Having a deviated septum refers to the partition that is located between the two nostrils being shifted to one side. Typically, the septum equally divides the two sides of the nose. A deviated septum can range from mild to severe. It has been estimated that nearly 80 percent of all septum are not perfectly centered; however, this usually remains unnoticed unless the deviation is severe enough to cause symptoms.
Understanding A Deviated Septum
The septum is a thin barrier that is made up of cartilage that separates the two nostrils. Generally the septum is thought to be located midway between the two areas, dividing them equally. A deviated septum occurs when this partition is off-center, shifting prominently to one side. A severely deviated septum can cause certain health problems and may require surgical treatment to be corrected.
Many people have a deviated septum and are completely unaware that they have the condition because it is not severe enough to cause troublesome symptoms. Some deviated septums may result in the development of bothersome symptoms, including:
- An obstruction that develops in one or both nostrils. This obstruction may cause difficulty breathing through the nose and can worsen when suffering from a cold or other illness that causes the nasal cavity to swell.
- Bloody noses may be more common when a deviated septum is present, as the nasal passages may become drier.
- Pain may develop in the face if your deviated septum has become an irritant to the outer wall of the nose.
- Repeated and chronic sinus infections (sinusitis) may occur due to blocked mucous, which can cause facial pain and blocked nasal passages.
- Loud breathing or snoring during sleep can develop, occurring more often in infants and children.
A deviated septum is typically the result of one of two main causes:
- In some cases a deviated septum occurs in-utero, occurring at some point during fetal development and becoming noticeable at birth.
- In most cases a deviated septum occurs as a result of some sort of trauma or injury to the nose. Injury to the nose is likely the result of a trip or fall, sports injury, car accident, or physical altercation. However, infants may obtain a deviated septum during childbirth.
- In some cases, age over time may lead to the deterioration of cartilage, making a deviated septum more prevalent and troublesome.
Certain behaviors may increase your chances for acquiring a deviated septum. Risk factors associated with a deviated septum include:
- Not wearing the proper facial equipment during sporting activities.
- Engaging in contact sporting games.
- Not wearing seatbelt restraints when driving or riding in a car.
Upon discussing your symptoms with your doctor, he or she will likely ask you if you’ve had any injury to the nose. The doctor will then use a tool called a nasal speculum to view the inside of your nose. The doctor will see up your nose with the lighted instrument and will be able to determine if you have a deviated septum. Your doctor may also refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist for further diagnosis and treatment options.
It may be necessary for your doctor to treat your symptoms rather than the deviated septum itself primarily. To treat symptoms such as nasal congestion and post nasal drip, your doctor may recommend a variety of simple remedies including:
- Decongestants. Tablet and nasal spray decongestants may help relieve some nasal congestion. They should be used with caution as decongestants can increase heart rate and blood pressure, causing a nervous feeling throughout the body.
- Antihistamines. Antihistamines are typically prescribed for allergy sufferers and can help relieve symptoms such as a runny nose and itchy eyes. They should also be used with caution as many antihistamines can produce a drowsy effect.
- Steroid nasal sprays. These nasal sprays are available by prescription and can help to reduce nasal inflammation and swelling, as well as help to treat runny noses. Using this product may produce side effects such as irritated throat and dryness within the nose.
Because medications such as the types listed above are only momentary solutions, it may be necessary to undergo a surgical procedure to correct a deviated septum. The most common surgical solution to a deviated septum is septoplasty.
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure commonly used to treat and correct a deviated septum. It is performed within the nostrils and causes little residual bruising. During septoplasty, your surgeon will likely cut and remove part of the septum in order to replace it in the midline of the nose. This straightening and realignment of the septum will likely cure nosebleeds and any nasal obstruction.
If you concurrently suffer from allergies along with a deviated septum, you will not have relief from allergy symptoms and will need to address allergies in a separate treatment. In addition to septoplasty, you may elect to have a rhinoplasty. During a rhinoplasty procedure, the outer portion of the nose is altered and reshaped, which results in a change to the appearance of the nose.
It may be possible to prevent trauma to the nose and therefore reduce your risk of developing a deviated septum by always wearing appropriate helmets during sports such as football, hockey and biking. Additionally, wearing a seatbelt while driving or riding in a car may help to prevent any injury to the nose in the event of a car accident.
A deviated septum refers to the septum that provides a division of cartilage to separate the two nostrils being off center. This deviation from the midline of the nose may cause troublesome symptoms and can usually be permanently corrected with surgery. There are other methods of treatment that may help, but only temporarily. The best way to prevent a deviated septum is to protect the nose from injury.