We often hear the term “deviated nasal septum,” but what does it mean exactly? Is it necessary to have a perfectly straight nasal septum in every case? Could a deviated septum be the cause of one’s inability to breathe? A deviated septum is an abnormal separation between the nasal cavity and the thin wall of the nose. In order to understand what a nasal septum is, let’s start with its definition.
- The nasal septum separates the two nasal passageways within your nose with a thin piece of bone and cartilage.
- Symptoms of a deviated septum include congestion and snoring.
- Surgical treatment is the primary method for treating a deviated septum. It is possible, however, to alleviate nasal obstruction symptoms with medications.
What is a Nasal Septum?
The nasal septum is a wall of cartilage and bone covered in soft tissues. The septum divides your nostrils at the front and continues to the rear of your nose, where the breathing passages rejoin.
What is a Deviated Septum?
The nasal septum is separated by the nasal passages. It is composed of cartilage and connective tissue. A mucous membrane lines the inside and outside of the nasal passages. Nasal passages can become more extensive due to an extreme tilt of the septum. Depending on its severity, it may cause nasal blockage, reduced airflow, and breathing problems. Infections and postnasal drip can also be increased with a misaligned septum.
Causes of a Deviated Septum
There is a slight crookedness in the nasal septum of most people, but it goes unnoticed most of the time. The deviation can be visible as early as childhood in some people. Deviated septums can occur due to injuries to the nose that move the nasal septum out of alignment.
Symptoms of Deviated Septum
An inflamed nasal mucous membrane or ongoing sinusitis is the most common symptom of a deviated septum. Infections, colds, and allergies often cause the same symptoms. Additionally, the signs of a deviated septum include:
- Dryness of mucous membranes in the nostril, often accompanied by crusting of the nose.
- Noisy breathing while sleeping
- Facial pain
- Postnasal drip
- Nasal blockage
- Nasal congestion
- Frequent sinus infections
- Infections of the sinuses that are resistant to medication
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Whistling noise while inhaling or exhaling
- People who suffer from blocked nasal passages tend to sleep on one side. The condition is known as sleep apnea in severe cases.
How is a Deviated Septum Diagnosed?
Examining the nostrils with a nasal speculum allows the doctor to diagnose a deviated septum. In addition to checking the septum’s positioning, the doctor also checks the size of the nostrils due to its placement. As part of the examination, the doctor will inquire about sleep, snoring, sinus problems, and breathing difficulties.
How is Deviated Septum Treated?
Most cases do not require treatment. Surgery is commonly used to treat a severely deviated septum. In addition to surgical treatment options, there are others. However, they don’t cure a deviated septum but may lessen the symptoms associated with it.
Treatments focus on correcting the problem that is causing the symptoms. To address its symptoms, the following treatments are commonly used:
- Nasal steroid spray
- Nasal strips
Surgery for Deviated Septum
Medications and other treatment methods may not improve the symptoms, so the doctor may recommend a surgery called Septoplasty.
A septoplasty is a procedure that straightens a septum. This involves the reshaping of or removing a portion of the septum to open the nasal passages. However, a successful septoplasty might not resolve all your symptoms. Surgeons often combine Septoplasty with other surgeries.
- Title cartilage grafting: Extra cartilage may be needed to repair your nasal septum. A surgeon might take some cartilage from your ear, ribs, or other sources to transfer to your nose.
- Turbinoplasty: This procedure shrinks enlarged turbinates.
- Rhinoplasty: This cosmetic procedure, also called a “nose job,” changes the appearance of your nose. Missing bones can cause a deviated septum. They may also need to be reshaped to correct the septum.
When is Septoplasty advised?
A septoplasty may be an option if the symptoms of a deviated septum are severe. Your healthcare provider will assess your situation to determine the best treatment while taking into account the following factors:
- Risk factors
- Pre-existing conditions
- Previous surgeries
What can I do to take care of my deviated septum?
Your healthcare provider might recommend an over-the-counter medication to ease congestion, headaches, or facial pain.
When should I consult my doctor?
Consult your healthcare provider if you experience difficulty in breathing or other symptoms that may affect your quality of life. A doctor can determine if there is a deviated septum.
It is pretty common to have a deviated septum, and it doesn’t always cause symptoms. You may not need treatment. Many options are available to treat a deviated septum that is causing problems, such as frequent nosebleeds, sinus infections, or a blocked nose. Since the deviated septum surgery can be expensive and those who are facing financial constraints may not be able to afford it, many charitable organizations like Transparent Hands raise funds to help those suffering from a deviated septum. You can also support this noble cause by donating today.
(The information in this article should not be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice.)