A nosebleed is rarely serious and usually has a direct and obvious cause, such as a nose injury, nose picking, or blowing your nose too hard or too much. But sometimes, nosebleeds are a symptom of infection, illness, and disease, as this guide shows.
Conditions and Diseases that Cause Bloody Noses
The following illnesses and infections could trigger frequent nosebleeds or lead to heavier bleeds.
Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT)
HHT is a genetic disorder, which means children inherit it from their parents. It is characterized by the malformation of blood vessels and can make the blood vessels more fragile and susceptible to harm.
Frequent nosebleeds are one of the most common symptoms of HHT and they are caused by abnormalities in the blood vessels inside the nose.
Other bleeding disorders may also trigger nosebleeds and lead to similar complications.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is rarely a direct cause of nosebleeds. However, it could make the blood vessels more susceptible to damage and may lead to heavier bleeding once a rupture occurs.
Cancer is not one of the most common causes of nosebleeds, but it's the one that everyone worries about.
We've all been there. It usually begins with a harmless anterior nosebleed (probably caused by nose picking or nasal dryness) and it progresses into a frantic Google search that somehow leads to cancer and other serious conditions.
Before you know it, you're reading about a super-rare form of cancer that might cause nosebleeds and you're convinced that you have it.
The good news is that cancers rarely cause nosebleeds and when they do, they often present with other symbols, including lumps, fatigue, and dizziness.
Unless the blood flow is heavy, the cause is not immediately obvious, and it lasts for more than 15 minutes, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.
Blood Clotting Disorders
Blood clotting disorders like Von Willebrand Disease make it hard for the body to form clots, which means it can't stop the bleeding. It's a similar story for individuals who take blood thinning medications, which work by reducing the rate at which clots are formed.
If you have a blood clotting disorder or take blood thinning medications and you suffer from frequent and/or heavy nosebleeds, you should seek medical attention. In such cases, even relatively harmless nosebleeds can become problematic.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections (URTIs) are caused by bacteria and viruses, including influenza. The constant flow of mucus and repeat nose blowing can aggravate the inside of the nose and cause anterior nosebleeds, which occur at the front of the nose and are often harmless.
Stress and Anxiety
Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that stress and extreme anxiety can cause nosebleeds, there's very little scientific evidence to support these claims. However, experts believe that there are indirect causes that could lead to frequent nosebleeds in people with severe stress and anxiety.
For instance, many people adopt harmful and self-destructive habits when they are stressed, often without realizing it. They pull their hair, pick their nails, and even scratch their skin. Some individuals may habitually pick their nose, and because they're often distracted, they may practice less caution than usual.
The blood vessels in the nose are very fragile and it only takes a single misplaced fingernail for them to burst and bleed.
Stress can also cause headaches and high blood pressure, which may increase the risk of nosebleeds.
The most common causes of nosebleeds are direct and result from damage to the blood vessels in the nose. However, there are other causes that are more serious and may produce more complications and more long-term consequences.
If you experience frequent nosebleeds without an obvious cause, you should consult with a doctor. They can run some blood tests and other checks to look for infections, blood disorders, blood clotting issues, and other such problems. If there is a problem, they will find it and prescribe a course of treatment. More than likely, however, they will tell you to stop picking your nose, keep your nostrils moist, and seek medical attention when you start losing a lot of blood.