Blood is essential for life. Among other things, blood carries oxygen from the lungs to all of the tissues so they may function properly.

This carrying process occurs through the blood vessels, both arteries, which carry blood full of oxygen to the tissues and veins, which carry blood from the tissues so that it can get more oxygen from the lungs.

Now, that’s pretty simple and straightforward. Interestingly, it was only a few centuries ago that the function of veins and arteries was really understood, and now you know more about the process than all the ancient physicians ever dreamed about.

That’s the way it’s supposed to happen For a variety of reasons, blood often gets out of the vascular system and makes an unexpected appearance. Then it may spell trouble.

First of all, it’s messy, sticky and often permanently stains clothing. Oh, you can get it out with cold water, or hydrogen peroxide, but it’s still a bother.

More importantly, most people do not like the sight of blood. This is one of the most important features of blood. If it weren’t for the fact that blood is frightening, most people would not pay attention to it and not seek help.

Still, there are a significant number of people who see blood and ignore it anyway.

That’s what I call the ostrich syndrome. I don’t think it does any good to stick your head in the sand.

So, let’s talk a little about blood and where it is coming from.

Bleeding from the nose can be a simple affair. The tissue lining your nose is very fragile and can start to bleed easily from a simple sneeze. But, bleeding from the nose can also mean a serious condition. If it does not stop quickly, with the simple application of pressure, then you better contact your doctor for advice.

The same is true for bleeding from the skin, mouth or ears. It may be a simple problem, but it may also be serious and cannot be neglected. If you bleed into your eye and you did not have trauma to that region, you better have that checked also.

Now we have to talk about some conditions that you can never ignore.

Vomiting blood, blood in your urine or blood in your bowel movements has to be investigated further.

It is extremely important to remember that even if the bleeding occurred only once or twice and then stopped, it still needs to be discussed with your doctor and further steps will usually have to be taken to identify what is going on to produce the bleeding.

The same is true if you have problems with bleeding from your vagina. Normal menstrual cycles are one thing, but if you have bleeding between your periods or after your periods have stopped or very heavy or unusual bleeding, then talk to your doctor.

The bottom line is blood, where it is supposed to be, is very good and essential to health. Blood where it is not supposed to be is not good and requires you to contact your physician so that investigation as to the reason can be started.

If blood is scary, then it’s doing what it is supposed to do. Your job is to stay calm, don’t ignore its presence and seek help in taking the steps to correct any problems.

Remember, it’s your health.

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at

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