The nasal septum is a thin wall made of bone and cartilage that is between the two nostrils, separating the left and right nasal airways. Though the nasal septum should ideally be centered, it is typically slightly off-center for 80% of people. This usually is not glaringly obvious and does not cause issues. When the nasal septum is noticeably more on one side versus the other, it is deviated. This results in one airway being narrower which can cause various symptoms. A deviated septum can range in severity (or in their deviation from center) and may need surgical treatment.
Causes & Symptoms
A deviated septum is a condition that can be caused by:
- A nose injury which can commonly occur during contact sports, car accidents, falling etc. The trauma from this can displace the septum.
- People can also be born with a deviated septum which means that it occurred during fetal development.
A deviated septum impacts the airflow in the nose and can actually block airflow in the obstructed nostril. This can cause:
- Skin in the nose to become dry and cracked, causing frequent nosebleeds
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus infections
- Postnasal drip
- Discomfort during sleep
- Loud breathing while sleeping (excessive snoring)
- Contribute to sleep disorders like sleep apnea
Depending on the severity of the deviated septum, people can experience no symptoms or experience them chronically. For some, they may only experience symptoms while they also have a cold or upper respiratory infection. This causes the tissues in the nose to swell and can worsen airflow, activating other symptoms.
If you experience these symptoms frequently, it is important to consult a doctor and have your septum examined so that the seriousness of the condition can be diagnosed.
There are useful ways that you can manage some of the symptoms of a deviated septum. There are medications that alleviate symptoms, including the following:
- Decongestants: work to reduce the swelling of nasal tissue which allows your airways to be open and prevents the restriction of airflow. They commonly come in the form of a pill but sprays are available as well.
- Antihistamines: target and treat the symptoms of allergies such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, stuffy nose.
- Nasal steroid sprays: which have to be prescribed and also works reduce swelling, opening up the nasal pathways.
If these medications are not helpful and you continue to experience recurring sinus infections and nosebleeds, you should definitely consult a doctor. To diagnose and address the correction of a deviated septum, a doctor will use a nasal speculum which is an instrument that opens the nostrils. With a light, the doctor will examine each nostril and the tissues that line the nostril. Depending on your symptoms and specific kind of deviated septum, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further examination. You could be referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor or plastic surgeon to undergo a corrective procedure.
The surgical treatment of a deviated septum is called septoplasty. This procedure involves moving your septum in a centered position. Septoplasty can sometimes (not always) involve rhinoplasty. Rhinoplasty is when the shape and/or size of the cartilage and bone of your nose is modified which reshapes the external part of the nose. Surgery is typically effective, improving airflow and preventing infection, nosebleeds, disrupted breathing etc.
The best way to reduce your risk of a deviated septum is by taking measures to avoid injury. There are a few ways to do this including the following:
- Wear any and all protective gear while playing sports
- Drive safely and wear a seat belt
- Wear a helmet while riding a bike, motorcycle, scooter, skateboard, etc.
Though most people with deviated septum do not experience chronic health concerns because of it, if you do injure your nose or regularly experience the symptoms previously listed, we recommend having your nose evaluated.
Treating a deviated septum can drastically improve breathing and cure the symptoms associated with the condition. This will allow you to receive quality sleep and the ability to navigate your day without the disruption of triggered sinuses; really improving the quality of your life! Contact us at Enticare to learn more.