Nosebleeds, which are referred to by doctors as epistaxis, are very common medical issues. They are so common that just about every person will have at least one nosebleed during his or her lifetime. Because of the commonness and frequency of nosebleeds, it is important to understand what to do when a nosebleed happens to you.

Caring for a Nosebleed

Sit upright in a comfortable chair and lean forward. Pinch both sides of the entire soft part of your nose. If you like, spray an over-the-counter decongestant such as oxymetazoline before applying pressure. This shrinks the blood vessels and slows or halts the bleeding. Keep the pressure on your nose steady for at least 10 to 20 minutes. If your nosebleed persists or seems too heavy, call your doctor’s office or an urgent care, or visit an emergency room.

Causes of Nosebleeds

Managing nosebleeds effectively depends on what is causing the condition. Once your nose has stopped bleeding, it is a good idea to try and figure out why the nosebleed occurred. There are many factors that contribute to the development, frequency and severity of nosebleeds. Nasal dryness is a leading cause of nosebleeds, and often occurs because of dry air outside or in the home. Overuse of nasal sprays also contributes to nasal dryness.

Inflammation syndromes, such as sinusitis and sarcoidosis also cause epistaxis. Trauma from nose-picking, facial or nasal injuries, or surgery may trigger a nosebleed. A tumor or septal abnormality can disrupt airflow in the nose, damaging its lining and causing bleeding. High blood pressure, blood clotting disorders, and the use of blood-thinning medications can make your nose bleed regularly. Medications used for chemotherapy may also trigger epistaxis. If you have malnutrition, kidney, or liver disease or a condition called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, your blood vessels could be thin, causing them to briskly bleed with just a slight amount of trauma.

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Complications of Nosebleeds

A rare minor nosebleed is usually of little consequence. However, frequent or major nosebleeds can be a major inconvenience. You may have a lower quality of life and avoid going out because of fear that your nose will start bleeding. Infrequently, some people lose so much blood that they need a transfusion. This is most common in the elderly and people with anemia.

Management of Nosebleeds

If you have recurrent or severe nosebleeds, a medical evaluation is needed. A nasal endoscopy procedure can determine where the bleed is originating. This procedure can also check for anatomical abnormalities, unusual growths or areas of inflammation. If the bleeding is from just one nostril, an endoscopy should be performed in order to check for a nasal tumor. Management of nosebleeds could include moisturizing the nostrils, cauterization of problematic blood vessels and absorbent packing of the nostril with cotton gauze. If you need these procedures, a topical anesthetic can be used for your comfort. If needed, a minimally invasive procedure called a sphenopalatine artery ligation can be done to reduce blood flow to specific nasal blood vessels.