Broken Nose

Overview

What is a broken nose?

Broken noses are the most common facial fractures. Men are twice as likely as women to break their noses. Breaking your nose is painful and can make it hard to breathe through your nose. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think your nose is broken so a healthcare provider can check for any underlying or more serious injury.

What happens when I break my nose?

A broken nose happens when you have significant damage to the bridge of your nose (the bony section at the top of your nose), the cartilage in your nasal septum that divides your nasal cavity into two sections and the mucus membrane that lines the inside of your nose. When you break your nose, you might:

  • Dislocate the bridge of your nose, moving it from the center of your face to one side.
  • Tear the membrane that lines your nose, causing nosebleeds.
  • Dislocate your septum, which could cause blood to pool beneath your cartilage. This is called a septal hematoma. Septal hematomas can cause your nose cartilage to die, creating what’s known as a saddle nose deformity.
  • Damage the bones that connect your nose to your skull. That damage can cause the fluid in your brain and spinal cord to leak. It also makes your brain vulnerable to bacteria that cause serious infections.

Should I try to fix my broken nose?

No, you shouldn’t try to fix your broken nose. What looks like a simple break might be a much more complicated injury. Get medical help right away if you have the following symptoms:

  • You’ve hurt your head or neck and have neck pain, a severe headache, vomiting or you lose consciousness.
  • It’s very difficult for you to breathe through your nose.
  • Your nose is bleeding uncontrollably.
  • Your nose looks twisted or crooked.
  • Your nose is draining clear watery fluid. This might be fluid from your brain and spine.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a broken nose?

A broken nose is very painful. Other signs you have a broken nose are:

  • Your nose is misshapen or looks as if it’s been pushed to the side of your face.
  • Your nose is swollen.
  • You noticed bruising around your noses and eyes.
  • You have difficulty breathing through your nose.
  • You feel as if your nose is stuffed or blocked up.

How do most people break their noses?

Given that your nose sticks out from the center of your face and it doesn’t take much force to break it, it makes sense that your nose bears the brunt anytime your face connects with a hard surface. People can break their noses by:

  • Walking into walls.
  • Falling.
  • Being hit in the face while playing sports.
  • Being hit in the face while fighting.
  • Being in a motor vehicle accident.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are broken noses diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask what happened and examine your nose. They might do a computed tomography (CT) scan to look for other broken facial bones.

Management and Treatment

What is the treatment for broken noses?

Broken nose treatment starts with pain relievers and ice packs. Your healthcare provider might recommend you sleep with your head elevated to help with pain and swelling. Your providers might hold off on other treatment until your nose is less swollen so they can assess whether your needs to be realigned.

What happens if my nose is dislocated?

Healthcare providers realign dislocated noses by lifting and pressing on your nose to move your dislocated bones back into place. This is called a closed reduction. Closed reductions are successful 60 % to 90 % of the time. Once your nose in back in place, providers might use an external splint to stabilize your nose while it heals.

How long will it take my nose to heal?

Broken noses usually heal within six weeks.

How often do broken noses need additional treatment?

When you break the bone in your nose, you can also damage the cartilage in your nose. Sometimes healthcare providers decide they need to fix both bone and cartilage. In that case, they perform a septorhinoplasty (sep-tor-rye-no-plasty). This surgery improves the appearance of your nose (rhinoplasty) and improves how you breathe through your nose (septosplasty.)

Prevention

How can I reduce the risk I will break my nose?

There’s no guarantee you won’t ever break your nose. But there are steps you can take to limit your risk:

  • Watch where you’re going. Walking into walls and falling are two of the most common ways people break their noses.
  • Wear protective gear if you play sports where you might be hit in the face.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a broken nose?

Your broken nose should heal within six weeks after treatment.

Living With

How do I take care of myself?

Talk to your healthcare provider about pain medication and ways to reduce swelling.

When should I see my healthcare provider?

You should see your healthcare provider if:

  • Your nose still hurts and/or is swollen several weeks after treatment.
  • You can’t breathe through your nose.
  • Your nose starts to bleed.
  • Your nose starts to drain clear watery fluid that’s not mucus.

When should I go to the emergency room?

Once your broken nose has been treated, you still might need to visit the emergency room if:

  • Your nose continues to bleed.
  • You develop a severe headache.
  • Your nose is draining clear, watery fluid.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • What are my injuries?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • When will my swelling go down?
  • How long will it take for my nose to heal?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

We’ve all flinched at scenes in movies or shows where someone “fixes” a broken nose by wrenching it back into shape. In real life, realigning a broken nose is not a DIY endeavor. You can make a painful situation worse. If you think your nose is broken, get medical help as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider will check to be sure your broken nose is your only injury and help you to get your battered nose back in shape.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/01/2021.

References

  • Merck Manual. Fractures of the nose. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/injuries-and-poisoning/facial-injuries/fractures-of-the-nose) Accessed 8/20/2021.
  • StatPearls. Nasal Fracture Reduction. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538299/) Accessed 8/23/2021.

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