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Common Nose Injuries - UC Irvine Otolaryngology

Common Nose Injuries

Capable of smelling over 10,000 scents, the human nose is fairly durable in design, but still susceptible to injury. Made up of thin pieces of bone and flexible cartilage, the nose can be affected by everything from a serious infection to a hard blow from a hit to the face or fall. Knowing what some of the common nose injuries are could help you realize when it's best to seek medical attention.

Nose Fractures

Commonly referred to as a "broken nose," nose fractures are the most common type of nose injury. Nose fractures aren't always obvious. An open fracture is one where the skin is broken and damage to the bone. A closed fracture is one where the bone is damaged but skin isn't broken. When a fracture occurs, the nose must be evaluated for signs of a collection of blood (septal hematoma).

More common among the elderly, nose fractures are often caused by falling or sports-injuries in children. Surgery is rarely necessary to correct a nose fracture, although realignment may be required. Symptoms may include:

  • Bruising around the nose or eyes
  • A "grating" sensation or sound when the nose is touched
  • A nose bleed or excessively runny nose

Nose Bleeds

Blood vessels in the nose are fragile and may bleed from a hard impact or when irritated, as may be the case with excessive scratching. Nose bleeds may be treated by applying ice to the nose to constrict the blood vessels and squeezing the nose for several minutes to allow clotting to take place.

Medical attention should be sought for nose bleeds that continue beyond 10 minutes. Possible causes include frequent nose blowing, dry nasal membranes, or having a foreign object stuck in the nose. Rare causes include some forms of cancer, high blood pressure, and being on blood thinners.

Deviated Septum

If the wall of bone or cartilage that separates the nose (nasal septum) is displaced to one side or another, it's called a deviated septum. It may be caused by sudden trauma or it may be a deformity that was present at birth. Treatment often includes a surgical procedure to restore alignment (septoplasty). Possible symptoms include:

  • Difficulty with nose breathing
  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Headaches and sleep issues
  • Postnasal drip
  • Loud snoring or breathing

Nose injuries can be minor or major, depending on the specific trauma or cause. While you're more likely to pay attention to a broken or bruised nose, any bleeding that's not stopping or recurring on a regular basis shouldn't be ignored either. Because the nose is unprotected, it's rarely possible to prevent all injuries. Seeking prompt attention, however, can help minimize the odds of sustaining permanent damage.