WHAT IS A DEVIATED SEPTUM
The nasal septum is the structure that runs down the center of the nose. In fact, the nasal septum is what divides the frontal nasal passages into two nostrils. In the back of the nose, the septum is made of bone, but towards the front of the nose (the middle part of your nose that you can wiggle with your hands) is made up of a rubbery substance called cartilage. Under normal circumstances, the nasal septum is flat and almost perfectly vertical. A deviated septum, on the other hand, is a nasal septum that is bent, broken, or crooked in some way. In most cases, a deviated septum jets out to one side, i.e., towards one nostril.
A deviated septum interferes with normal air flow through the nasal passages. Not surprisingly, the most common symptom of deviated septum is the inability to breathe normally through the nose. Patients with a deviated septum may experience¹:
• Fullness in the nose
• Nasal stuffiness (usually on the side with reduced airflow)
• Nose bleeds
• Runny nose
• Post-nasal drip
• Sleep apnea
• Repetitive sneezing
In severe cases, a deviated septum may contribute to sinus infection and chronic sinusitis.
In many cases of deviated septum, the nose essentially looks normal—the deviation is inside of the nasal passages. However, people with deviated septum may notice that their nose looks crooked when they look in the mirror. In severe septal deviation, other people may be able to see that the nose looks crooked or they may be able to hear “noisy breathing” through the affected nostril.
WHAT CAUSES DEVIATED SEPTUM?
In many cases, people acquire a deviated septum through trauma. In other words, some impact to the front or side of the nose breaks or deforms the nasal septum causing deviated septum. However, not all cases of deviated septum are caused by facial trauma. In some cases, the nasal septum may not form properly during development or it may change with age.².
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT OF DEVIATED SEPTUM?
The definitive treatment for deviated septum is septoplasty. Septoplasty, also known a deviated septum surgery, is a surgical procedure in which the septum is flattened and straightened. When performed by specialists, septoplasty has success rate of about 90%.³ The goal of septoplasty is to improve airflow through both sides of the nose, i.e., both nostrils. Once this is achieved, other deviated septum symptoms like stuffy nose, runny nose, and sinusitis usually improve as well.
DO I NEED DEVIATED SEPTUM SURGERY?
The first step in deviated septum treatment is to determine whether you need treatment at all. Some people find that they can live with deviated septum symptoms. For others, a deviated septum is a daily hassle that diminishes their ability to function and their quality of life.
Indications for septal deviation surgery include:
• Recurrent nose bleeds (epistaxis)
• Moderate to severe nasal obstruction
• Sleep apnea
• Recurrent sinusitis
• Recurrent sinus infections
• Cosmetic/aesthetic reasons
If you believe you may have a deviated septum, the best approach is to talk to an otolaryngologist (also called an ear, nose and throat specialist or ENT doctor). An ENT can diagnose the condition and discuss whether deviated septum treatment is right for you. You ENT doctor will discuss your symptoms, how those symptoms affect your life, and review the risks and benefits of septoplasty (deviated septum surgery).
If you live in the Miami area, consider calling on Miami Ear Nose and Throat Doctors. Miami ENT is the region’s leading resource for septoplasty. Miami ENT Doctors can help you decide if deviated septum surgery is right for you.
- Wang J, Dou X, Liu D, et al. Assessment of the Effect of Deviated Nasal Septum on the Structure of Nasal Cavity. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2016;273(6):1477-1480. doi:10.1007/s00405-015-3770-y
- Serifoglu I, Oz, II, Damar M, Buyukuysal MC, Tosun A, Tokgoz O. Relationship between the Degree and Direction of Nasal Septum Deviation and Nasal Bone Morphology. Head Face Med. 2017;13(1):3. doi:10.1186/s13005-017-0136-2
- Gandomi B, Bayat A, Kazemei T. Outcomes of Septoplasty in Young Adults: The Nasal Obstruction Septoplasty Effectiveness Study. Am J Otolaryngol. 2010;31(3):189-192. doi:10.1016/j.amjoto.2009.02.023