Everything You Should Know About Anemia And Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds aren’t usually anything to worry about. The most common causes of bleeding through the nose are dry air and nose picking. However, recurrent or heavy nosebleeds may indicate a more serious health problem, such as a blood clotting disorder or high blood pressure.

Patients with aplastic anemia may experience frequent nosebleeds. This condition is a rare and severe type of anemia that leaves you feeling fatigued and more prone to uncontrolled bleeding. The usual methods for stopping nosebleeds — like applying direct pressure — might not help stop anemia nosebleeds.¹

This article looks at anemia nosebleeds in detail, including causes and treatment options.

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What are anemia nosebleeds?

Nosebleeds occur for many reasons, such as an object being pushed into the nostril, cold weather, and nose-picking. They can also be triggered by an allergic reaction, injury, or infection.

Some types of anemia can cause nosebleeds. Bleeding from the nose as a symptom or complication of untreated anemia may be referred to as an anemia nosebleed. They are usually heavy and frequent.

Contact your doctor if the bleeding doesn’t stop after 20 minutes of applying direct pressure to the nose or if you lose a lot of blood. Seek immediate medical attention if you gag, vomit, or have trouble breathing due to blood dripping down your throat.

What is aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia is an uncommon condition that occurs when the body stops producing enough new blood cells. This condition leaves you feeling weak and tired and susceptible to uncontrolled bleeding and a broad range of infections.

Heavy, recurring nosebleeds can be a sign of this type of anemia. Aplastic anemia can be mild or severe. It can occur suddenly or develop gradually and worsen over time. This condition affects people of all ages, regardless of race and gender.

What causes aplastic anemia?

Bone marrow, the soft, fatty tissue in the center of most bones, is where new blood cells are produced. Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow fails to form enough healthy blood cells to meet the body’s needs. Aplastic anemia is a form of bone marrow failure.

Like any other type of anemia, aplastic anemia leaves the body weak and tired. However, this condition can also leave you more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

In most cases, aplastic anemia results from your immune system attacking the stem cells in your bone marrow. The damage to bone marrow stem cells makes it difficult for them to grow and evolve into new blood cells.

Aplastic anemia can be inherited (genetic) or acquired after exposure to radiation, toxins, or infections that cause damage to bone marrow stem cells.²

What are the symptoms of aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia may present with minimal symptoms or none at all. When present, the most common symptoms include the following:³

  • Feeling weak and tired

  • Any bleeding that lasts too long, including nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding under the skin (this results in red or purple spots)

  • Easy or unexplained bruising

  • Frequent infections

  • Unusually pale skin

  • Tachycardia (fast or irregular heartbeat)

As mentioned above, aplastic anemia affects people differently. Some experience mild symptoms, while others develop severe aplastic anemia. The symptoms may develop slowly over time or come on suddenly.

The symptoms of aplastic anemia are very similar to those of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a type of blood cancer. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have bleeding that won’t stop.

How is aplastic anemia treated?

If left untreated, aplastic anemia may cause severe health complications. Treatment for the condition depends on its severity.

The treatment of aplastic anemia can involve similar therapies used to treat leukemia and lymphoma, although it is not a type of cancer.

Here are the common treatment options for patients with aplastic anemia:

Blood transfusion

A blood transfusion is a common treatment option for patients with blood disorders like aplastic anemia. The procedure delivers new blood from a healthy donor, including red blood cells and platelets, through a narrow tube placed in a blood vessel in your arm.

Bone marrow transplant

While a blood transfusion can quickly stabilize you if you have severe aplastic anemia, it’s unlikely to help you with long-term recovery when used alone.

A bone marrow transplant (also called a stem-cell transplant) is a procedure that replaces bone marrow with healthy stem cells. This is thought to be a more effective treatment option for aplastic anemia.

During this procedure, bone marrow that is not functioning correctly is destroyed with drugs or radiation and replaced with bone marrow from a compatible donor. Unlike blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants can cure aplastic anemia when successful.⁴

Medical therapy

Blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants aren’t always on the table for people with aplastic anemia. Medical therapy (taking medications to treat the condition) is the next best alternative in these cases.

As mentioned earlier, aplastic anemia results from the body’s immune system attacking stem cells in the bone marrow. Therefore, medical therapy for aplastic anemia will usually involve immunosuppressants.

How is aplastic anemia diagnosed?

If you are showing symptoms of aplastic anemia, your doctor will administer a series of tests to make a diagnosis. Your doctor may order blood tests to measure your blood cell and platelet counts. They may also request a bone marrow biopsy.

Do other types of anemia cause nosebleeds?

Other types of anemia, including iron deficiency anemia, may also contribute to uncontrolled bleeding. If you have had anemia for a long time, your body can experience visible physical changes that leave you susceptible to frequent nosebleeds. Cuts and other types of injuries may take longer to stop bleeding.

The lowdown

Heavy, recurring nosebleeds can be a symptom of a more serious health issue. Various blood disorders, including certain types of anemia, can leave you prone to uncontrolled bleeding. Aplastic anemia is one of these conditions that can cause recurring nosebleeds.

Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells. Researchers believe that aplastic anemia occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and damages bone marrow stem cells. Uncontrolled bleeding can be a complication of untreated anemia.

Fortunately, aplastic anemia is treatable. Treatment options include medical therapy with immunosuppressants, blood transfusion, and bone marrow transplant. A successful bone marrow transplant is the only cure for aplastic anemia.

  1. Aplastic anemia | Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation

  2. Aplastic anemia | National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

  3. Symptoms & causes of aplastic anemia & myelodysplastic syndromes | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

  4. Treatment of aplastic anemia & myelodysplastic syndromes | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

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