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Broken nose

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jun 28, 2022.

Overview

A broken nose, also called a nasal fracture, is a break or crack in a bone in your nose — often the bone over the bridge of your nose.

Common causes of a broken nose include contact sports, physical fights, falls and motor vehicle accidents that result in injuries to the face.

A broken nose can cause pain, and it is common to get a nosebleed. You may have swelling and bruising around your nose and under your eyes. Your nose may look crooked, and you may have trouble breathing through it.

Treatment for a broken nose may include procedures that realign your nose. Surgery usually isn't necessary.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a broken nose include:

When to see a doctor

Seek emergency medical attention if you experience a nose injury accompanied by:

Causes

Common causes of a broken nose include:

A broken nose can even be caused by walking into a fixed object, such as a door or wall, or by rough, wrestling-type play.

Risk factors

Any activity that increases your risk of injuries to the face can increase your risk of a broken nose. Such activities may include:

Complications

Complications or injuries related to a broken nose may include:

Prevention

You can help prevent a nose fracture with these guidelines:

Diagnosis

Your health care provider may press gently on the outside of your nose and its surrounding areas. He or she may look inside your nasal passage to check for obstruction and further signs of broken bones.

You may receive numbing medication to make your nose more comfortable during the exam.

X-rays and other imaging studies are usually unnecessary. However, a computerized tomography (CT) scan may be ordered if the severity of your injuries makes a thorough physical exam impossible or if your provider suspects you may have other injuries.

Treatment

If you have a minor fracture that hasn't caused your nose to become crooked or otherwise misshapen, you may not need professional medical treatment. You may be fine just using ice on the area and taking over-the-counter pain medications.

Manual realignment

If the break has displaced the bones and cartilage in your nose, your health care provider may be able to manually realign them. This needs to be done within 14 days from when the fracture occurred, preferably sooner.

During this procedure, medication will numb your nose. In some cases, health care providers can push the nose back in place with their fingers. Sometimes, they may need to use special tools to help realign the broken bones and cartilage.

Your nose may be splinted with packing on the inside and a dressing on the outside. Sometimes, an internal splint is also necessary for a short time. If used, the packing usually needs to stay in for a week. The dressing may stay on for up to two weeks.

You may also be given a prescription for antibiotics to prevent infection from the bacteria that live in your nose.

Surgery

Severe breaks, multiple breaks or breaks that have gone untreated for more than 14 days may need surgery. Surgery can realign the bones and reshape your nose, if necessary.

If the break has damaged your nasal septum — the middle part of your nose that divides your nostril — your breathing may feel blocked or you may feel like you have a stuffy nose. Reconstructive surgery may be recommended.

Self care

If you think you may have broken your nose, take these steps to reduce pain and swelling:

Preparing for your appointment

If your injury is severe, you won't have time to prepare for your appointment because you'll need to seek immediate medical attention.

If the injury to your nose is less severe — accompanied only by swelling and moderate pain — you may choose to wait before seeking care. This allows time for the swelling to subside, making it easier to evaluate your injury.

However, it's best not to wait longer than 3 to 5 days before seeing your health care provider if your signs and symptoms persist. During this waiting period, get medical attention if:

When you make an appointment, you may start by seeing your primary care provider. He or she may refer you to a specialist in disorders of the ear, nose and throat.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect.

What you can do

Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your health care provider. For a broken nose, here are some basic questions to ask:

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider may ask:

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