Following a trauma, such as a fall or a car accident, you may experience internal bleeding. This is a potentially life-threatening complication, but the symptoms can be subtle. They can also vary depending on the location of the internal bleeding.
The prognosis for internal bleeding is best if you receive medical treatment as soon as possible. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of internal bleeding in different areas of the body.
Chest or abdomen
When you have internal bleeding in the chest, blood can collect in the cavities around your heart and/or lungs. This can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath. Trauma to the spleen or liver can cause these organs to swell, resulting in abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
Internal bleeding can cause your stools to become black and tarry, or you may notice blood in your urine. You may develop purplish-red bruising called ecchymosis along your flanks, i.e., the sides of your abdomen, or in the area of your navel.
Another name for internal bleeding that occurs in your head is intracranial hemorrhage. This can put pressure on your brain, which can result in permanent damage if left untreated. Symptoms of intracranial hemorrhage include the following:
- Loss of consciousness or changes in the level of alertness
- Sudden or severe headache
- Difficulty communicating through speech or writing
- Loss of balance or coordination
You may also experience changes in hearing or vision, have difficulty chewing or swallowing, or experience tingling of the feet and/or hands. You may also experience numbness or weakness affecting only one side of your body.
Regardless of where internal bleeding occurs, it may result in dizziness or lightheadedness. It can also trigger a drop in blood pressure that could cause you to go into hypovolemic shock. If internal bleeding is severe, it is usually necessary to remove the blood that has collected, which typically requires surgery.