Learn how uneven nostrils can cause congestion, nosebleeds or other symptoms in severe cases.
A deviated septum occurs when the thin wall (nasal septum) between your nasal passages is displaced to one side. In many people, the nasal septum is off-center — or deviated — making one nasal passage smaller.
When a deviated septum is severe, it can block one side of the nose and reduce airflow, causing difficulty breathing. The exposure of a deviated septum to the drying effect of airflow through the nose may sometimes contribute to crusting or bleeding in certain people.
A nasal blockage or congestion (obstruction) can occur from a deviated nasal septum, from swelling of the tissues lining the nose or from both.
Treatment of nasal obstruction may include medications to reduce the swelling. To correct a deviated septum, you'll need surgery.
Most septal displacements result in no symptoms, and you may not even know you have a deviated septum. Some septal deformities, however, may cause the following signs and symptoms:
See your doctor if you experience:
A deviated septum occurs when your nasal septum — the thin wall that separates your right and left nasal passages — is displaced to one side.
A deviated septum can be caused by:
Injury to the nose. A deviated septum can also be the result of an injury that causes the nasal septum to be moved out of position.
In infants, such an injury may occur during childbirth. In children and adults, a wide array of accidents may lead to a nose injury and deviated septum. Trauma to the nose most commonly occurs during contact sports, rough play such as wrestling or automobile accidents.
The aging process may affect nasal structures, worsening a deviated septum over time.
Swelling and irritation of the nasal cavities or sinus cavities because of an infection can further narrow the nasal passage and result in nasal obstruction.
For some people, a deviated septum is present at birth — occurring during fetal development or due to injury during childbirth. After birth, a deviated septum is most commonly caused by an injury that moves your nasal septum out of place. Risk factors include:
A severely deviated septum causing nasal blockage can lead to:
You may be able to prevent the injuries to your nose that can cause a deviated septum with these precautions:
During your visit, your doctor will first ask about any symptoms you may have.
To examine the inside of your nose, the doctor will use a bright light and sometimes an instrument designed to spread open your nostrils. Sometimes the doctor will check farther back in your nose with a long tube-shaped scope with a bright light at the tip. The doctor may also look at your nasal tissues before and after applying a decongestant spray.
Based on this exam, he or she can diagnose a deviated septum and determine the seriousness of your condition.
If your doctor is not an ear, nose and throat specialist and you need treatment, he or she may refer you to a specialist for further consultation and treatment.
Initial treatment of a deviated septum may be directed at managing your symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe:
Decongestants. Decongestants are medications that reduce nasal tissue swelling, helping to keep the airways on both sides of your nose open. Decongestants are available as a pill or as a nasal spray. But use nasal sprays with caution. Frequent and continued use can create dependency and cause symptoms to be worse after you stop using them.
Oral decongestants have a stimulant effect and may cause you to be jittery as well as make your blood pressure and heart rate go up.
Medications only treat the swollen mucous membranes and won't correct a deviated septum.
If you still experience symptoms despite medical therapy, you may consider surgery to correct your deviated septum (septoplasty).
During a typical septoplasty, the nasal septum is straightened and repositioned in the center of the nose. This may require the surgeon to cut and remove parts of the septum before reinserting them in the proper position.
The level of improvement you can expect with surgery depends on the severity of your deviation. Symptoms due to the deviated septum — particularly nasal obstruction — could completely go away. However, any other nasal or sinus conditions you have that affect the tissues lining your nose — such as allergies — can't be cured with only surgery.
In some cases, surgery to reshape the nose (rhinoplasty) is performed at the same time as septoplasty. Rhinoplasty involves modifying the bone and cartilage of your nose to change its shape or size or both.
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred directly to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing for the doctor's questions to you as well as creating a list of questions to your doctor can help you make the most of your time together.
For a deviated septum and its complications, some questions your doctor may ask include:
Some basic questions you might ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask further questions during your appointment.
September 14th, 2021