Why Do People Get Nosebleeds?

By November 16, 2016Blog
desk covered in bandages and stethoscope, text reading "Nosebleeds"

When do you get nosebleeds? When you’re skiing in the Rocky Mountains? After you’ve had a bad cold? Nosebleeds, while sometimes scary, are not usually serious. Most nosebleeds can be treated at home or by your physician.

What types of nosebleeds are there?

  • Anterior nosebleeds – Front of the nose nosebleeds. These are by far the most common type of nosebleed. About 90 percent of all nosebleeds are anterior nosebleeds. They are usually easy to treat.
  • Posterior nosebleeds – Back of the nose nosebleeds. These are not nearly as common than anterior nosebleeds. They happen more frequently in elderly people. Typically, the bleeding comes from an artery in the back part of the nose. These kinds of nosebleeds are more complex than anterior nosebleeds. That’s why they often mean you have to be checked into a hospital and seen by an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist).

What causes nosebleeds?

Nosebleeds are fairly common and caused by a number of different things. Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Underlying health problems – Diseases, such as liver disease, kidney disease, severe alcoholism or other chronic health problems can make it harder for your blood to clot. When that happens, sometimes it can cause your nose to bleed.
  • Heart conditions – Hypertension and congestive heart failure are two other health problems that can cause nosebleeds, though doctors say it is rare that high blood pressure is the sole reason for a nosebleed.
  • Colds and allergies – Severe colds or allergies can dry your nose out or cause the lining of your nose to be irritated, and frequent nose-blowing can do the same. Both of those are known to cause nosebleeds.
  • Dry air and cold temperatures – Indoor heating and extremely dry air can often cause your nose to bleed. A humidifier can help. Nasal sprays are also a way to treat dry noses.
  • Blood-thinning medicines – Medications used to thin your blood, along with aspirin and some anti-inflammatory drugs that treat pain can all cause nosebleeds. According to doctors, any medicine that alters the body’s ability to clot blood can result in a nosebleed. Some of those medications include Coumadin, Jantoven, Plavix, aspirin and naproxen. If you are on blood-thinning medication and start to get frequent nosebleeds, consult with your doctor immediately, as there could be a more serious problem.
  • Picking or scratching at your nose – If you pick your nose and accidentally injure your blood vessels, nosebleeds will happen. Also, outside trauma, such as getting punched in the face, can often trigger nosebleeds.

What’s the best way to treat a nosebleed?

  • Pinch your nostrils shut for at least 10 minutes, all while sitting and leaning forward. You will have to breathe through your mouth.
  • If you can’t control the bleeding by pinching your nostrils, you can try a nasal decongestant spray (i.e. Afrin, Dristan, or Vicks Sinex) to constrict blood vessels in your nose. After the spray, apply direct pressure again to stop the bleeding.