A broken nose, also called a nasal fracture or nose fracture, is a break or crack in the bone or cartilage of your nose. These breaks typically occur over the bridge of the nose or in the septum, which is the area that divides your nostrils.
A sudden impact to your nose is the most common cause of a break. Broken noses often occur with other facial or neck injuries. Common causes of broken noses include:
- walking into a wall
- falling down
- getting hit in the nose during a contact sport
- motor vehicle accidents
- getting punched or kicked in the nose
The symptoms of a broken nose include:
- pain in or around your nose
- a bent or crooked nose
- a swollen nose or swelling around your nose, which can cause your nose to look bent or crooked even if it’s not broken
- bleeding from your nose
- a stuffy nose that won’t drain, which can mean your nasal passages are blocked
- bruising around your nose and eyes, which usually disappears after two or three days
- a rubbing or grating sound or feeling when you move your nose
Symptoms Requiring Immediate Medical Treatment
Call 911 or seek immediate medical treatment if you break your nose and have any of the following symptoms:
- Your nose is bleeding heavily and will not stop.
- You have clear fluid draining from your nose.
- You are having difficulty breathing.
- Your nose looks crooked or misshapen. (Don’t try to straighten your nose yourself).
If you suspect you have a head or neck injury, avoid moving to prevent further damage.
Accidents can happen to anyone, so everyone has a risk of experiencing a broken nose at some point in their lives. Certain activities, however, can increase your risk of a nasal fracture. These include:
- participating in contact sports such as basketball or hockey
- being involved in a physical altercation
- riding in a motor vehicle, especially if you don’t wear a seat belt
- riding a bicycle
Your doctor can usually diagnose a broken nose by performing a physical examination, which involves looking at and touching your nose and face. If you have a lot of pain, your doctor may apply a local anesthetic to numb your nose before the physical examination.
Your doctor may ask you to return in two or three days once the swelling has gone down and it’s easier to view your injuries. If your nose injury appears to be severe or is accompanied by other facial injuries, your doctor may order an X-ray or CT scan to determine the extent of damage to your nose and face.
Depending on your symptoms, you may need immediate medical treatment or you may be able to perform first aid at home and see a doctor at your convenience.
First Aid at Home
If you don’t have symptoms that warrant immediate medical treatment, there are a few things you can do at home before seeing your doctor:
- If your nose is bleeding, sit down and lean forward while breathing through your mouth, so the blood doesn’t drain down your throat.
- If you’re not bleeding, elevate your head to reduce throbbing pain.
- To reduce swelling, apply a cold compress or ice wrapped in a washcloth to your nose for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day.
- Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to relieve pain.
Not all broken noses require medical treatment. If your injuries are severe enough, your doctor may do one of the following:
- pack your nose with gauze and possibly place a splint on it
- prescribe pain medication and possibly antibiotics
- perform a closed reduction surgery, in which your doctor gives you a local anesthetic to numb your nose and manually realigns it
- perform a rhinoplasty, which is a surgery to realign your nose
- perform a septorhinoplasty, which is a surgery to repair your nasal septum
Closed reduction, rhinoplasty, and septorhinoplasty are not usually performed until three to 10 days after your injury, after the swelling goes down.
You can take precautions to reduce the risk of a broken nose. Make sure you wear shoes with good traction to prevent falls. If you play contact sports, such as football or hockey, always wear protective face gear to prevent injuries to your nose. It’s also important to wear a helmet when riding a bike or operating a motorcycle. In addition, wear your seatbelt while riding in a motor vehicle, and make sure children are properly restrained.
Your broken nose will most likely heal without any problems. If you’re unhappy with the way your nose looks after it heals or if you’re having difficulty breathing normally, talk to your doctor about reconstructive nose surgery.