Your nose is a prominent and unprotected part of your face, and it can break for a variety of reasons – from a sports-related injury, accident, fight, or fall.
Also referred to as a nasal fracture, it occurs when there’s a crack or break in a bone of your nose – most often the bone over the bridge of your nose. It’s the most common type of facial fracture and also frequently causes damage to your nasal septum, the cartilage that divides your two nostrils.
In this blog, the board-certified ear, nose, and throat physicians at New York ENT explain more about broken noses, including surgical options for treatment.
What are some symptoms of a broken nose?
Common symptoms of a broken nose include the following:
- Pain in or around your nose
- Bent or crooked appearance of your nose
- Stuffy nose
- Mucus discharge from your nose
- Bruising around your nose and eyes
- Rubbing or grating sound when you move your nose
Certain symptoms require immediate medical attention. They include:
- Bleeding that you can’t stop
- Clear, watery fluid draining from your nose
- Head or neck injury with severe headaches, neck pain, or loss of consciousness
- Decrease or change in vision
- Open laceration on your nose or face
- Difficulty breathing
How can a broken nose be treated?
It can be difficult to determine if your nose is broken at first because the swelling may make it difficult to tell if a break has occurred. However, you shouldn’t wait too long to see a doctor, because the injury can cause other problems or become more difficult to correct. Additional problems that can develop include a deviated septum and nasal blockage that occurs because of a buildup of blood.
Generally, you should see a doctor within two weeks, preferably sooner, after your injury.
In some cases, a broken nose can be treated without surgery if the break is a simple one and the bone isn’t crooked. In this case, it may be treated with the following:
- Breathing through your mouth and leaning forward: If the break has just occurred and is bleeding, breathe through your mouth and lean forward to avoid swallowing blood.
- Applying ice – Place ice wrapped in a cloth or a bag of frozen peas over your nose for about 15 minutes at a time to help reduce pain and swelling. This can be repeated as often as hourly.
- Using pain medication – Medication such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help alleviate pain.
- Using a nasal decongestant – If you’re having trouble breathing through your nostrils, an over-the-counter nasal decongestant can help. However, it shouldn’t be used if your nose is still bleeding and also shouldn’t be used for more than three days.
- Elevating the head – Elevating your head with pillows or by lifting the head of your bed can help avoid increased swelling while you sleep.
- Limiting activities – Activities such as contact sports should be limited for at least six weeks to avoid further injury.
Other treatments for a broken nose include:
- Manual realignment – After administering pain medication, your doctor can attempt to realign the broken bones by using special tools.
- Surgery – Surgery is required for severe breaks or for injuries that occurred two weeks or more prior to seeking treatment. In these cases, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can realign the bones and reshape your nose. If your nasal septum has been damaged, this can also be corrected.
If you suspect that your nose may be broken, contact New York ENT today for an examination by one of our board-certified ENTs. We’ll determine whether a break has occurred and recommend the best course of treatment to restore your appearance and correct any breathing issues.