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What to do about a broken nose

Tips to help you recognize a broken nose when it happens—or avoid one altogether.

Your nose is front and center. Anything that hits your face—a flying basketball, a careless elbow—typically gets your nose first and hardest.

That's why the nose is the most commonly broken bone on the head.

Common causes

Common threats to the nose include:

  • Sports injuries.
  • Fights.
  • Falls.
  • Car accidents.

Wearing protective headgear when bicycling or playing sports like football or softball can help athletes avoid a broken nose.

Symptoms of a fracture

Getting hit in the nose is often very painful. It can cause a nosebleed and trouble breathing.

Signs that your nose may be broken include:

  • You have bruises around your eyes (black eyes).
  • Your nose is swollen or slightly crooked.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO–HNS), if you've been struck in the nose, it's a good idea to see a doctor to check for septal hematoma—a collection of blood in the nose that can damage the nose if not drained promptly.

Straightening it out

Broken noses don't always need treatment. If the nose is fractured but still straight, it may just need protection from being bumped again while it heals on its own.

If the fracture has altered the shape of your nose, however, treatment can help correct changes in your breathing or appearance.

In the first two weeks after the injury, a doctor may be able to reposition the bones without surgery. This can be done under local or general anesthesia. A cast made of plastic, plaster or metal then helps to hold the reset bones in place as they mend.

If the procedure doesn't happen soon after the injury, or if it doesn't work, you may need surgery. In that case, the surgery usually takes place a few months after the injury, when the swelling has gone down enough for your nose to be repaired. This reconstructive plastic surgery can help restore your breathing and appearance—or you can talk to the surgeon about reshaping your nose however you choose.

reviewed 2/27/2020

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