Recognising a broken nose – symptoms, causes, treatment & recovery

Broken noses are common facial injuries. Common symptoms include swelling and pain around the nose, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, and bleeding. 

The nose is the most common broken bone in the head. A broken nose is usually the result of trauma to the face and can trigger a deviated septum. It can also be associated with damage to the cartilage or connective tissue inside the nose. Being able to recognise this type of injury can help ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment. 

What is a broken nose?

Broken noses are frequent facial fractures, and men are twice more predisposed to suffer this kind of injury. Breaking the nose is physically and mentally agonising and can make breathing challenging. If you suspect you have a broken nose, seek immediate medical attention, so a healthcare professional can ensure there’s no underlying or a severe problem. 

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How to tell if you have a broken nose

A broken nose is the result of severe damage to the bridge of the nose (the bony part at the top of the nose), the cartilage that separates the nasal cavity and the mucous membrane that covers the inside of the nose. A nose fracture can dislocate the bridge and move it from the centre of the face to one side, rip the membrane triggering nosebleeds, dislocate the septum causing a septal hematoma or damage the bones that connect it to the skull making the fluid in your spinal cord and brain to leak. 

The symptoms and signs of a broken nose are similar in children and adults. The injury is quite painful and causes redness, swelling and bruising around the nose. You can also have scrapes and cuts on the face and bruising on the surrounding areas. 

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Common symptoms of a broken nose are:

– Swollen nose

– The nose looks like it’s been pushed to one side of the face or seems misshapen

– Bruising around the eyes and nose

– You find it challenging to breathe through your nose

– You feel like the nose is blocked up or stuffed

– You hear a crunching noise when touching it

– Runny nose

– Nosebleeds

Should you treat it yourself?

No matter what caused your broken nose, it would help if you didn’t try to fix it at home. Even if it looks like a minor issue, it can be a more complicated injury. Get specialised medical help immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

– Your nose looks crooked or twisted

– You cannot breathe through the nose

– You have an uncontrollable nosebleed

– You notice a clear watery fluid draining from your nose

– You also hurt your neck or head in the accident and experience vomiting, severe headache, or lose consciousness

– The swelling around the nose persists for multiple days

– You experience chills or fever

– You have an open wound on the face

– You have debris inside the nose

– Blurred vision

– You have seizures

– You find it difficult to move or speak

– You experience memory loss and confusion

If the injury isn’t severe and causes no problems, you can treat it at home. However, you shouldn’t try to realign it yourself if it looks crooked or misshapen. Here are some recommendations on how you can manage the injury at home. 

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– Don’t blow your nose

– Avoid picking

– Clean and cover minor wounds with a dressing

– Apply ice to the injury for 20 minutes several times a day

– Sit down and lean forward if you have a nosebleed to prevent the blood from entering your throat

– Use over the counter pain relievers to treat pain and decrease swelling

– Use a pillow to elevate your head when lying down to reduce swelling

Common causes of a broken nose

A forceful impact on your face can trigger a broken nose. However, because your nose sticks out of your face, sometimes it doesn’t require great force to break it. It always bears the burnt when a hard surface hits your face. A small study from 2013 established that the most common causes of a broken nose are accidents (like auto crashes), violence, falls and sporting injuries. 

If you suffered a broken nose because of an accident and someone else is legally responsible for it, you can claim personal injury compensation. You are entitled to get compensation for a broken nose if the injury is the direct result of an accident or medical negligence. Your nose injury could have occurred in several kinds of accidents that weren’t your fault, such as an accident caused by medical malpractice, work accident, or road traffic accident. 

How to treat a broken nose

Some nose fractures don’t need to be repaired but require some time to heal on their own. Your doctor can recommend avoiding some activities, light physical activity, and a follow-up consultation while it heals. Be careful not to hit or bump your nose during the healing period. 

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The doctor will reset the bone only if there is an obvious physical deformity or the fracture interferes with your breathing. In case you need resetting, you can choose from several options depending on the severity of the injury. In some instances, the medic resets the bones during your first visit with a local anaesthetic. Other times they use a cast to keep your nose in a particular position for a determined period. Sometimes surgery is necessary to repair a deviated septum or repair the bone. 

Recovery tips

Most nasal fractures heal in a couple of days, but it may take more than a week for the swelling and pain to go away. Avoid any activity that can cause further damage during the recovery period. In case you suffer a complication, the recovery takes longer. Most complications arise when you suffer from cartilage damage, septal hematoma, or a deviated septum. You can experience permanent deformities if you don’t receive corrective treatment immediately after the accident. 

Final words

A broken nose could result from a forceful impact on your face. Even if it’s a distressing and painful condition, you can treat it with simple home care. However, if someone is at fault for the injury, don’t postpone claiming compensation.