Nose bleeds, often the result of common events, are usually trauma-related but can also be a warning sign of other problems. Typically caused by the rupture of a small blood vessel, there are two main types of nose bleeds: upper and lower septum nose bleeds.
Lower nose bleeds
Most nose bleeds occur within the lower end of the nose in the lower septum ― the semi-rigid wall separating the two channels of the nose that contain blood vessels. These blood vessels lie close to the surface, making them susceptible to injury. Lower nose bleeds usually do not require medical attention unless the bleeding cannot be stopped, or when it happens in the very young.
Causes of lower end nose bleeds
The most common cause of nose bleeds is trauma such as a blow, smack, or sometimes just picking the nose. Dryness inside of the nose can also cause bleeding; in addition, high altitudes, colds, allergies and medications are all responsible for nose bleeds.
Treatment of lower end nose bleeds
- Sit up straight and pinch the nostrils together firmly for 10 minutes.
- You can place a cold compress or an ice pack across the bridge of your nose.
- Vaseline can be used if the cause of the nose bleed is dryness.
- When the bleeding stops, do not jump up and down: take things easy, and do not blow your nose or it will dislodge the clot and will probably reactivate your nose bleed.
More urgent medical attention is required if:
- the blood loss is heavy
- if you get nose bleeds often
- if the injury/trauma is severe
- The person is an infant or child, or if the person is already sick or elderly.
- If a nose bleed does not stop after 10 to 20 minutes of direct pressure.
- If you are at all worried about the nose bleed seek further medical advice.
Upper septum nose bleeds
Upper septum nose bleeds are much more rare. Bleeding begins high within the nose and blood flows down the back of the mouth and throat even when the person is sitting up or standing. These nose bleeds can be very serious and do require urgent medical attention.
Causes of upper septum nose bleeds
- High blood pressure
- Disease of the arteries such as atherosclerosis
- Side effects of medications and drugs such as aspirin, cocaine
- Bleeding disorders
- Nasal tumors, cancerous and non-cancerous
- Serious trauma such as a displaced broken nose from car crashes, falls etc
- Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, a hereditary disease where a growth like a birth mark is located in the nose.
- Nose bleeds can occur for no apparent reason.
Treatment of upper septum nose bleeds
Treatment is initially the same as for lower end nose bleeds. Your doctor may pack the nose with gauze or an inflatable latex balloon if the bleeding does not stop. Cauterization of the bleeding blood vessel may be required. This involves an electrical or heated device to burn the ruptured blood vessel to stop the bleeding. The doctor uses a local anaesthetic before he or she begins this procedure.