Ever have that feeling something isn’t quite right with your nose? Perhaps you have frequent nosebleeds, snore when you’re asleep, or have trouble breathing through one or both nostrils. It may be more serious than you think. You might actually have a deviated septum.
A deviated septum is when your nasal septum (the bone and cartilage in the center of your nose, which divides the nasal cavity) is either crooked, or off-center, which makes breathing difficult. It’s actually more common than you might think. About 80% of people have it and don’t know it. It bothers some people more than others. Those who have a severe version have more issues with breathing. Most people are born with a deviated septum, but it can also develop from an injury or trauma to the nose.
Common, Noticeable Symptoms
There are several symptoms associated with having a deviated septum, but the most common is nasal congestion. Typically one side of your nose is more congested than the other, and you may have difficulty breathing. The other symptoms are frequent:
- Facial pain
- Loud breathing
- Postnasal drip
The most dangerous symptom is sleep apnea, a serious condition where you stop breathing while you are asleep. So it’s important to get checked by a doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
How it’s Diagnosed
Your otolaryngologist will examine the inside of your nose using a bright light and possibly an instrument called a nasal speculum that is designed to open your nostrils. If needed, they will check further back in your nose using a long tube-shaped scope that has a bright light at the tip.
Managing Symptoms of a Deviated Septum
If you have a deviated septum, your doctor may prescribe:
- Decongestants, which help to reduce nasal tissue swelling and keep the airways on both sides of your nose open.
- Antihistamines, which help to prevent allergy symptoms like runny nose and nasal obstruction.
- Nasal steroid sprays, which can help with drainage, nasal obstruction, and reduce inflammation in your nasal passage.
When Surgery Is Necessary
Keep in mind that medication can only help manage your deviated septum, but won’t repair it. So if medication isn’t helping, or if your deviated septum is causing sleep apnea, you may need surgery.
The surgical procedure, called a septoplasty, will be required. With a septoplasty, your nasal septum will be straightened and repositioned in the center of your nose by your doctor, who will make a small incision in the septum and remove the excess bone or cartilage. This will even out your nostrils so you can finally breathe easier.
Sometimes a rhinoplasty, commonly known as a “nose job,” is combined with a septoplasty to improve the appearance of your nose by modifying the bone and cartilage.
If you suspect you have a deviated septum, it’s important to be checked by your doctor. Even if you have a minor case, it’s a good idea to make sure your symptoms are managed.
Dr. Prasad is a board-certified Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center. His clinical interests include snoring, sleep apnea, dizziness, allergy/sinus disorders, hearing problems, thyroid disorders, and salivary disorders.