact the body’s clotting ability.

If you are taking anticoagulants due to a risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke and suffer from frequent nose bleed NEVER cease taking your medication before speaking with your doctor first. Often nosebleeds are an unfortunate side effect for patients who require blood thinners due to a serious medical conditions.

4. Dry Air or Central Heat/Cooling

Healthline.com claims that dry air is the most prevalent cause of nose bleeds. Those who live in dry or centrally-heated or cooled environments can experience severe dryness, itchiness, and irritation of the nasal membranes and nose bleeds.

If your home or workplace is prone to dryness, try using a saline nasal spray to rehydrate the tissues of the inner nose. A humidifier may also add moisture to a dry environment.

5. Issues with Nasal Septum

A nasal septum is that piece of bone that separates our two nostrils. If someone has a deviated septum, which basically means it leans either too far to the right or left, one side is more exposed to air than the other. Not surprisingly, the one side of your nose will become more dried out than the other. According to the Mayo Clinic, a deviated septum can lead to nosebleeds. SELF also adds that many people do not even realize they have a deviated septum because the curve in their bone is so slight, whereas others are more aware because it affects their breathing. 

Illicit drug use, namely cocaine, can also cause problems with the nasal septum. “Cocaine over time can erode the surfaces and tissues in the nose. You can get a hole in your septum, which then has a raw edge that’s very prone to bleeding,” says Erich Voigt, M.D., clinical associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at NYU Langone Health while speaking to SELF.

6. Bleeding Disorder

Bleeding disorders like hemophilia can cause frequent nosebleeds. U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that people who have this condition are missing the protein necessary for blood clotting, which means they cannot create clots to stop the bleeding. Another potential cause is a rare bleeding disorder known as idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP). This happens “when you don’t have enough platelets to help your blood clot properly,” says SELF.

Before the panic sets in, it’s important to note that this is an extremely rare cause for frequent nosebleeds. More often than note, they are due to something minor like dry air. SELF goes on to say that this is especially true if nosebleeds are the only symptoms you are experiencing. If a person were to be suffering from hemophilia and ITP, there would be other symptoms like bruising.

7. Unknown Growth

This cause is extremely rare, but growths in the nose can happen. They’re usually due to polyps or hemangiomas (non-cancerous lumps), lesions, or tumors. Reader’s Digest points out that while they are rare, they can result in bleeding, especially if they are irritated by a stuffy nose or some sort of blockage. Another cause is telangiectasias, also known as spider veins. These are “clusters of small, dilated blood vessels close to the surface of your skin,” says Dr. Voigt to SELF.

Anyone who suffers from frequent nosebleeds should contact a healthcare professional for further investigation.

8. Related Health Conditions

Patients with high blood pressure (or hypertension) can also experience nose bleeds according to research from the American Heart Association. In fact, several cardiovascular conditions (i.e., heart failure) can lead to a hypertensive crisis, which is characterized by anxiety, headache, breathlessness, and a rapid spike in blood pressure.

Keep in mind that nose bleeds with the above listed symptoms will often strike only when high blood pressure  reaches a critical stage. Medical conditions that impact clotting (alcoholism, liver and kidney disease) can also result in frequent and sudden nosebleeds. If you suspect an underlying health condition, consult with a doctor immediately.

9. What to Do to Stop a Nosebleed…

Experiencing a sudden nosebleed can be scary and messy. However, you can cease blood flow by sitting down and leaning your head forward slightly.

As you lean forward slowly, apply steady pressure by pinching your nostrils shut for 5-minutes to seal any open blood vessels. After the time is up, relax your hold to check if you’re still bleeding. If you are, pinch and hold your nostrils for an additional 5-minutes.

10. What Not To Do

Sometimes it’s just as important to talk about what not to do, as it is to talk about what to do. How not to treat a nosebleed is the perfect example because there’s a widespread misconception that you should treat a nosebleed by tilting your head back, and that’s simply not true! Kidshealth.org explains that doing so will only cause the blood to run down your throat and into your stomach. This is dangerous because it could cause you to cough, choke, or even lead to vomiting.

11. Types of Nosebleeds

Kidshealth.org explains that there are two types of nosebleeds. An anterior nosebleed is the most common and is caused by the very small blood vessels at the front of the inside of the nose, otherwise known as capillaries, which can break and bleed.

The second type of nosebleed is a called posterior nosebleed. Unlike the anterior nosebleed, this one comes from the deepest part of the nose. “Blood from a posterior nosebleed flows down the back of the throat even if the person is sitting or standing,” writes Kidshealth.org. This particular type of nosebleed generally only occurs in older people who have high blood pressure, or those who’ve suffered face or nose injuries.

12. Nose Bleed Intervention

Most nosebleeds are due to a simple case of dry air or an innocent scratch. These can be easily fixed at home using the steps outlined above. However, frequent and severe nose bleeds may entail medical intervention.

If you experience multiple nosebleeds on a weekly basis (more than one per week), have your doctor check for an underlying medical problem. If you’re prescribed blood thinners and suffer nose bleeding that won’t stop, go to the hospital immediately.

13. Nosebleed Prevention

Even though it’s not always possible to prevent a nosebleed, there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of getting one. The best thing to do is to keep the nose moist. WebMD suggests swapping the inside of your nostril with a thin layer of petroleum jelly three times a day, even before going to bed! You can also use antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin or Polysporin. Another way to do this is to use a saline nasal spray, or to make sure the air in your home isn’t too dry by using a humidifier.

This one might be hard for some, especially children, but the best way to lessen your chances of getting a nosebleed is to stop picking your nose! For those who are smokers, WebMD notes that smoking can dry the nose out and cause irritation. Always wear protection when playing sports that could cause a head injury, and try to avoid taking too many cold and allergy medications. Overuse of these medications can cause the nose to become try and contribute to making nosebleeds even worse.  

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