Nosebleeds. Everyone has had one. While they are often frightening, they are rarely anything more than a nuisance.
What Causes a Nosebleed?
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:
- Sinus infections
- Nose picking
- Blowing the nose too hard
- Frequent sneezing
- Overuse of nasal sprays
- Foreign objects in the nose
- Trauma to the nose
There are two types of nosebleeds, anterior and posterior. Anterior nosebleeds are the most common and are caused by bleeding in the front part of the nose. The bleeding from a posterior nosebleed comes from an artery in the back portion of 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 a Nosebleed?
Bleeding from only one nostril is the most common symptom of a nosebleed. Usually a nosebleed from both nostrils is due to a heavy flow from one nostril; the blood has just backed up and overflown into the other. If blood drips down the back of the throat into the stomach you may spit up or vomit blood. Excessive blood loss can cause a feeling of dizziness, light-headedness and fainting.
How Do You Treat a Nosebleed?
More often than not, a nosebleed can be easily controlled at home. Sit up straight, lean your head forward and pinch the nostrils together with your thumb and index finger for 10 minutes. Try not to swallow any blood as it may cause you to vomit. Once the bleeding has stopped, try not to blow your nose for the next 24 hours and avoid dry air.
If this home remedy does not stop the bleeding, you will have to visit your Carlsbad doctor. If the bleeding is coming from a blood vessel at the front of the nose, your doctor can easily seal up the opening with silver nitrate in a process called cauterizing. If the blood vessel is further back, nasal packing may be needed. This involves packing the nasal cavity with gauze, which puts pressure on the vessel and will stop the bleeding. The packing is left in place for 24 to 72 hours.
If the bleeding is coming from the back of the nose (a posterior nosebleed) a special type of packing is needed. You may need to be hospitalized and will be given a sedative and pain medication. The packing is left in place for 48 to 72 hours. If the bleeding still does not stop, surgery may be needed.
For those who are prone to nosebleeds, your Carlsbad otolaryngologist recommends taking steps to prevent them. Keep the nasal lining moist with a light coating of petroleum jelly several times a day, or use a saline nasal spray. Run a humidifier, especially if you live in a dry climate. Quit smoking; this causes dryness and irritation.
For more information, contact your Carlsbad doctor today.