A deviated septum refers to the significant displacement of the nasal septum toward one side. The nasal septum is the wall of bone and cartilage that divides the nasal cavity into its two chambers. This displacement can result in one nasal passage being smaller than the other, leading to reduced airflow and difficulty breathing. In some cases, a severely deviated septum can block one side of the nose entirely. In some individuals, the additional exposure to the drying effect of airflow can contribute to bleeding or crusting.
How Common Are Deviated Septums?
A deviated septum is a relatively common condition, affecting the nasal septum, the wall of cartilage and bone that divides the nasal cavity into two separate chambers, or nasal passages. It is estimated that up to 80% of the population may have some degree of septal deviation. However, not all cases of deviated septum cause symptoms or require treatment. Some people are born with a deviated septum, while others develop it as a result of injury, aging, or infections.
A deviated septum can lead to various issues, such as nasal congestion, sinus infections, and difficulty breathing during sleep, which may manifest as loud breathing. Common symptoms associated with a deviated septum include facial pain, frequent sinus infections, and chronic sinusitis. Nasal injury is a significant risk factor for developing a deviated septum, particularly in contact sports or accidents where the nose is impacted.
What are the symptoms of a Deviated Septum?
Depending on the severity of the deviation and the individual’s overall nasal health, the symptoms of a deviated septum can vary. Common symptoms include:
Nasal congestion or blockage is one of the most common symptoms of a deviated septum. This can occur due to the physical obstruction caused by the deviated septum, swelling of the nasal tissues, or a combination of both factors.
Difficulty breathing through the nose is another common symptom of a deviated septum. This can be particularly bothersome during exercise or other activities that require increased airflow through the nasal passages.
Constant sinus infections
A deviated septum can disrupt normal sinus drainage, leading to a buildup of mucus and an increased risk of sinus infections. Individuals with a deviated septum may experience frequent or chronic sinusitis as a result.
The drying effect of airflow on the nasal tissues can cause crusting and bleeding in some individuals with a deviated septum. Frequent nosebleeds may be a sign of a deviated septum, particularly if they occur predominantly on one side of the nose.
A deviated septum can contribute to sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea by obstructing the airflow through the nasal passages. This can lead to noisy breathing, disturbed sleep, and reduced quality of life.
Headaches can also be a symptom of a deviated septum, particularly if the deviation is causing chronic sinus infections or nasal obstruction. The increased pressure in the sinus cavities and nasal passages can lead to debilitating headaches in some individuals.
Diagnosis of a Deviated Septum
Diagnosing a deviated septum involves a thorough examination by a healthcare provider, who will assess the nasal septum, nasal cavity, and nasal passages for any abnormalities or obstructions. The healthcare provider may use a nasal speculum, otoscope, or nasal endoscopy to visualize the nasal passages and identify any signs of nasal blockage, sinus infections, or other common symptoms that may be associated with a deviated septum.
During the examination, the healthcare provider will also evaluate the patient’s breathing during sleep, noisy breathing, facial pain, and any history of nose injury or nasal symptoms. They may inquire about any risk factors, such as participation in contact sports or previous nasal surgery, that could contribute to the development of a deviated septum.
How is a Deviated Septum Treated?
The selected treatment for a deviated septum will depend on the presence of bothersome symptoms and the severity of the condition. In mild cases, medical therapy may be sufficient to manage symptoms and improve overall nasal health. This can include the use of saline nasal sprays, decongestants, antihistamines, or corticosteroid nasal sprays to reduce inflammation and congestion. On the other hand, more severe deviations, which are characterized by frequent sinus infections, may require sinus surgery.
What Home Treatments there are for a Deviated Septum
If you have a mild nasal deviation with symptoms that can be managed, there are several home treatments that can help alleviate discomfort and improve your quality of life. These include:
Nasal corticosteroid sprays
Prescription nasal corticosteroid sprays can help reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, making it easier to breathe. They can also help alleviate symptoms of allergies, which can worsen nasal congestion.
Using a humidifier
Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier can help soothe dry and irritated nasal tissues, reducing the risk of nosebleeds and improving overall nasal comfort.
By narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages, over-the-counter decongestants in the form of pills or nasal sprays can help relieve nasal congestion. However, these should be used with caution, as overuse can lead to rebound congestion and worsen symptoms.
Using a saline nasal spray or performing a nasal rinse with a saline solution can help keep the nasal passages moist, reduce inflammation, and flush out mucus and allergens.
If your deviated septum symptoms are exacerbated by allergies, over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can help reduce allergy symptoms and improve nasal comfort.
Smoking can worsen nasal congestion and inflammation, so quitting smoking can significantly improve your nasal symptoms and overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes a deviated septum?
A deviated septum can be caused by a variety of factors, including congenital issues present at birth, injuries to the nose, aging, and infections. Some people have a deviated septum at birth, while others develop it over time due to these factors.
What is the appearance of a deviated septum?
In some cases, a deviated septum may not be visible from the outside of the nose. However, in more severe cases, the external appearance of the nose may be crooked or asymmetrical due to the underlying septal deviation.
Is it possible to fix a deviated septum by pushing it back in place?
No, a deviated septum cannot be fixed by simply pushing it back into place. The treatment for a deviated septum typically involves medical therapy or surgical intervention, depending on the severity of the condition and the presence of bothersome symptoms.
Is surgery necessary to correct a deviated septum, or can it resolve on its own?
In cases of minor deviation with manageable symptoms, surgery may not be necessary. However, in more severe cases where symptoms significantly impact daily life, surgical intervention may be required to correct the septal deviation and improve quality of life.
At what point should medical attention be sought for a Deviated Septum?
If you are experiencing persistent or severe symptoms related to a deviated septum, such as difficulty breathing, constant sinus infections, frequent nosebleeds, or sleep disorders, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment options.
What questions should I ask during my consultation?
During your consultation with a healthcare provider, consider asking the following basic questions to better understand your condition and initial treatment options:
- How severe is my deviated septum, and what is the cause?
- What are the potential risks and complications associated with my deviated septum?
- What non-surgical treatment options are available to help manage my symptoms?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to improve my nasal health and alleviate symptoms?
- In your professional opinion, do you recommend surgery to correct my deviated septum?
Schedule an Appointment with a Rhinoplasty Specialist
If you suspect you have a deviated septum and are experiencing bothersome symptoms, it is important to consult with a rhinoplasty specialist for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss your treatment options. Becker Rhinoplasty Center, led by the renowned Dr. Daniel G. Becker, offers expert care in the field of rhinoplasty and septoplasty. With a focus on patient education and satisfaction, Dr. Becker and his team will work with you to determine the best course of action for your individual needs. Click here to schedule a consultation at one of their convenient New Jersey locations.