When a Nosebleed Means Something More

woman with nosebleedEpistaxis, more routinely referred to as a nosebleed, is a common complaint and has been reported to occur in up to 60 percent of the general population according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. They are rarely life threatening. In fact, most nosebleeds are typically harmless, self-limiting, and spontaneous, but some can be recurrent.

Nosebleeds are divided into two categories, depending on whether the bleeding is coming from the front or back of the nose.

Anterior nosebleeds originate toward the front of the nose and cause blood to flow out through the nostrils. These types of nosebleeds are common in dry climates or during the winter months when dry, heated indoor air dehydrates the nasal membranes and are not usually serious.

Posterior nosebleeds originate toward the back of the nose, near the throat. Posterior nosebleeds are less common than anterior nosebleeds, but they can be serious and can cause a lot of blood loss.

You should seek emergency medical care if your nosebleed:

  • Involves massive bleeding or makes it hard to breathe
  • Causes you to become extremely pale, fatigued, or disoriented
  • Happens after recent nasal surgery or if you have a known nasal tumor
  • Occurs with other serious symptoms, such as chest pain
  • Occurs after an injury, such as being hit in the face, and you are concerned that you could have other injuries (eg, broken bone)
  • Will not stop bleeding and you take medications that prevent clotting

In these cases where nosebleeds are unable to be controlled or the situation is emergent, neurointerventional radiology procedures may be utilized as treatment.  Neurointerventional radiology provides minimally invasive intervention through the use of small catheters and wires.  In the case of nosebleeds, these devices are used within the blood vessels to cut off blood supply to the affected area. 

Augusto Elias, MD, neurointerventional radiologist with Clinical Radiologists, S.C., in Springfield, offers treatment in the acute setting and also offers a clinic to see patients in the non-acute setting.  To schedule an appointment, call 217-588-2726.

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