How Do You Know if Your Nose is Broken or Just Bruised?

by | Sep 25, 2023 | Ear, Nose and Throat, Uncategorized

Swelling. Bruising. Pain.

If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms after a trauma to your nose, you’ve probably suffered a broken or bruised nose. Though a broken nose is clearly a more serious medical condition than a bruised nose, both require treatment and attention.

If you’ve recently experienced trauma to your nose, you probably have some questions. For example, you might be wondering if there’s any first aid you can do to minimize swelling. In addition, you might be wondering how to tell the difference between a bruised and broken nose. And you might be wondering where and how to seek help for a broken nose. Let’s take a closer look at how to tell if your nose is bruised or broken, and when to see an ENT Specialist for help.

Causes of a Broken Nose

Unfortunately, there are plenty of circumstances where you might injure your nose. In fact, broken noses are very common, accounting for 40% of all facial bone injuries. It doesn’t require an excessive amount of force to fracture the delicate bones of your nose, and some of the most common causes for a bruised or broken nose include:


  • Sports injury
  • Physical altercation
  • Fall
  • Motor vehicle accident

In all of these cases, it’s important to see a physician to rule out any additional injuries that may have occurred, especially for full-body impacts like in a car crash. Because nose injuries include the head, seeking treatment for a concussion may also be necessary.

A Bruised Nose: Swelling & Pain

Also known as a nasal contusion, a bruised nose means that your nose’s soft tissue has suffered trauma. The bruise itself occurs when blood vessels under the skin break, leading to discoloration, swelling, and pain. In some cases, you’ll also suffer a nosebleed in addition to the pain and swelling. Usually, a bruised nose will heal on its own without treatment — though it’s still important to see your doctor and ensure that there is no additional damage. 

First Aid for Nose Injury

To minimize pain and swelling — and get your body on the path toward healing — it’s important to practice quick first aid with a nasal contusion. If you are bleeding, lean forward to allow blood to drain from your nose instead of down your throat. Follow these first-aid steps after sustaining a nasal injury

  • Rest. Make sure to rest right away after injury and avoid straining yourself.
  • Ice. Ice the bruise using an ice pack wrapped in a towel. Keep the ice pack on your nose for ten to twenty minutes at a time, a few times a day.
  • Elevate. Keep your head elevated above the rest of your body.
  • Pain management. Take an over-the-counter pain medication to reduce pain and swelling, if needed.

If the swelling doesn’t decrease in a few days, it’s important to see a doctor to check your nose. You may have a broken nose that needs to be reset by a professional.

A Broken Nose: More Intense Symptoms

While a bruised nose will usually heal just fine on its own, a broken nose requires needs medical attention. A broken nose usually means that one of the bones in the bony pyramid at the top of your nose, known as the bridge of your nose, has fractured. It could also mean that you have a deviated septum, the thin cartilage layer separating your nose’s left and right sides.

Broken or Bruised Nose

In addition to pain, swelling, and discoloration on and around the nose, a broken nose will usually cause more severe symptoms than just a bruised nose:

  • Crooked, deformed, or twisted nose
  • Crackling or crunching sound when you touch the nose
  • Clear liquid draining out of your nostrils
  • A deviated septum
  • Bruises under the eyes
  • Difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Fever
  • Cuts around nose

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical help. Some symptoms, particularly clear drainage from the nose, can be indicative of a more serious problem.

Treatment for Broken Nose

Although you should get checked out immediately if you suspect you have broken your nose, your doctor may need to wait until the swelling has diminished to treat your nose. Depending on the severity of your broken nose, there are a few options available:

  1. Heal on its own. If your ENT Specialist determines that nothing in your nose is out of place as a result of the break, then your nose might be left to heal on its own. 
  2. Realign dislocated nose. Sometimes, the bones in your nose are simply out of place or dislocated as a result of the trauma. In this case, your specialist might be able to guide the bones back into place so they can heal in a normal position. 
  3. Nasal fracture repair. In cases of serious trauma to the bridge of the nose or the septum, your doctor might need to perform surgery. Depending on what your doctor recommends, this could be either open or closed surgery to repair the damage.

Why See an ENT Specialist for a Broken Nose?

It’s important to see a doctor or go to the emergency room immediately if you might have sustained a serious injury. If your nose is broken, an  Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Specialist can help you regain full function. In the event of a fracture on the bridge (bony pyramid at the top of your nose), other structures in your nose can be affected as a result. The collection of blood in the nose after a serious break can lead to an abscess or deformity and cause severe enough tissue damage that the nose collapses.

Without treatment, you might be left with lasting cosmetic damage and difficulty breathing. Luckily, ENT Specialists are specially trained in the delicate bones of the nose and can help restore you to function. If you broke your nose years ago — and are still dealing with the effects — you can see an ENT Specialist for a rhinoplasty consultation to address past damages.

If you’ve recently suffered trauma to your nose and believe you may be dealing with a broken nose, it’s important to seek treatment right away. Reach out to your local ENT Specialist to find out what treatment options are available to you.