Can A Broken Nose Heal On Its Own?

The nose is a complex structure comprising bones, cartilage, and soft tissue. As a prominent facial feature, it is vulnerable to injury, especially during contact sports. According to the Cleveland Clinic, common causes of a broken nose include physical fights, sports injuries, or car accidents. The force of impact can cause the bones in the nose to crack or break, resulting in a nasal fracture. Falling and hitting your nose on a hard surface can also cause a nasal fracture. Children generally have a lower risk of suffering from a broken nose than adults, as their bones are more flexible, says Harvard Health Publishing.

The symptoms of a broken nose also vary depending on the severity of the injury. A mild fracture might only result in a nosebleed or mild swelling. On the other hand, a severe nose fracture may cause extensive damage to the nose's bones, cartilage, and surrounding tissues. You might also experience pain, swelling, difficulty breathing, bruising, and a misshaped nose. In rare cases, severe nose fractures can cause complications such as septal hematoma — according to Healthline, this is a collection of blood between the cartilage and septum.

In many cases, a broken nose can heal on its own without any medical intervention. More severe breaks, however, may require treatment. 

How long does it take for a broken nose to heal?

According to the National Health Service (NHS), it usually takes around 3 weeks for a broken nose to heal. Managing pain and swelling and avoiding activities that could further injure the nose are crucial during this period. If you have a broken nose, it's always best to consult your doctor or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist to understand how extensive the injury is. The diagnosis is usually based on a physical examination of the nose and the surrounding areas — the specialist will examine your nasal passages, looking for signs of deformity around the nose. In some cases, imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the fracture.

If the injury is mild, your doctor may suggest using at-home remedies to help manage the symptoms. Elevation and rest can help reduce swelling and pain, says the Mayo Clinic. Try to keep your head elevated at night and apply a cold compress to the nose during the day. The clinic advises applying the compress four times daily for 10-15 minutes to reduce swelling. Remember to always keep your doctor updated on your progress. This is especially important if you experience severe pain, bleeding, or difficulty breathing.

Treatment for more serious fractures

At-home remedies can often help manage the symptoms of a broken nose until it heals, but they're not always a substitute for professional medical intervention. While a broken nose can heal on its own, there are situations where medication is needed. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage severe pain, says the Cleveland Clinic. In some cases, manual realignment is necessary. During the procedure, your doctor manually pushes the bones back into place. You might need to wear a nasal gauze or cast to help support your nose as it heals. Your doctor might also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication to manage discomfort.

Surgery (such as septoplasty or rhinoplasty) is another option. This is typically reserved for more severe cases where the nose is severely misaligned, or the injury is causing significant breathing problems. A septoplasty is a surgical procedure to correct any damage to the septum — the bone and cartilage wall between the nostrils. During a septoplasty, the surgeon will make an incision inside the nose and carefully reposition the septum, removing any excess bone or cartilage causing the obstruction. A rhinoplasty is also performed to improve the appearance and function of the nose. The procedure involves reshaping the nose by removing or adding tissue or bone.