The nasal septum within the center of the nose separates the right side of the nose from the left. When the septum becomes displaced to one side, a deviated septum occurs. This condition is quite common. In fact, it’s estimated about 80 percent of people suffer from this condition, but only a small percentage actually suffer any consequences. In severe cases of a deviated septum, where one nasal passage is considerably smaller than the other, many symptoms can begin to occur. Deviated septum symptoms often include reduced airflow, nasal congestion and frequent sinus infections. While some cases of deviated septum are present at birth, most result from an injury. Surgery is needed to correct a severe deviated septum.
Symptoms of Deviated Septum
Most people that have a deviated septum never experience any symptoms; however, for those with a severe case, symptoms often include obstruction in one or both nostrils. The obstruction often makes it difficult to breathe, which becomes worse when a cold is present, because it will cause the nasal passages to swell and narrow. Deviated septum symptoms also include nasal congestion with postnasal drip. Postnasal drip occurs because the mucus can’t correctly exit the nose, causing it to collect and drip down the back of the throat.
Other common symptoms of a deviated septum include nosebleeds caused by the nasal septum becoming dry. Frequent sinus infections are common as well because of blocked mucus, resulting in headaches and facial pain. Breathing can be noisy while sleeping, which is especially common in infants and young children having this condition.
Treatment for Deviated Septum
In order to properly diagnose a deviated septum, a physician will conduct a physical exam and evaluate the symptoms. Using a bright light and a nasal speculum, the physician will open the nostrils and examine the inside of the nose. In some cases, a referral for an ear, nose and throat specialist will be needed.
Initial treatment for a deviated septum will involve the use of nasal decongestants, which reduce nasal congestion and open the airways. Decongestants are available as pills or nasal sprays. Decongestants can only be used for a short period of time because dependency can occur. Antihistamines are often used as well, to reduce the occurrence of postnasal drip and sinus infections. Nasal cortisone sprays are often prescribed to reduce nasal inflammation and postnasal drip, which will open the nasal passages and reduce the risk for sinus infection.
Chronic cases of deviated septum, or cases that didn’t respond to other treatment methods, often require surgery to correct. Septoplasty, which is the surgery used to correct the condition, involves repositioning the nasal septum to the center of the nose. The surgeon is likely to remove or cut areas of the septum to correctly reposition the septum. In some cases, rhinoplasty is needed to reshape the nose, which is often conducted at the same time as the septoplasty.
“Fact Sheet: Deviated Septum” https://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm
“Deviated Septum: Treatment and Drugs” https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/deviated-septum/DS00977/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs