Bleeding is any loss of blood from the body. Bleeding can occur either internally or externally. It can occur through a natural opening such as the vagina. Most bleeding occurs through a break in the skin.
Bleeding is caused by injury to blood vessels, the structures that hold the blood. The injury can be minimal or life threatening. The most common causes of injuries to blood vessels are cuts and puncture wounds. Automobile accidents, gunshot wounds, household tools, machinery, and construction equipment often cause injuries. There are a significant number of visits to emergency rooms for bleeding injuries.
Symptoms of a large amount of blood loss are:
Examples of external bleeding through a natural opening include:
Internal bleeding can be minimal or serious. It can cause bruising or a hematoma, which is an area of swelling filled with blood. Internal swelling or bruising cannot be seen.
Signs of internal bleeding may include :
Diagnosis of bleeding begins with a history and physical exam. Special X-ray tests, such as CAT scans and MRIs, can be used to confirm internal bleeding.
Common sense is the most important way to prevent most bleeding. Knives should be kept away from children. Dangerous areas should be avoided. Guards should be kept on saws. People should follow proper procedure and safety instructions when using electrical, mechanical, or construction equipment. It's also important to follow sports safety guidelines for children, adolescents, and adults.
First aid is the most common treatment given when a cut or injury occurs at home or in the workplace. First aid is appropriate for external bleeding. If bleeding is severe or if shock or internal bleeding is suspected, immediate emergency medical help should be obtained.
People are advised to contact the emergency medical system in these cases.
The following sequence of events should be followed when giving first aid to someone with bleeding.
If a person has severe bleeding, treatment in a hospital setting may include different treatments based on the location and reason for the bleeding. Sutures, blood transfusions, and surgery to control bleeding may be required.
With any injury, bleeding can continue. Infection can occur with any injury to an organ or the skin. Applying a tourniquet to control bleeding can cause loss of an entire limb and is not recommended.
Blood transfusions carry a risk of infection and allergic reactions. Surgery carries a risk of further bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
If sutures are required, removal may be necessary after healing. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Author:James Broomfield, MD
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Adam Brochert, MD