One-sided Nose Swelling
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One-sided nasal swelling is an unusual condition that can have related symptoms like redness, warmth, nose bleeds, or congestion. One-sided nose swelling can be caused by an skin infection like cellulitis, trauma from a hit to the face, or an allergic reaction.
One-sided nose swelling symptoms
Swelling is often a normal reaction your body has in response to an injury. It appears as an abnormal enlargement of a body part, and it can either be localized to a small area or more general. Swelling can be due to a variety of causes but typically occurs when fluid (including blood) collects in a particular area. However, swelling can also be due to abnormal cell growth.
In small body parts, like your nose, swelling can be hard to ignore. One-sided nose swelling can occur on the inside or outside of your nose,and while the symptoms of each kind of swelling overlap, there are some differences you might notice depending on the kind of swelling you have.
Inside the nose
Symptoms associated with one-sided swelling inside your nose may include:
- Congestion or stuffiness
- Pain , tenderness or pressure around the forehead, eyes, cheeks or nose
- Difficulty breathing through the affected side
- Reduced sense of smell
- Runny nose or discharge
Outside the nose
Symptoms associated with one-sided swelling outside your nose may include:
- Pain or tenderness around the swelling
- Distorted or misshapen nose
Either cause of one-sided nose swelling may also be associated with fever, redness and/or warmth of the affected area.
The duration of your swelling episode may be short- or long-term.
- Depending on the cause, one-sided nose swelling may last only a few days before resolving on its own or you may notice it persist for a week or more.
- If your nose swelling is persistent, it may also shrink or grow over time.
Is one-sided nose swelling serious?
The severity of the swelling may vary, judging by the following details.
- If it is self-resolving: A small nose swelling that resolves on its own is typically not serious.
- If you also have a fever: A large nose swelling that is associated with redness, pain, and warmth that does not seem to be resolving should be seen by a medical professional, especially if you also have a fever.
- If it is growing or fixed: A nose swelling that grows over time and does not shrink or resolve on its own should be evaluated by a medical provider.
One-sided nose swelling causes
The good news about one-sided nose swelling is that the potential causes for it are limited and fall into a few categories:
Possible causes of nose swelling related to infections may include:
- Skin infection: A bacterial or fungal infection of the skin of your nose either on the outside or inside of your nostril can cause swelling. Skin infections usually occur when a small cut or injury to the skin is exposed to bacteria.When this infection reaches deeper layers of the skin it is called cellulitis. Cellulitis can appear as a red, swollen area that feels warm and tender. Sometimes a collection of pus forms as your body tries to fight the infection and this is called an abscess.
- Upper respiratory infections: An upper respiratory infection is more commonly referred to as a cold and is caused by viruses. Sometimes, an upper respiratory infection can cause internal swelling of the nose as your body tries to mount a response to the virus. This can lead to feelings of congestion and tenderness in and around the area of your nose, plus all the other symptoms that come with colds like a runny nose, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and reduced sense of smell.
Anything that causes injury to the nose such as a direct hit to the face, surgery, car accident, or a nose piercing can lead to swelling of the outside of the nose. This swelling occurs as blood or fluid collects under the thin skin of your nose and can also be associated with deformity of the nose, especially in cases in which the trauma also leads to a broken nose.
Nose swelling may also be caused by disease, such as:
- Autoimmune disease: An autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system which usually works to protect you against diseases and infections instead starts to attack the healthy cells that make up your body. Some autoimmune diseases attack the cells that make up your nose and can cause internal swelling along with other symptoms like bleeding, deformity, pain or tenderness, reduced sense of smell and difficulty breathing through the affected side.
- Allergic disease: People with allergies can also have generalized internal swelling of the nose leading to congestion and difficulty breathing through the affected side, and other symptoms like clear runny discharge from the nose, itchy/watery eyes, and sneezing.
Abnormal cell growth
Sometimes one-sided nose swelling can be caused by the abnormal growth of cells in your nose. Sometimes these growths are non-cancerous, soft, painless swellings called nasal polyps. Other times the cells that grow out of control might form a tumor; several types of tumors can grow in the nose, although nasal tumors are very rare. Polyps and tumors can both lead to nasal blockage and the associated symptoms that occur like congestion and difficulty breathing. Some tumors of the nose can also be associated with bleeding, a decreased ability to smell and sinus infections.
3 conditions of one-sided nose swelling
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
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.
Symptom 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
Relapsing polychondritis is a disorder in which defects develop in cartilage and other tissues throughout the body, including the ears, nose, eyes, joints, and respiratory tract. It is considered a rare condition.
Symptoms vary widely by case, but you may experie..
Nose or sinus tumor
A tumor in the nose or one of the sinuses occurs due to abnormal growth of the cells lining the inside of the nose and sinuses. These tumors are rare and can cause symptoms like congestion or blockage, nose bleeds and sometimes facial pain or swelling.
Rarity: Ultra rare
Top Symptoms: new headache, congestion, vision changes, ear fullness/pressure, ear pain
Symptoms that never occur with nose or sinus tumor: improving congestion
Urgency: Primary care doctor
One-sided nose swelling treatments and relief
Treating one-sided nose swelling is possible at home. However, if you cannot find relief, you should consult your physician for further medical treatment.
