Common causes of sudden nosebleeds in the elderly include damage to an artery in the back of the nose, a blow to the face or irritation from a cold, according to WebMD. Sometimes clotting problems caused by blood-thinning medications, aspirin or liver disease contribute to nosebleeds.
Unlike easily controlled anterior nosebleeds that involve blood vessels in the front of the nose, the more complicated posterior nosebleeds often experienced by the elderly do not stop bleeding and require admission to the hospital, explains WebMD. Posterior nosebleeds are difficult to diagnose visually, and doctors determine them to be present only when efforts to control the bleeding through cauterization or nasal packing have failed. The nasal balloon pack that an otolaryngologist typically uses to treat a posterior bleed is more uncomfortable than the packs used for anterior bleeds. Patients require sedation, pain medications and close monitoring to prevent infection or breathing obstructions. Doctors leave a posterior pack in place for up to 72 hours, and if the bleeding does not stop, they often perform surgery or a radiologic procedure.
While cancers in the nose and abnormal blood vessels can cause nosebleeds, these are rare, notes WebMD. High blood pressure can be a contributing factor, but is rarely the sole cause. Nosebleeds in older adults are most common between ages of 50 to 80 years.