A broken nose can occur due to an accident, sports activities, or even intentional violence inflicted by another person. It is a fairly common injury that can cause a lot of discomfort for the injured person. However, it can be treated with relative ease if the proper steps are taken as soon as possible after the incident.
If you have suffered a broken nose, it is important to act promptly and get help from a medical professional who can treat it properly. In this article, we explain what to do if you break your nose and how best to treat it in order to prevent further damage and reduce pain.
What causes a broken nose?
A broken nose is caused by a break or a crack in one of the bones that make up the nose. Usually, the bone over the bridge of the nose is affected. A nasal bone fracture is often the result of an accident, such as falling down a flight of stairs or while playing contact sports.
Breaking your nose can be a very distressing experience. It is common to get a nosebleed, as well as swollen and bruised skin around the nose and under the eyes. A fractured nose may end up crooked or misaligned. A crooked nose can negatively affect a person’s appearance and cause difficulty breathing.
Oftentimes, a nose fracture will require medical treatment to be corrected. While commonly performed for cosmetic purposes, rhinoplasty is also used as reconstructive surgery to restore someone’s initial nasal appearance.. Thanks to surgical treatment, individuals with a broken nose or other types of facial injuries can regain their self-esteem and lead healthier lives.
How can you tell if your nose is broken?
When your nose is broken, you may feel considerable pain, as well as experience swelling and redness on the nose and under the eyes. Bleeding or fluid secretion is common when you have a broken nose. It also becomes harder to breathe. If your nose is broken, you may also have experienced a severe head injury. This may cause you to pass out or have difficulty speaking.
Common symptoms of a broken nose include:
- Feeling pain or tenderness whenever you touch your nose
- Swollen skin around the nose and the eyes
- Bruises around the face
- Change in the shape of the nose
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Discharge of mucus
- Feeling that one or both nasal passages are blocked
Who is at risk for a broken nose?
An accident that leads to a broken nose can happen to anybody. However, individuals who often perform contact sports or other high-risk activities are at a much higher risk of experiencing a broken nose.
What problems can a broken nose cause?
The most immediate problems caused by a broken nose tend to be unstoppable bleeding and difficulty breathing. The shape of the nose may also change beyond the swelling. A broken nose may also be a sign of a head or neck injury.
Nasal fractures can be very severe injuries that lead to a considerable number of complications. For example, the nasal septum may be displaced, leading to an obstruction of the nasal passages. While pain medicine may be able to reduce swelling and pain, sometimes only a rhinoplasty surgeon can be able to return the nasal septum to its original state. However, septal surgery can only be performed once the nose is fully healed.
After a nose injury, it is possible for pools of clotted blood to form. This condition is known as septal hematoma and can affect one or both nostrils. To prevent further damage, these blood clots should be promptly removed via surgical drainage. If a person’s face has been impacted hard enough to break their nose, it is also possible for them to have suffered other types of head injury. Patients may experience cartilage fractures as well as damage to their skull or their neck.
When to seek medical care
You should always seek medical care after any suspicion of nasal fracture.You should head to the nearest emergency room, as early as possible, to assess the following :
- A septal hematoma must be excluded, as a septal hematoma can lead to a septal abscess, complete loss of the septum, and spread of the infection to the brain
- The bones, if displaced, can be reduced, either immediately within the first 3 hours, or usually between 3 days and 14 days after the fracture. Early repositioning of the bones at the hospital might help you avoid surgery down the line
- Associated facial, intracranial or body injuries will be eliminated
If the nose remains crooked after early nasal reduction, or after the swelling has subsided, then it may need surgery.
It is not advised for a person to try to straighten their nose by themselves. Without a doctor’s knowledge and skill, it is possible to cause further injury. If you have a broken nose, you should avoid wearing glasses for 6 weeks. Additionally, you should avoid picking or blowing your nose until it’s healed.
You should suspect a nasal fracture if you have sustained a nasal injury, and:
- Your nose is bleeding profusely and doesn’t stop
- Clear, watery fluid is flowing from your nose
- You have difficulty breathing
- You have vomited or lost consciousness
- You’re experiencing blurred or double vision
- You’re experiencing severe headaches, as these may be a sign of facial fracture
- You feel neck pain
If the physical appearance of your nose has been affected by an accident, these changes may be permanent. To reverse the damage and return your nose to a symmetrical shape, rhinoplasty surgery may be required.