Treatments you can try at home include:
- Warm and cold compresses: These can help reduce pain and swelling if your one-sided nose swelling is due to an infectious cause or trauma.
- Over-the-counter pain medications: Pain medications such as the NSAIDs ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naproxen) and aspirin can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness because they work by reducing inflammation in your body. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also help with pain and fever but does not treat inflammation.
- Nasal decongestants: When your nose feels stuffy either from a cold or from allergies, over-the-counter nasal decongestants like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and Vicks Sinex can shrink the swollen blood vessels and tissues causing your stuffiness.Another class of medicines that can help in reducing nasal congestion are nasal sprays with corticosteroids such as Flonase.
- Antihistamines: If your nasal congestion and nose swelling are due to allergies,antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Benadryl can calm the inflammation.
- Irrigation: If your nasal swelling is caused by infection or allergy, liquid solutions made with saline (salt-water) can rinse away the bacteria, fungus, or irritants causing your body's reaction. Nasal irrigation kits can be bought over-the-counter, and when used as directed, they can help to decrease symptoms of congestion and nasal discharge, pain, or pressure.
If conservative measures do not work and you are still suffering from symptoms of nose swelling, you should consult your physician. They may recommend:
- Incision and drainage: If your nasal swelling is caused by a skin infection that has led to a collection of pus under your skin, a medical professional may need to cut a small hole (incision) in the skin overlying the bump in order to drain the pus collection.
- Antibiotics or antifungals: You may also be prescribed medication in the form of a pill or cream/ointment in order to fight the infection if your nose-swelling is due to a bacterial or fungal cause.
- Steroids and other anti-inflammatory medications: If your nose-swelling is due to an autoimmune or inflammatory disease, a medical professional may recommend steroids or other medicines that work by calming down your body's overstimulated immune system, so it is less likely to attack your healthy cells.
- Surgery: If your nose swelling is due to an infection in your nose or sinuses that does not respond to treatment with medicines, your physician may recommend surgery to clear out the infection and make it easier for medicine to reach all areas of your nose. If your noseswelling is due to trauma that has caused damage or distortion to the bone or cartilage in your nose, you mayneed surgery to fix the damage and get your bones back into their natural position. You may also need surgery if your nose swelling is due to abnormal cell growth during which a medical doctor will remove the abnormal growth(s), assess what kind of cells are causing the growth(s), and whether they are cancerous or not.
FAQs about one-sided nose swelling
Here are some frequently asked questions about one-sided nose swelling.
Why can't I smell when I have a cold or nose swelling?
The nerves that are responsible for your sense of smell are found high up in your nose. Anything that interferes with the ability of a molecule that carries scent to travel into your nose and up to where the nerves live can lead to a decreased sense of smell. This is why when you have nasal congestion due to infectious or allergic causes, or a physical blockage due to an abnormal growth, you may notice your ability to smell decreases or goes away completely.
Why do I have a decreased ability to taste when I have nasal congestion?
Your sense of smell is also tied to your ability to taste. Without the sense of smell your taste buds don't work as well, so you may find you enjoy food less during a cold or when you have some other reason for any nasal blockage.
What causes nasal polyps?
Nasal polyps are small, non-cancerous growths in the nasal cavity or the sinuses. They can block the nasal passage leading to a decreased ability to breathe, can interfere with the ability to smell, and can also encourage bacterial or fungal infection by interfering with the body's natural methods of clearing irritants and pathogens that are everywhere in the environment. They are often associated with allergies and asthma but we still don't know exactly what causes them.
How can nasal polyps be treated?
This depends, as nasal polyps can grow and shrink over time. Since they are non-cancerous, they do not necessitate removal unless they are impeding your quality of life. Treatment with oral or nasal steroids can help shrink polyps but they sometimes require surgery for complete removal.
Why do allergies cause my nose to swell?
Allergies can cause nasal swelling because your body's reaction to an allergy-causing material is to alert your immune system to activate cells that fight whatever is causing the allergy. These cells release substances, including histamine, that aim to fight the offending material; however, this also leads to swelling of the nasal lining and opening of the blood vessels which causes redness. Since this reaction occurs due to the body's production of substances like histamine, antihistamines like Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Benadryl work to reduce the response when it occurs because of generally harmless particles like plant pollen, molds, and animal hairs.
Questions your doctor may ask about one-sided nose swelling
- Do you have any body piercings?
- Have you ever had any surgeries?
- Were you struck in the nose?
- Were you recently exposed to the freezing cold (under 32F or 0C)?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Dr. Maina graduated from Princeton University (BA, 2013) with a degree in psychology and received her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is currently a resident physician in Otolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania affiliated hospitals. After graduating from Princeton, she spent a year researching embryonic gene expression with the Center for Research on Reproduction and Women's Health at UPenn. She also received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study abnormal innate immune responses and taste-related genes in chronic sinus infections. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, listening to podcasts, and finding new DIY décor projects.
- Cellulitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus.Updated August 30, 2016. MedlinePlus Link
- Abscess. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus.Updated May 2, 2016. MedlinePlus Link
- Autoimmune diseases. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated May 22, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- Nasal polyps. Mayo Clinic. Published March 3, 2018. Mayo Clinic Link
- Nose. American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. ENT Health Link