Nose pain quiz
Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.
Nose pain is commonly associated with problems inside the naval cavity. Less often, a sore nose can be caused by issues with one or more of the nerves that control sensation to the face.
8 most common causes
Common nose pain symptoms explained
Several nerves and their branches control sensation to the face and nose. Sometimes, damage to these nerves can result in uncomfortable pain in different parts of the face. Nevertheless, nose pain is more commonly associated with problems related specifically to the nasal cavity rather than nerves.
Common accompanying symptoms of nose pain
Symptoms of nasal cavity dysfunction that can result in nose pain include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Congestion or blockage
- Facial pain
- Tenderness and swelling around the cheeks, eyes and forehead
- Thick, yellow nasal discharge
- Reduced sense of smell
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Sore throat
- Ear pain
- Aching in the jaw or teeth
- Bleeding from the nose
Why does my nose hurt?
Even though nasal pain can be extremely uncomfortable, fortunately its causes are limited.
Conditions that cause your body to mount a natural immune response against irritation and injury infection, allergy, autoimmune disease can cause pain in the nose. Pain is a primary sign of inflammation and is often associated with inflammatory causes of nose pain. This is quite a common condition, as nearly 37 million Americans suffer from at least one episode of acute nasal inflammation each year.
- Upper respiratory illness: Whether due to viral or bacterial causes, when the nasal passages become infected, symptoms such as congestion, discharge, and runny nose result. The constant irritation to the nasal cavity results in inflammation that can cause swelling and pain.
- Allergy (rhinitis): Allergens in the air such as pollen and hay can make even the healthiest person sneeze. However, when the immune system overreacts to these common irritants as in people with severe allergies chronic inflammation of the nasal passages can occur. This results in persistent congestion, sneezing, and swelling of the nose and face that often also becomes painful.
- Sinusitis: This is a condition in which the sinuses of the nasal cavity become inflamed often due to upper respiratory illness or allergies. This condition can be acute or chronic and primarily interferes with nasal drainage, causing buildup. The resulting buildup puts pressure on the area around the face, eyes, and cheeks causing both nasal pain and facial tenderness.
Anything that causes direct injury to the nose a punch in the face, a car accident, a traumatic fall can result in extreme pain in the nose, especially if the nose fractures. These causes may also be associated with visible deformity and bleeding depending on the severity of the trauma.
Nose pain can occur due to obstructive or structural causes, such as the following.
- Nasal polyps: Sometimes the nose can become lined with soft, painless, noncancerous growths known as nasal polyps. The mechanism for the growth of these polyps is currently unknown, but they can cause swelling of the internal nasal cavity and lead to blockage and congestion that worsens symptoms.
- Structural abnormalities: Such as a deviated septum or a narrow nasal passage can also lead to pain, swelling, and associated symptoms
Environmental causes of nose pain may include the following.
- Insects: Insects are a nuisance in general, but insects become even more annoying when they happen to involve the nose. A bite from any insect mosquito, spider, flea, etc. can cause the nose to swell and also become itchy and painful.
- Non-allergic: Though irritants such as dust, smog, and smoke can trigger allergic reactions, in some people no evidence of an allergic reaction is found. These situations cause similar symptoms to that of allergic rhinitis including sneezing, swelling, congestion and most importantly nasal pain.
10 nose pain conditions
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Pimples are also called comedones, spots, blemishes, or "zits." Medically, they are small skin eruptions filled with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.
Pimples often first start appearing at puberty, when hormones increase the production of oil in the skin and sometimes clog the pores.
Most susceptible are teenagers from about ages 13 to 17.
Symptoms include blocked pores that may appear flat and black on the surface, because the oil darkens when exposed to the air; blocked pores that appear white on the surface because they have closed over with dead skin cells; or swollen, yellow-white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by reddened skin.
Outbreaks of pimples on the skin can interfere with quality of life, making the person self-conscious about their appearance and causing pain and discomfort in the skin. A medical provider can help to manage the condition, sometimes through referral to a dermatologist.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
Treatment involves improving diet; keeping the skin, hair, washcloths, and towels very clean; and using over-the-counter acne remedies.
Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump
Symptoms that always occur with pimple: pink or red facial bump
Non-specific nasal injury
Nasal injuries are very common due to the position of the nose on the face. While fragile, many injuries to the nose are not actually fractures.
You can go see your doctor tomorrow, who can rule out a fracture. Imaging and physical exam can find fractures of the nose. Treatment for a non-fracture is just ice and simple pain management.
Top Symptoms: constant nose pain, nose pain caused by trauma, swollen nose, nose bruise, bloody nose after being hit in the nose
Symptoms that always occur with non-specific nasal injury: nose pain caused by trauma, constant nose pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or shortened GPA, was formerly known as Wegener's granulomatosis. It is caused by inflammation of the blood vessels by the body's immune system. The inflammation can happen anywhere, but often affects the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys.
You should visit your primary care physician soon to provide an early diagnosis. Treatment of inflammatory diseases commonly involve prescription medications such as a steroid to decrease inflammation, and a cell-damaging medicine to kill abnormal cells.
Frostnip of the nose
Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.
Those with suspected frostnip should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to an urgent care. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. At urgent care, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot may be necessary
Top Symptoms: nose pain, nose redness, numb nose, nose coldness, turning blue or purple from coldness
Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the nose: nose coldness
Urgency: In-person visit
Foreign body in the nose
When an object becomes stuck in the nose, it can cause severe discomfort, but rarely results in dangerous complications.
The object should be removed quickly to prevent infection or accidental inhalation of the foreign object.
Top Symptoms: frequent sneezing, nose pain, bloody nose, object stuck in the nose, nose redness
Symptoms that always occur with foreign body in the nose: object stuck in the nose
Urgency: In-person visit
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.
The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.
Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.
Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.
If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.
Symptoms of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination.
Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.
Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Nasal fractures are common occurrences. The force needed to break the nasal bones is less than any of the other bones of the face because of their thinness and position. For kids, treatment and diagnosis is different because of the bones may not be fully formed.
You should go to urgent care or the emergency room immediately by car, where diagnosis can be confirmed by taking pictures. Treatment involves stabilizing the nose and referring to an Ear/Nose/Throat surgeon or a plastic surgeon for further management.
Top Symptoms: mouth breathing, constant nose pain, swollen nose, nose pain caused by trauma, nose bruise
Symptoms that always occur with broken nose: nose pain caused by trauma, swollen nose, constant nose pain
Urgency: Hospital emergency room
Acute bacterial sinusitis
Acute bacterial sinusitis, also called bacterial rhinosinusitis or "sinus infection," has symptoms much like viral rhinosinusitis but a different treatment.
Any sinusitis usually begins with common cold viruses. Sometimes a secondary bacterial infection takes hold. Like cold viruses, these bacteria can be inhaled after an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Anyone with viral sinusitis, upper-respiratory allergy, nasal passage abnormality, lung illness, or a weakened immune system is more prone to bacterial sinusitis.
Symptoms include thick yellowish or greenish nasal discharge; one-sided pain in the upper jaw or teeth; one-sided sinus pain and pressure; fatigue; fever; and symptoms that get worse after first improving.
See a doctor right away for severe headache, high fever, stiff neck, or vision changes. These can indicate a medical emergency.
Diagnosis is made with a simple examination in the doctor's office.
Bacterial sinusitis can be treated with antibiotics, but this is not always necessary.
Often rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants are enough.
Prevention is done through good lifestyle and hygiene to keep the immune system strong.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches
Symptoms that always occur with acute bacterial sinusitis: sinusitis symptoms
Symptoms that never occur with acute bacterial sinusitis: clear runny nose, being severely ill
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Acute viral sinusitis
Acute viral sinusitis, also called viral rhinosinusitis or "sinus infection," occurs when viruses take hold and multiply in the sinus cavities of the face.
It is most often caused by the same viruses that cause the common cold and spreads the same way, through an infected person's coughing or sneezing.
Because children have small, underdeveloped sinuses, this illness is far more common in adults.
