Symptoms and Signs of Bleeding

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/16/2021

Doctor's Notes on Bleeding

Bleeding may be caused by any number of injuries such as cuts, lacerations, or puncture wounds from sharp objects. Minor bleeding is very common, easy to treat, and usually has no long-term consequence. Extensive bleeding can be very dangerous. It may cause a drop in blood pressure and decreased organ blood flow, which could lead to shock. For any bleeding that is difficult to control with pressure or requires a tourniquet, call 911 immediately. If a person is bleeding, always check for other injuries such as a significant head injury, fractures, or dislocations.

Symptoms that may result from bleeding include

  • pale,
  • cool,
  • clammy skin; fast heart rate,
  • low blood pressure,
  • lightheadedness,
  • unconsciousness, and
  • in very severe cases, death within seconds to minutes.

What Is the Treatment for Bleeding?

Bleeding can range from minimal to severe. 

Minimal or mild bleeding that can be controlled by the patient or a caretaker can usually be treated at home (for example: small abrasions or cuts, or minor nosebleeds)

For more substantial bleeding, use these guidelines to help with treatment:

  • For any bleeding that is difficult to control with pressure or that requires a tourniquet, call 911 as soon as possible
  • A trained health care professional may place permanent or temporary sutures (stitches) or dermal glue to control the bleeding
  • For severe bleeding:
    • Apply immediate direct pressure to the wound 
    • Continue pressure until the bleeding is controlled
    • Elevate the wound above the affected individual's heart
      • The person should be lying down with the legs elevated
  • Apply a tourniquet only if other means to control life-threatening bleeding do not work
    • Tighten the tourniquet enough to stop the bleeding
    • Note the time the tourniquet was applied and do not remove unless medical professionals have assessed the patient

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.