What Is Saddle Nose? (with pictures)

Geisha A. Legazpi
Geisha A. Legazpi
Malignancies in the paranasal sinuses can lead to saddle nose.
Malignancies in the paranasal sinuses can lead to saddle nose.

Saddle nose is a nose with a concavity, resulting in relatively reduced nasal length, nasal support, and aesthetics. Aside from giving the nose an unsightly “pug nose” appearance, saddle nose symptoms include nasal obstruction, difficulty breathing, and recurrent respiratory infections. Saddle nose treatment involves knowing the cause, determining the degree of saddling, and performing rhinoplasty.

Relapsing polychondritis may cause saddle nose which can affect the trachea, leading to breathing problems.
Relapsing polychondritis may cause saddle nose which can affect the trachea, leading to breathing problems.

Causes of saddle nose are genetic, infectious, inflammatory, malignant, autoimmune, drug induced, or trauma associated. Infectious diseases, such as leprosy and syphilis, may also cause nasal saddling. When an infected mother passes on syphilis to the fetus during pregnancy, the infant will have a condition called congenital syphilis, which is characterized by the presence of a saddle nose, blunted and notched upper incisors, inflamed cornea, protruding lower jaw, and short upper jaw. An infant or child with congenital syphilis may also have swollen knees and saber shin, which refers to a malformed and anteriorly bowed tibia.

A child with congenital syphilis may have swollen knees.
A child with congenital syphilis may have swollen knees.

Inflammatory and autoimmune causes include relapsing perichondritis and Wegener’s disease. In relapsing perichondritis, there is destruction of the cartilaginous structures of the nose, ears, heart valves, eyes, trachea, skin, and blood vessels. In Wegener’s disease, the small and medium-sized blood vessels become inflamed and destroyed by the body’s own immune cells. Aside from a saddle nose deformity that results from destruction of the nasal septum, people with Wegener’s disease have recurrent nosebleeds and respiratory infections, which may be accompanied with neurological, renal, and cardiac problems.

Rhinoplasty may be used to treat some cases of saddle nose.
Rhinoplasty may be used to treat some cases of saddle nose.

One notorious cause of saddle nose is drug abuse. Cocaine or heroin sniffing can lead to the formation of holes or perforations in the nasal septum, leading to saddling of the nose. Malignant causes include a type of T cell lymphoma called lethal midline granulomatous disease. Malignancies in the paranasal sinuses may also metastasize to the nose, leading to loss of nasal structural integrity and subsequent saddling deformity.

Cocaine use may lead to perforations in the nasal septum that cause saddle nose.
Cocaine use may lead to perforations in the nasal septum that cause saddle nose.

Trauma or previous nasal surgeries can also lead to this kind of deformity. Direct trauma can destroy the bony and/or the cartilaginous part of the nasal septum. When caused by trauma, infection and abscess formation may follow, leading to the need for more intensive treatment. Previous rhinoplasties or nasal surgeries may also lead to this deformity.

People with Wegener's disease often have recurrent nosebleeds.
People with Wegener's disease often have recurrent nosebleeds.

Some saddle nose cases require medical intervention based on the underlying cause. Treatment with penicillin is needed for syphilis, while corticosteroids and immunosuppressants are needed for Wegener’s granulomatosis. Surgery is done according to patient preference, underlying cause, and presence of symptoms. When there is nasal obstruction or septal perforation, it is best to do nasal reconstructive surgery or rhinoplasty.

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    • Malignancies in the paranasal sinuses can lead to saddle nose.
      Malignancies in the paranasal sinuses can lead to saddle nose.
    • Relapsing polychondritis may cause saddle nose which can affect the trachea, leading to breathing problems.
      Relapsing polychondritis may cause saddle nose which can affect the trachea, leading to breathing problems.
    • A child with congenital syphilis may have swollen knees.
      A child with congenital syphilis may have swollen knees.
    • Rhinoplasty may be used to treat some cases of saddle nose.
      Rhinoplasty may be used to treat some cases of saddle nose.
    • Cocaine use may lead to perforations in the nasal septum that cause saddle nose.
      Cocaine use may lead to perforations in the nasal septum that cause saddle nose.
    • People with Wegener's disease often have recurrent nosebleeds.
      People with Wegener's disease often have recurrent nosebleeds.
    • Previous nasal surgeries may cause saddle nose.
      Previous nasal surgeries may cause saddle nose.