Epistaxis, the medical term for a nosebleed, is a common condition that affects up to 60% of the American population.
The dry climate of the Bay Area can make nose bleeds much more common.
Most nosebleeds are easily treatable, but in rare cases, they can be dangerous or a symptom of another problem, such as a tumor, infection or autoimmune disease. Individuals with frequent epistaxis or nosebleeds associated with other symptoms or areas of bleeding should seek medical attention at a local emergency room, urgent care facility or ENT clinic.
What Causes Nosebleeds?
When the membranes lining the inside of the nose dry out and become irritated, the blood vessels break, causing a nosebleed. These are more common in the winter months, when the air is cold and dry. Other factors that may contribute to nosebleeds include colds and allergies, sinus infections, nose picking, blowing the nose too hard, frequent sneezing, overuse of nasal sprays, foreign objects in the nose, and trauma to the nose.
If nosebleeds are chronic or occur frequently, they may be the result of high blood pressure or other vascular diseases or, in rare cases, a serious medical condition like a tumor.
What Are the Symptoms of Nosebleeds?
The nose is prone to bleeding due to a large number of blood vessels close to the surface, especially in the cartilage of the nasal septum. When these burst, blood may trickle (or in some instances, seep) from the nose. This is most often the result of trauma to the nose, blowing or picking the nose, and dry or cold air.
Other causes include sinus infections, colds and allergies, foreign objects in the nasal cavity, blood clotting disorders, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and overuse of nasal sprays. Aspirin can exacerbate the condition. A hereditary disorder known as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia is characterized by malformed blood vessels that break easily.
Most nosebleeds originate in the front of the nose and are characterized as anterior nosebleeds. These are easy to control and rarely pose a problem. Posterior nosebleeds are rare, but much more serious. They originate from an artery in the back of the nose, and require immediate hospitalization and treatment. These are most common in the elderly.
If you are experiencing a nosebleed, first and foremost, stay calm! Though your nosebleed may look serious, chances are there is much less blood than appearances would lead you to believe. Sit down and lean forward slightly while pinching your nostrils together using a thumb and index finger. Hold this position for at least five minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped.
Refrain from blowing your nose afterwards. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 20 minutes or is the result of an injury to the face, seek medical attention.
Cauterization of Chronic Nosebleed
Patients with chronic epistaxis or persistent nosebleeds—often the result of an engorged vein or artery—may benefit from cauterization. This procedure involves applying heat to slightly burn a blood vessel in the nose, which stops the flow of blood. Nasal cauterization is a quick and painless procedure that may be completed using either a needle heated with electricity or a caustic agent such as silver nitrate.
Call Camino Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic at (408) 227-6300 for more information or to schedule an appointment.