Loss of blood from the mucous membrane that line the nose. Nosebleeds are commonplace in children, but the bleeding is often minor and ceases by itself. Nosebleeds are also frequent, but in certain cases serious in those people over the age of 50. In this age group, bleeding can come from the back of the nose, and be difficult to stop. If the blood is swallowed, bleeding can be unnoticed.
Nosebleeds generally occur spontaneously. In hot, dry environments or during the winter months of the year, the membranes lining the nose can become cracked and dry, causing the nose to bleed. Nosebleeds can also arise if the lining of the nose is injured by a blow to the nose or by forceful nose blowing or nose-picking. In young children nosebleeds can often arise as a result of rough play.
A infection of foreign body in the nose in the upper respiratory tract can also cause a nosebleed. In those people over the age of 50, the little blood vessels in the nose can be more fragile and are therefore more susceptible to rupture. Hardly ever , recurrent nose bleeds are a sign of an underlying disorder such as a bleeding disorder such as thrombocytopenia, or a tumour of the nose or paranasal sinuses, or hypertension (high blood pressure). Nosebleeds can also be caused by certain drugs that prevent or stop the blood clotting.
The wide majority of nosebleeds are short-lived and do not need specific medical treatment. A nosebleed can often be stopped by pressing on the soft part of the nose (pressing both sides together for about 10 to 15 minutes). If the membranes in the nose are cracked or dry rubbing a water based ointment in the area can help to stop the nosebleeds.
A nosebleed that continues for than about an hour needs medical attention. Treatment for a severe nosebleed can involve nasal sponges inserted into the nostrils to absorb the blood or the insertion and inflation of a balloon catheter to stop the bleeding. If the cause is not apparent, the nasal passages can be viewed with an examining instrument to look for ruptured blood vessels or possible tumour. Alternatively, imaging techniques such as X-rays or MRI (a technique that produces crossectional or three dimensional images of body structures) can be used. Treatment will then be of the underlying cause. Sometimes surgery is needed to tie off leaking blood vessels.