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What causes nosebleed? 29 possible conditions

Nosebleeds are common. They may be scary, but they rarely indicate a serious medical problem. The nose contains many blood vessels. These blood vessels are located close to the surface in the front and back of the nose. They are very fragile and bleed easily. Nosebleeds are common in adults and children between the ages of 3 and 10.

There are two kinds of nosebleeds. An anterior nosebleed occurs when the blood vessels in the front of the nose break and bleed. A posterior nosebleed occurs in the back or the deepest part of the nose. In this case, blood flows down the back of the throat. Posterior nosebleeds can be dangerous.

Causes of Nosebleeds

There are many causes of nosebleeds. A sudden or infrequent nosebleed is rarely serious. If you have frequent nosebleeds, you could have a more serious problem. 

Dry air is the most common cause of nosebleeds. Living in a dry climate and using a central heating system can dry out the nasal membranes, which are tissues inside the nose. This dryness causes crusting inside the nose. Crusting may itch or become irritated. If your nose is scratched or picked, it can bleed.

Taking antihistamines and decongestants for allergies, colds, or sinus problems can also dry out the nasal membranes and cause nosebleeds. Frequent nose blowing is another cause of nosebleeds.

Other common causes of nosebleeds include:

  • foreign object stuck in the nose
  • chemical irritants
  • allergic reaction
  • injury to the nose
  • repeated sneezing
  • picking the nose
  • cold air
  • upper respiratory infection
  • large doses of aspirin

Other causes of nosebleeds include high blood pressure, a bleeding disorder, blood clotting disorder, and cancer.

Most nosebleeds do not require medical attention. However, you should seek medical attention if your nosebleed lasts longer than 20 minutes or occurs after an injury. This may be a sign of a posterior nosebleed, which is more serious.

Injuries that might cause a nosebleed include a fall, a car accident, or a punch in the face. Nosebleeds that occur after an injury may indicate a broken nose, skull fracture, or internal bleeding.

Diagnosing a Nosebleed

If you seek medical attention for a nosebleed, your doctor will conduct a physical examination to determine a cause. He or she will check your nose for signs of a foreign object. Your doctor will also ask questions about your medical history and current medications.

Tell your doctor about any other symptoms you have and any recent injuries. There is no single test to determine the cause of a nosebleed. However, your doctor might use diagnostic tests to find the cause. These tests include:

  • complete blood count, which is a blood test to check for blood disorders
  • nasal endoscopy, which is an examination of the nose using a special instrument
  • partial thromboplastin time, which is a blood test that checks how long it takes your blood to clot
  • CT scan of the nose, which is an imaging test that takes cross-sectional pictures of the nose
  • X-ray of the face and nose, which is an imaging test that uses radiation to produce pictures of the nose

How to Treat a Nosebleed

You can treat a nosebleed at home. While sitting up, squeeze the soft part of your nose. Make sure that your nostrils are fully closed. Keep your nostrils closed for 10 minutes, lean forward slightly, and breathe through your mouth.

Do not lie down when trying to stop a nosebleed. Lying down can result in swallowing blood and can irritate your stomach. Release your nostrils after 10 minutes and check to see if the bleeding has stopped. Repeat these steps if bleeding continues.

You can also apply a cold compress over the bridge of your nose or use a nasal spray decongestant to close off the small blood vessels.

See your doctor if you’re unable to stop a nosebleed on your own. If a foreign object is the cause, your doctor can remove the object. A medical technique called cauterization can also stop persistent or frequent nosebleeds. This involves your doctor burning the blood vessels in your nose with silver nitrate (a compound used to remove tissue) or a heating device. Your doctor may also pack your nose with cotton or gauze to apply pressure to your blood vessels and stop the bleeding.

How to Prevent Nosebleeds

There are several ways to prevent nosebleeds.

  • Use a humidifier in your house to keep the air moist.
  • Avoid picking your nose.
  • Limit your intake of aspirin, which can thin your blood and contribute to nosebleeds. Discuss this with your doctor first because the benefits of taking aspirin might outweigh the risks.
  • Use antihistamines and decongestants in moderation. These can dry out the nose.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.


Broken Nose

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A broken nose is a crack or break of the bone or cartilage in the nose. Swelling of the nose, or the area around the nose, is one sign of a broken nose.

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Foreign Body in the Nose

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Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, also known as "hay fever," refers to symptoms that occur after exposure to a certain allergen, such as pollen. Swollen eyes or face may accompany allergic rhinitis.

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High Blood Pressure Overview

High blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, and other serious health problems. Left untreated, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and vital organs.

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Common Cold Overview

The common cold is a virus that involves symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose and a headache. Learn the causes, symptoms and treatments for the common cold now!

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Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)

A low platelet count, also called thrombocytopenia, affects your blood's ability to clot. This can cause red, purple, or brown bruising, prolonged bleeding, and nosebleeds.

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Deviated Septum

The nasal septum is a thin structure, separating the two sides of the nose. If it is not in the middle of the nose, then it is deviated.

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Christmas Disease (Hemophilia B)

Also called hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia, Christmas disease is a rare genetic disorder in which your blood does not clot properly. A common symptom is unexplained or excessive bruising.

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Factor X Deficiency

Factor X deficiency, also called Stuart-Prower factor deficiency, is a condition caused by not having enough of the protein known as factor X (ten) in your blood. A common symptom is easy bruising.

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Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells. Excessive sweating at night, constant fatigue, weight loss, bone pain, and easy bleeding or bruising are all signs of this disease.

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Ear Barotrauma

Ear barotrauma causes ear discomfort due to pressure changes. Occasional ear barotrauma is common, especially in changing altitudes when flying in an airplane. It is generally not harmful, but frequent cases can caus...

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Ebola Virus and Disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ebola disease is a rare, often fatal illness. One of its late-stage symptoms is a bleeding rash over the entire body.

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Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a disorder where the blood doesn

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Osler-Weber-Rendu Disease

Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, also known as Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome, is a genetic blood vessel disorder that can cause life-threatening bleeding. It is characterized by the formation of abnormal bloo...

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Glomerulonephritis occurs when blood filtering vessels in the kidneys are damaged. This may contribute to kidney failure, which causes fatigue, insomnia, itchy skin, and other symptoms.

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Cocaine and related disorders

Cocaine is extracted from the coca plant, which grows in Central and South America. It is processed into many forms for use as an illegal drug of abuse.

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Skull Fractures

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A skull fracture is any break in the cranial bone, or the skull. It can result in bleeding, bruising, pain, and swelling. Less severe symptoms include headache, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision.

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Acquired Platelet Function Disorder

Platelets are a type of blood cell. They play an important role in healing from injuries. Platelets help your body to form blood clots and stop bleeding. Some people’s platelets don’t function the way the...

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Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is a rare bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand factor (VWF), which helps blood clot. Symptoms include excessive nose bleeds and easy bruising.

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Factor II Deficiency

Factor II deficiency is a very rare blood clotting disorder caused by a lack of prothrombin, a protein that helps blood clot. Severe cases may cause unexplained bruising, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds.

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.