What is hemorrhage?
Hemorrhage is loss of blood from a damaged blood vessel. The bleeding can be inside or outside the body, and blood loss can be minor or major.
What are the most common causes of hemorrhage?
There are many possible causes of hemorrhage, including:
- Alcohol, drug or tobacco use that is heavy or long-term (bleeding in the brain).
- Blood clotting disorders.
- Complications from medical procedures, such as surgery or childbirth.
- Damage to an internal organ.
- Hereditary (inherited) disorders, such as hemophilia and hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.
- Injuries, such as cuts or puncture wounds, bone fracture or traumatic brain injury.
- Violence, such as a gunshot or knife wound, or physical abuse.
- Viruses that attack the blood vessels, such as viral hemorrhagic fever.
Depending on the location or cause, a hemorrhage might be called:
- Bruise or hematoma (a particularly bad bruise). Both involve bleeding just under the skin.
- Hemothorax, blood collecting between the chest wall and lungs.
- Intracranial hemorrhage, bleeding in the brain.
- Petechiae, tiny spots on the skin that may be purple, red or brown.
- Postpartum hemorrhage, more bleeding than normal after childbirth.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of stroke that can be caused by head trauma.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage_, _broken blood vessels in the eye.
- Subdural hematoma, blood leaking into the dura mater, the membrane between the brain and skull.
How might bleeding make me feel?
The way a hemorrhage makes you feel varies a lot, depending on where it is and how severe it is. For example, with a bruise, you may have only mild discomfort compared to head injury. Another example: Hemorrhage in the brain may cause headache, but in the chest it may cause trouble breathing.
Serious blood loss may make you feel:
- Cool when someone touches your skin.
- Short of breath.
If severe hemorrhage is left untreated, you may experience:
- Chest pain.
- Faster breathing or heart rate.
- Organ failure.
- Coma or death.
Care and Treatment
How is bleeding treated?
Treatment for hemorrhage depends on:
- Where it is in the body.
- How serious the hemorrhage is.
- How much blood may have been lost.
- How the person is feeling overall (for example, symptoms or other injuries).
Sometimes, external bleeding can be stopped with first aid:
- Apply pressure to the wound with your hands.
- Find a dressing (clean cloth) and press on the wound.
- Tie a tourniquet near the wound, but toward the heart. You can make a tourniquet from something tied very tightly, such as a stretchy band, cloth or belt.
- Call 911.
Seek immediate medical attention for external bleeding that won’t stop, or for suspected internal bleeding. It should be treated in an emergency room.
When to Call the Doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone else is bleeding externally or may be bleeding internally and:
- Can’t breathe normally.
- Coughs or spits up blood.
- Has bleeding that can’t be stopped.
- Has severe chest or belly pain.
- Has cold or “clammy” skin.
- Is dizzy, light-headed or confused.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hemorrhage is loss of blood from a damaged blood vessel. It can be minor such as a bruise or major such as damage to an internal organ. External bleeding is visible and may be easier to notice, but be aware of the signs of internal bleeding. Seek medical attention if you are unsure.
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