DENVER (CBS4)– Those who have frequent nosebleeds may blame Colorado’s dry climate but they may be suffering from a serious genetic condition called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia or HHT. One in 5,000 people have the disease and 90 percent of them don’t even know it.
“It’s a hereditary disease of the blood vessels,” said HHT sufferer Julie Ring.
The first sign for Ring was nosebleeds that started when she was a teenager.
“Nothing that I ever thought was a concern, just a few here and there,” said Ring.
She loves the outdoors but during a hike last summer she became dizzy.
And then in a walk around her neighborhood, “I had to stop five times and that’s when I thought there is something wrong here.”
Ring’s father has HHT.
Pulmonologist Dr. Brian Graham with University of Colorado Hospital, saw a telltale sign on Ring, “They’re not super obvious but those are the telangiectasias.”
Those were red dots on Ring’s lips and hands, indications of abnormal blood vessels, so Ring had a chest CT scan at UCH.
“You can see that there’s clearly an enlarged blood vessel here,” said Graham as he examined Ring’s scan. “When you have an enlarged blood vessel in the lung then you’re at risk of having a blood clot head up to the brain or bacteria head up to the brain and cause an infection or stroke.”
Ring underwent a procedure to block the arteries that were feeding the problem.
“I’m not winded anymore, I feel normal again,” said Ring.
Now she’s hiking again and plans to work with her doctors to monitor her HHT.
Graham said that nose bleeds don’t mean you have HHT but those combined with a family history may be a reason to see a doctor.