Symptoms include clear nasal discharge (not greenish or yellowish,) fever, and pain if facial sinuses are pressed.
If there is rash, severe fatigue, or neurologic symptoms (seizures, loss of sensation, weakness, or partial paralysis,) see a medical provider to rule out more serious conditions.
Diagnosis can usually be made through history and examination alone.
Antibiotics only work against bacteria and cannot help against a viral illness. Therefore, treatment consists of rest, fluids, and fever/pain reducers such as ibuprofen. (Do not give aspirin to children.) Symptoms of viral sinusitis last for about seven to ten days. As with the common cold, the best prevention is frequent and thorough handwashing.
Top Symptoms: headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, sore throat, congestion
Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis: sinusitis symptoms
Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis: being severely ill
Iatrogenic nose condition
Surgery of the nose or nose piercing can result in side effects ranging from infection, pain and swelling to numbness and decreased sense of smell.
Top Symptoms: nose pain, bloody nose, bump in or on the nose, nose redness, swollen nose
Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit
Wegener's granulomatosis, more recently re-named granulomatosis with polyangiitis, is a disorder in which a dysregulated immune system causes widespread inflammation of small blood vessels throughout the body. This results in slower or impaired blood flow to your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidneys.
Symptoms can be widespread and affect various parts of the body such as the eyes and ears or respiratory system, yet usually begin more generally with fever, fatigue, a loss of appetite, and weight loss. With treatment, a full recovery is possible; however, this condition can be fatal.
Treatments include immunosuppressive medications in order to control the disease in the short- and long-term.
Rarity: Ultra rare
Top Symptoms: fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, shortness of breath, fever
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Treatments and relief for a sore nose
Other than excessive use of bug spray and avoiding certain foods, it may be difficult to prevent environmental causes of nose pain symptoms. However, if your symptoms are due to a traumatic cause, promptly make an appointment with your doctor in order to assess for serious injury.
You can try the following treatments at home in order to relieve or possibly prevent nose pain.
- Rest and ice: Put an ice pack over your nose every 15 minutes to minimize further irritation and prevent continued fluid accumulation in your tissues
- Limit exposures that cause upper respiratory infections: Upper respiratory infections are contagious and usually passed from person to person. Limit contact with people with cold symptoms, wash hands frequently, and utilize other good hygiene practices.
- Avoid pollutants: Cigarette smoke and other pollutants can irritate and inflame the nasal passages in both an allergic and non-allergic manner. Take measures to limit your contact with such pollutants in order to prevent nose pain symptoms.
- Manage allergies and inflammatory conditions: Keeping symptoms of seasonal allergies and other inflammatory conditions under control will help keep your nose protected from insults that can quickly cause pain and its associated symptoms.
When to see a doctor
If these lifestyle changes do not improve your symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. Nasal pain symptoms can suggest an underlying, chronic problem that needs professional management, such as the following.
- Irrigation: Saline nasal sprays or solutions can rinse away irritants from the nasal passages, decrease blockage and promote drainage. This can go a long way in reducing pain related to both inflammatory and obstructive causes.
- Anti-inflammatory: Medications that prevent and treat inflammation such as inhaled corticosteroids are often used to combat the many causes of internal nasal swelling and pain.
- Decongestants: Relieving congestion and sensations of blockage, decongestants can help relieve pain and its associated symptoms.
- Pain relievers: Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter pain medications to combat your nose pain symptoms.
Questions your doctor may ask about nose pain
- Do you have a runny nose?
- Do you have an object stuck in your nose?
- Do you feel fullness or pressure in your face?
- Do you have any body piercings?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
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- Causes of Nasal Inflammation. American Sinus Institute. American Sinus Link
- Rhinitis. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Published August 2018. ENThealth Link
- Sinusitis. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. AAAAI Link
- Could Nasal Polyps Be the Cause of Your Stuffy Nose? Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link
- Deviated Septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. Published August 2018. ENThealth Link
- Egan M, Hickner J. Saline Irrigation Spells Relief for Sinusitis Sufferers. The Journal of Family Practice. 2009;58(1):29-32. NCBI Link