How is a broken nose diagnosed?
A health care provider may apply light pressure on and around the nose. They may also take a look into your nasal passage to check for any obstruction or damage. A broken nose doesn’t need an x-ray scan in order to be recognized as such. Nonetheless, a computerized tomography (CT) scan may show the severity of the injury with greater accuracy. The doctor may also check for other injuries or signs of infection.
How is a broken nose treated?
The treatment of a nasal injury depends on its severity and the wishes of the patient. While corrective nasal surgery addresses damage to the nose, minor nose injuries without displacement may be treated with ice packs and prescription pain medicine.
If your crooked nose is treated fast enough, a doctor may be able to realign it: this is called nasal fracture reduction. To do this, a doctor will use pain medications to numb your nose and push it back to its original shape with their hands outside the nose and small instruments inside the nose. This is usually done at a hospital. However, some minor fractures require the use of specific tools for bone and cartilage injury.
After a nasal fracture reduction, the nose is splinted with packing on the inside and a dressing on the outside. While the dressing may have to stay for two weeks after treatment, the packing can usually be taken off in the span of a week.
Rhinoplasty or septorhinoplasty surgery
Rhinoplasty surgery can reverse the damage of a nasal injury, returning the nose to its original state and functionality. If a nose is severely broken or broken in multiple areas, then corrective surgery will be the only way to fix the extent of the damage. In our practice, we do not perform rhinoplasty or septorhinoplasty before 12 months have elapses in order to let the nose heal.
How can you care for your broken nose?
If your nose is broken, head to the hospital to receive treatment on short notice. The nose is a very delicate area and leaving it unattended after an accident can lead to further complications. You should apply ice, use pain medication, and try to keep your head in an upwards, slightly forward-tilted position, and pinch the nostrils to reduce the bleeding.
If you believe you have a broken nose, then you should:
- Take immediate action: Try to get treatment as soon as possible. Avoid trying to breathe through your nose and instead use your mouth. To reduce the amount of blood going down your throat, you should lean forward.
- Apply ice: Ice packs or cold compresses should be applied immediately after the injury. To reduce swelling, ice should be used at least four times a day for the first two days following the nose injury. To prevent frostbite, the ice should be wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable soft fabric. Avoid using too much pressure when applying the ice as it may cause additional pain to the nose.
- Use pain relief medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be used to relieve the pain caused by a broken nose.
- Use a nasal decongestant to reduce the bleeding
- Pinch your nostrils and keep your head down to control the bleeding.
- Limit physical activity: You should avoid sports and other strenuous physical activities for at least two weeks after treatment. Moreover, all contact sports should be avoided for at least six weeks.
When does a broken nose need surgery?
There are two reasons to perform surgery on a nose that was broken in the past:
- Nasal obstruction: if you cannot breathe through your nose after a nasal fracture, you may require septoplasty (if you do not want to change the shape of the nose) or septorhinoplasty (if you want to change the shape of the nose at the same time)
- Nasal deformity: if the shape of the nose is altered and you wish to realign it or improve it altogether
A minor impact to the nose that only causes moderate pain and swelling may not require specialized care. However, if you suspect your nose is broken, it is best not to wait more than 3 to 5 days before going to a health care provider.
You should always seek medical attention if you suspect your nose is broken. There are hints that the nose might be broken:
- There is no reduction in pain or swelling after a few hours
- The nose has a crooked or misaligned shape after the swelling recedes
- The swelling is gone but you still have difficulty breathing through your nose
- You experience frequent nosebleeds
- You’re feverish
Book a consultation with a facial plastic surgeon
Improve your nose complexion by booking a consultation with a double-board certified surgeon. At Clinique Face MD, we take pride in our ability to provide patients with specialized medical and aesthetic facial care. We know how much our patients care about their physical health which is why we offer different surgical and non-surgical treatments that align with their specific needs.
If you’ve broken your nose in the past and believe you need cosmetic surgery, you should book a consultation with a double-board certified head nad neck surgeon practicing in facial plastic surgery. During the consultation, the doctor will examine your nose and recommend a personalized treatment plan.
Likewise, other details such as the type of anesthesia and the price of the procedure will be settled. The doctor will provide you with instructions for aftercare treatment, as well as prescribe antibiotics and pain medication. You can expect to receive all the guidance you need in order to have a speedy recovery and prevent any future risk of injury.