What is a bruised nose?

When you bump your nose, you can damage blood vessels under the skin. If blood leaks from these broken blood vessels and pools under the skin, the surface of the skin appears discolored — often in the “black and blue” colors traditionally used to describe a bruise.

Nose bruises are most commonly caused by direct injury to the nose from:

Other, less common causes of nose bruises include:

There are several common symptoms of a bruised nose:

  • Discoloration. Bruises are best known for the black and blue discoloration of the skin. A bruise changes color as it heals, going from a pink/red at the time of injury to blue/purple for the next five days, and then turning greenish for the next day or two. Finally, a yellow/brown bruise will fade into a normal skin tone. Typically, bruises last about two weeks.
  • Swelling. The nose itself can swell and the swelling can extend to the areas around the eyes.
  • Pain. Even a minor blow to your sensitive nose can cause discomfort.
  • Bleeding. A blow to your nose, no matter how light, can result in bleeding from one or both nostrils.

If you’re experiencing any or all of the following symptoms, there’s a good chance that you’ve done more than bruised your nose. These symptoms could be a sign that your nose is fractured, and you should head to the emergency room:

  • You’re unable to breathe — or it’s extremely difficult to breathe — through your injured nose.
  • You have a nosebleed that will not stop even after appropriate treatment such as application of a cold pack and gentle pressure.
  • You lost consciousness after the injury took place.
  • You are experiencing vision impairment such as blurred or double vision.
  • You have an open wound on your nose.
  • Your nose is more than just swollen and appears deformed or crooked.

An injury to your nose could also cause a concussion. As well as monitoring your nose bruise symptoms, stay on the lookout for the symptoms of concussion:

As soon as possible after the injury, start the following steps to help reduce swelling and bruising:

  • Put an ice pack on the injured area for about 10 minutes. Then, remove the ice pack for about 10 minutes. Repeat as often as possible for the next 24 hours or so.
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever — acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) — if needed for pain management.
  • Avoid blowing your nose for at least 48 hours.
  • Stay away from drinks that can dilate the blood vessels such as alcohol or hot liquids.
  • Avoid activities that could make blood rush to the head such as bending over far enough for your head to go below your waist.
  • Rest and avoid strenuous activity. Wait for at least six weeks before participating in contact sports.
  • Do not lift more than a few pounds at a time. Lifting heavy weights can cause more pooling of blood around the eyes and nose.
  • Prop your head up on pillows when you sleep to keep your head above your heart.

These steps might be all you need to treat a minor nose injury. Even so, your doctor will probably want to see you in person about a week after the injury to assess the possibility that your nose might have been moved out of its regular shape.

Expect the swelling to be mostly gone in about a week and the bruising to be gone in about two weeks. The tenderness should become less sensitive in a week or two.

Once the swelling is down, you might notice that, along with the bruising, your nose appears to have changed shape. Deformities caused by injury to the nasal bones or cartilage are permanent until treated by a specialist.

Regardless of whether you’re planning to see your doctor, you can promote the healing of your bruised nose with rest, ice, elevation, and other simple home procedures.

If you think your nose might be fractured or you think you might have a concussion, you should see your doctor immediately. Or, if after a week of home treatment — once the swelling is down — you feel that your nose might be misshapen, schedule an evaluation with your doctor or a specialist.