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 facial trauma. A broken nose can cause pain, along with swelling and bruising around your nose and under your eyes. Your nose may look crooked, and you may have trouble breathing.

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

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a broken nose:

  • Pain or tenderness, especially when touching your nose
  • Swelling of your nose and surrounding areas
  • Bleeding from your nose
  • Bruising around your nose or eyes
  • Crooked or misshapen nose
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Discharge of mucus from your nose
  • Feeling that one or both of your nasal passages are blocked

When to see a doctor

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

  • A head or neck injury, which may be marked by severe headache, neck pain, vomiting or loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bleeding you can't stop
  • A noticeable change in the shape of your nose that isn't related to swelling, such as a crooked or twisted appearance
  • Clear, watery fluid draining from your nose

Causes

Common causes of a broken nose include:

  • Injury from contact sports, such as football or hockey
  • Physical altercations
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls

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 a facial injury increases your risk of a broken nose. Such activities may include:

  • Playing contact sports, such as football and hockey, especially without a helmet that has a face mask
  • Engaging in a physical fight
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Lifting weights, especially if you don't use a spotter
  • Riding in a motor vehicle, especially without a seat belt

Complications

Complications or injuries related to a broken nose may include:

  • Deviated septum. A nose fracture may cause a deviated septum, a condition that occurs when the thin wall dividing the two sides of your nose (nasal septum) is displaced, narrowing your nasal passage. Medications, such as decongestants and antihistamines, can help you manage a deviated septum, but surgery is required to correct the condition.
  • Collection of blood. Sometimes, pools of clotted blood form in a broken nose, creating a condition called a septal hematoma. A septal hematoma can block one or both nostrils. Septal hematoma requires prompt surgical drainage to prevent cartilage damage.
  • Cartilage fracture. If your fracture is due to a forceful blow, such as from an automobile accident, you also may experience a cartilage fracture. If your injury is severe enough to warrant surgical treatment, the surgeon should address both your bone and cartilage injuries.
  • Neck injury. Likewise, nose fractures resulting from high-velocity injuries — like those experienced in motor vehicle accidents — may be accompanied by injuries to your neck. If a blow is strong enough to break your nose, it may also be strong enough to damage the bones in your neck. If you suspect a neck injury, see your doctor immediately.

Prevention

You can help prevent a nose fracture with these guidelines:

  • Wear your seat belt when traveling in a motorized vehicle, and keep children restrained in age-appropriate child safety seats.
  • Wear the recommended safety equipment, such as a helmet with a face mask, when playing hockey, football or other contact sports.
  • Wear a helmet during bicycle or motorcycle rides.
June 18, 2014
References
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  3. Mendez DR, et al. Nasal trauma and fractures in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  4. Fractures of the nose. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/facial_trauma/fractures_of_the_nose.html. Accessed April 18, 2014.
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  6. Nasal fractures. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Nasal-Fractures.cfm. Accessed April 24, 2014.
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