What is Epistaxis?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 June 2019
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Epistaxis is also known as a nosebleed. The nasal passages are lined with a rich supply of blood vessels situated in proximity to the surface. Due to the location of the blood vessels in the lining of the nose, they can easily be injured and subsequently bleed. Typically, since the lining of the nose is so richly supplied with blood vessels, even the smallest irritation can cause an episode. Generally, nosebleeds tend to appear more severe than they really are.

Some common causes are dry indoor air and head or chest colds. Generally, dry heated air dries out the membranes of the nose which may cause them to crack. When delicate mucus membranes of the nasal lining crack, they may begin to bleed. Head and chest colds may also contribute to epistaxis because of continuous irritation of sneezing, nose blowing and coughing. In addition, allergies can cause the nose to bleed the same way a cold can. Rarely, high blood pressure can cause the nose to bleed.

Occasionally, epistaxis may be caused by certain medications. Typically, anti-inflammatory medications as well as prescription blood thinners can cause the nose to bleed. In addition to medications, a condition known as a deviated septum may contribute to a nosebleed. "Deviated septum" refers to an abnormality in the shape of the septum that divides both sides of the nose. Rhinoplasty, or nasal surgery can usually correct this condition.


Generally, epistaxis treatment can be performed at home. Staying calm is important in the treatment of a nose bleed. While remaining calm, the individual should sit down and slightly lean his body and head forward. Leaning forward may prevent blood from running down the throat. When blood trickles down the throat, it may cause nausea, vomiting, and sometimes, diarrhea. In addition to leaning forward, pinching together the soft portion of the nose for five minutes may halt the bleeding.

After the episode of bleeding has stopped, bending over and lifting heavy objects should be avoided for a few days. In addition, blowing or rubbing the nose should be discouraged for several days as well. The nose should be left alone because the clot that forms from the bleeding may become dislodged and precipitate the bleeding all over again.

Although most cases of epistaxis are not serious, sometimes emergency care may be needed. If bleeding persists after continuous pressure has been applied for 20 minutes, medical treatment is warranted. Additionally, if the blood loss is becoming rapid and copious, or if the blood loss is related to an injury, emergency treatment should be sought. Most importantly, if the individual feels faint or weak from the blood loss, he should seek immediate emergency intervention.


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