Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood through a complex network of blood vessels. These blood vessels, which control blood flow, include arteries, veins, and capillaries.

If any of these blood vessels become damaged, bleeding occurs. The type of bleeding depends on the blood vessel involved:

  • Arterial bleeding. Arterial bleeding is when you bleed from an artery. Your arteries bring oxygen-rich blood away from your heart and to your body’s organs.
  • Venous bleeding. In venous bleeding, blood flow comes from a vein. Your veins return deoxygenated blood to your heart.
  • Capillary bleeding. Capillary bleeding is when you bleed from a capillary. Capillaries are small blood vessels that connect arteries and veins.

The most severe type of bleeding is arterial bleeding, but venous bleeding can be just as serious. You can identify venous bleeding by looking at the blood’s color and how quickly it flows out of a wound.

Read on to learn about the signs of venous bleeding, along with first aid care.

When a vein is torn or severed, the blood that flows out will be dark red or bluish. That’s because it no longer has oxygen.

Plus, since venous blood is moving to the heart, it’s under less force than arterial blood. It will “ooze” like a thick liquid, flowing steadily out of the body. If the damaged vein is deep or large, the blood may gush out.

Venous bleeding can be caused by the following wounds:

  • lacerations (cuts)
  • punctures
  • amputations

In general, all types of bleeding require the same care. The goal is to reduce the bleeding and prevent blood loss and repair the underlying tear or laceration in the vein.

If someone you know has a bleeding vein, here’s what you should do:

  1. Wear a pair of latex gloves to protect yourself. If you don’t have gloves, wrap your hands in a plastic bag or layers of clean cloth.
  2. Find the wound. If needed, remove or cut the person’s clothes to expose the wound.
  3. If possible, elevate the wound above the person’s heart.
  4. Place clean gauze or cloth, like a handkerchief, on the wound. If you don’t have these items, use a hand.
  5. Apply steady, firm pressure for 5 minutes. If the wound is small, use your fingers. If the wound is big, use your palm.
  6. If the bleeding continues for 10 minutes, place an additional cloth on top. Apply firmer pressure over a bigger area. Avoid removing the first layer of soaked fabric, as this might interrupt clotting.
  7. Call 911 if the bleeding doesn’t stop, if there is a lot of bleeding, or the person loses consciousness.

Venous bleeding is typically easier to manage than arterial bleeding. However, if the vein is very deep, the bleeding can be difficult to stop.

The other types of bleeding include arterial and capillary bleeding. They look different than venous bleeding, so it’s important to know how to tell them apart.

Here’s what arterial and capillary bleeding involves:

Arterial bleeding

Arterial bleeding, also called pulsatile bleeding, is the most serious type of bleeding. It’s usually caused by major injuries.

Since arterial blood flows from the heart, it’s oxygenated and bright red. It will also shoot out with each heartbeat in a rhythmic pattern. This pressure can make the blood spurt up to several feet.

Compared to venous bleeding, arterial bleeding is more difficult to control. The force of each heartbeat interrupts the blood clotting process, which can lead to a lot of blood loss.

Medical emergency

Arterial bleeding is a medical emergency. Call 911 if you think a person has a bleeding artery.

Capillary bleeding

Capillary bleeding is the most common type of bleeding. It happens whenever the skin is injured, so it occurs with all wounds. It’s less serious than other forms of bleeding.

Capillary blood oozes or trickles out of the body. It also flows quickly, but it’s usually easy to control. That’s because capillaries are small and most injuries that cause capillary bleeding are superficial.

Sometimes, if the capillaries burst due to a physical blow, the blood can get trapped beneath the skin. This produces a bruise.

In most cases, bleeding is minor and can be stopped with first aid care.

However, bleeding can be a medical emergency, even if the bleeding has stopped. You should get emergency help in the following scenarios (additional emergency scenarios may apply):

  • the bleeding doesn’t stop after several minutes of applying pressure
  • the bleeding spurts out quickly, which is a sign of arterial bleeding
  • the wound is deep, large, or embedded with an object
  • the wound exposes the bone
  • the wound involves the eyes or abdomen
  • the wound is in the chest or neck and causes difficulty breathing
  • the injury was caused by a motor vehicle accident
  • the person shows signs of shock

Venous bleeding occurs when a vein is torn or cut. The blood will look dark red and ooze out of the body, moving steadily and slowly. It won’t shoot out like arterial blood.

Although venous bleeding looks different, it can be just as serious as arterial bleeding. It’s important to stop the bleeding as soon as possible by applying firm pressure on the wound.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop after a few minutes, the person becomes pale or unconscious or blood pressure drops, call 911. You should also get emergency help if the wound is very deep or if the person shows signs of shock.