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Bleeding, or hemorrhage, is the name used to describe blood loss. It can refer to blood loss inside the body, called internal bleeding. Or it can refer to blood loss outside of the body, called external bleeding.
Blood loss can occur in almost any area of the body. Internal bleeding occurs when blood leaks out through a damaged blood vessel or organ. External bleeding happens when blood exits through a break in the skin. Or it also happens when blood exits through a natural opening in the body, such as the:
Bleeding is a common symptom. A variety of incidents or conditions can cause bleeding. Possible causes include:
An injury can cause traumatic bleeding. Common types of traumatic injury include:
There are also some medical conditions that can cause bleeding. Bleeding due to a medical condition is less common than traumatic bleeding. Conditions that can cause bleeding include:
Some medicines can increase your chances of bleeding, or even cause bleeding. Your doctor will warn you about this when they first prescribe the medication. And they’ll tell you what to do if bleeding occurs.
Medications that may be responsible for bleeding include:
If bleeding is severe, call an ambulance immediately. You should seek emergency help if you suspect internal bleeding. This can become life-threatening.
People who have bleeding disorders or take blood thinners should also seek emergency help to stop bleeding.
Seek medical help if:
When you call for help, emergency services will tell you what to do and when they’ll arrive. In most cases, emergency services will tell you to continue to put pressure on the wound. And to keep reassuring the patient. You may also be told to lay the person down to reduce their risk of fainting.
A person can bleed to death in five minutes. Bystanders may be able to save a life before emergency personnel can arrive.
There is a national campaign called Stop the Bleed to teach lay people how to stop bleeding. People in mass casualty events have died from blood loss even when their wounds should not have been fatal.
It is possible to treat external traumatic bleeding. Seek emergency help if the patient is having any of the emergency issues listed above. And also if you need help to stop the bleeding.
The person who is bleeding should try to remain calm to keep their heart rate and blood pressure controlled. Either heart rate or blood pressure being too high will increase the speed of bleeding.
Lay the person down as soon as possible to reduce the risk of fainting. And try to elevate the area that is bleeding.
Remove loose debris and foreign particles from the wound. Leave large items such as knives, arrows, or weapons where they are. Removing these objects can cause further harm and will likely increase the bleeding. In this case, use bandages and pads to keep the object in place and absorb the bleeding.
Use the following to put pressure onto the wound:
Maintain a medium pressure until the bleeding has slowed and stops.
Do not remove the cloth when bleeding stops. Use an adhesive tape or clothing to wrap around the dressing and hold it in place. Then place a cold pack over the wound.
Do not look at the wound to see if bleeding has stopped. This can disturb the wound and cause it to begin bleeding again.
Do not remove the cloth from the wound, even if blood seeps through the material. Add more material on top, and continue the pressure.
Do not move anyone with an injury to the:
Do not apply pressure to an eye injury.
Use tourniquets only as a last resort. An experienced person should apply the tourniquet. To apply a tourniquet, follow these steps:
Check the tourniquet every 10 minutes. If the bleeding slows enough to be controlled with pressure, release the tourniquet and apply direct pressure instead.
You will need emergency medical care if:
Paramedics will attempt to control the bleeding before rushing you to the hospital. In some cases, care might be given at home or by using a stretcher. The treatment required will depend on the cause of the bleeding.
In rare cases, surgery may be required to stop bleeding.
A medical professional should see anyone who experiences unexplained or uncontrolled bleeding.
If an injury or accident causes bleeding, it may be stopped with first aid. The wound will then heal without further care.
If a medical condition causes bleeding, and the condition is not identified or diagnosed, the bleeding is likely to recur.
Any bleeding that continues without medical treatment could be fatal. If someone loses between one-third and one-half of their total blood they could bleed to death. But bleeding to death is uncommon.
Exsanguination, or bleeding to death, can occur without any external bleeding. Catastrophic internal hemorrhages can cause a great deal of blood loss, as can aneurysms.
Written by: Kati Blake
Medically reviewed on: Oct 28, 2016: Carissa Stephens, RN, CCRN, CPN
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