Your nostrils are divided by a wall known as the septum. When this wall shifts in one direction or the other, the result is called a deviated septum. It’s an extremely common condition, with as many as 70 or 80 percent of the population having some degree of deviation. Some people are born with them. Others suffer injuries to their noses that cause it to shift. They can be caused by any injury from a bump on the nose to the pressure exerted while giving birth.
Deviated Septum Symptoms
Many people who have them never even realize they have one until it begins causing problems during allergy season or when they catch a cold. Then, the fact that one nostril is constricted can cause sinus problems. Some common symptoms of deviated septum include:
• Repeated sinus infections or chronic sinusitis
• Postnasal drip
• Nasal congestion
• Difficulty breathing through the nose, usually confined to one side
• Pain in the face from sinus congestion or infection
• Sleep apnea
Usually, symptoms will be either limited to or more severe on one side of the nasal cavity. Most people who have a deviated septum never experience any symptoms that are considered worrisome.
Diagnosing a Deviated Septum
When a deviated septum seems to be causing problems, it is time to discuss it with an Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) specialist.
The ENT will review your medical history and perform a physical exam to determine if your problems are caused by a deviated septum. During the exam, the doctor will spread your nostrils using a nasal speculum and inspect the inner surfaces of each of your nostrils using a lighted instrument.
Treatment for a Deviated Septum
In most cases, a deviated septum will not require any treatment. But, if your deviated septum is causing complications such as chronic sinusitis, a course of treatment may be recommended.
Usually, treatment starts with medications to get symptoms under control. Decongestants, nasal steroid spray and antihistamines are common treatments for complications caused by a deviated septum.
If medication does not help with your breathing problems, a surgery called septoplasty may be helpful. During the septoplasty, the surgeon makes an incision in the nasal septum in order to straighten it out and pull it back to the center. Excess cartilage and bone that are causing the deviation may be removed. In some cases, the septum may be removed, straightened and reinserted.
Having a deviated septum is an extremely common condition, with as many as 70 or 80 percent of the population having some degree of deviation.
The procedure takes between 60 and 90 minutes. Most people can have this surgery on an outpatient basis and go home the same day as the surgery. You will usually heal from the septoplasty in around a week, with full recovery taking about a month.
After surgery, splints, sutures and small tubes keep your septum in place while it heals. If a deviated septum is the sole cause of chronic sinusitis, the procedure alone may be enough to correct the issue. In some cases, sinus surgery to open the sinuses may be required.
Is a deviated septum causing breathing problems and congestion for you? Talk to one of our skilled and caring ENT specialists today.