High blood pressure is a condition that affects millions of adults all over the world. Also known as ‘hypertension,’ it can be challenging to deal with and may put someone at risk of developing further life-threatening conditions, such as a stroke or a heart attack. There remains a lot of debate in the medical world about the relationship of nosebleeds to high blood pressure - in particular, whether someone who regularly has nosebleeds might be more at risk.
What is high blood pressure?
Simply defined, it is a blood pressure reading higher than 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Stage 2 hypertension is defined as a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm Hg. It is often experienced as a sudden spike in blood pressure (a hypertensive crisis) that can mean you need immediate medical help to avoid conditions such as kidney damage, stroke, eye damage or pulmonary edema. High blood pressure is a very difficult condition to diagnose, as it’s often not obvious until there is hypertensive crisis, by which point it may then be too late. If high blood pressure is unnoticed and becomes chronic then it can be the trigger for heart failure, a heart attack or stroke. There is a simple test available that will give you information on whether this is a risk for you.
What about high blood pressure and nosebleeds?
There is no direct link between nosebleeds as a sign of high blood pressure - hypertension itself doesn’t cause nosebleeds unless there is a hypertensive crisis. However, the two do often happen in parallel. This is because high blood pressure affects the blood vessels and this may cause blood vessels in the nose to be more vulnerable to damage - and to bleed more. There has been research looking at the connection between nosebleeds and high blood pressure. One Korean study focused on the risk of nosebleeds for people with high blood pressure and found that those with hypertension tended to have an increased risk of nosebleeds that required medical attention, compared to people with no evidence of hypertension.
Why should you not ignore nosebleeds?
We all get nosebleeds from time to time but it’s worth getting them checked out if they are happening more regularly and when they last for longer than 20 minutes. There are lots of reasons why you might be having a nosebleed and most of them are not life-threatening. This could be anything, from getting a foregin object stuck in the nose to allergies or an injury. There are also some conditions that may increase the frequency of nosebleeds, including hemophilia, alcoholism and cancer - these are obviously more serious. Nasal sprays, Vitamin E supplements and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can also contribute to nosebleeds occurring. Because there are so many different reasons why a nosebleed might be happening, a good rule of thumb is to wait 20 minutes and if you’re still bleeding seek some medical support.
Nosebleeds aren’t a sign of high blood pressure but they can result from a hypertensive crisis. If you have any concerns, make an appointment to get some help.
Harley Street is the UK's foremost private medical centre which is dedicated to providing high-quality care for your ear, nose, throat, head & neck, and balance-related disorders. Find out more information on how Harley Street ENT can help you here.