High blood pressure, also known as "hypertension", is characterized by a BP reading that is greater than 130/80, with stage 2 defined as 140/90 or more and a "hypertensive crisis" as over 180/120.
Hypertension has been called the "silent killer" because it doesn't always display symptoms and when those symptoms appear, they might be severe enough to cause serious harm.
This "silent killer" condition is very common in the United States and it is thought to affect over 100 million adults, many of which have it under control. If you have high blood pressure, you are more likely to suffer from heart disease and other health conditions.
But what about nosebleeds, known by the medical name, "Epistaxis"? Are you more likely to suffer from nosebleeds if you have high blood pressure and if so, what can you do about them, should you worry, and can they be prevented?
Does High Blood Pressure Cause Nosebleeds?
There are a lot of myths concerning nosebleeds. Many people assume they are much more serious than they actually are, believing nosebleeds to be caused by brain injuries and tumors as opposed to nose picking and nasal dryness.
Another myth is that nosebleeds are triggered by high blood pressure, which isn't entirely true.
If you have slightly elevated blood pressure, high blood pressure, or even stage 2 hypertension, your risk of nosebleeds isn't much higher than the general population.
You may experience heavier bleeding and it might be harder to stop that bleeding, but nosebleeds need a trigger point. Something has to burst those blood vessels before they bleed, and that could come in the form of a stray fingernail, repeat sneezing, or a powerful nose blow.
It's a different story with a hypertensive crisis, though, which is characterized by a blood pressure reading that is over 180/120.
It's a life-threatening crisis—a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Once your blood pressure reaches these levels, the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, eye damage, and other serious issues increases significantly.
It's also one of the times when high blood pressure can cause nosebleeds, as the extreme pressure damages the delicate blood vessels in the nose and causes them to burst and leak.
Some of the other symptoms of extremely high blood pressure include headaches, dizziness, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and shortness of breath.
Those headaches might be severe, the dizziness might be extreme, and the pains and breathlessness are often scary. In other words, it's not the same as the mild headaches you might get from staring at the computer screen for too long; you don't need to panic that you have severely high blood pressure just because you have one of those symptoms.
However, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you have high blood pressure, you should purchase a blood pressure monitor that you can reach for whenever you start to display symptoms. That way, you can head straight to the emergency room whenever the reading is high enough to signal a hypertensive crisis.
What to do If You Have a Nosebleed with High Blood Pressure
Epistaxis is fairly easy to treat. Just sit straight, lean forward ever-so-slightly, and pinch the soft part of your nose for 5 to 10 minutes. There are products that can help you if you experience nosebleeds on a regular basis, including Nampons to stop the bleeding and an ice pack to constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling.
However, if you have a nosebleed because of your high blood pressure, it suggests that you might be having a hypertensive episode, in which case you need emergency care.