What Is It?
The inside of the nose is covered with moist, delicate tissue (mucosa) that has a rich supply of blood vessels near the surface. When this tissue is injured, even from a minor nick or scratch, these blood vessels tend to bleed, sometimes heavily. Nosebleeds near the front of the nose, called anterior nosebleeds, are very common since this is the most accessible area to injury. The most frequent location is the nasal septum, the wall between the two sides of the nose. In most cases, this type of nosebleed is not serious. It usually can be stopped with some local pressure and a little patience.
Only rarely is a nosebleed life threatening or fatal. In these cases, the hemorrhage (severe bleeding) is usually from an artery in a posterior location, higher and deeper in the nose. Posterior bleeds usually drain down the back of the throat, but can also bleed out of both nostrils. Also, in most cases of severe nosebleeds, the person has another health problem, such as high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder, or the person takes a blood-thinning medication that slows down the blood-clotting process.
Certain people are more likely to get nosebleeds because of their environment, work history, health problems or use of medications that increase the tendency to bleed. Common risk factors for nosebleeds include:
Nosebleeds also commonly are caused by trauma, such as nose picking, forceful blowing of the nose or severe facial trauma from an automobile accident or contact sports.
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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
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