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What Is A Deviated Nasal Septum?


A deviated nasal septum refers to a warp in the nasal septum.  The nasal septum is the divider between the right and left side of the nose. The septum is made of both cartilage and bone. It extends from the center of the front of the nose all the way to the back of the nose. Its purpose is to direct air flow in a smooth (laminar) fashion. Also, it helps to humidify and purify the air we breathe.

Image of a normal nasal septum
Image of a deviated nasal septum

A crooked or bent segment of the septum results in the deviation. Usually, the cause of a deviated septum is either hereditary or from trauma. Sometimes, trauma to the nose may occur as a child (a fall as a toddler) or later in life due to sport injuries or a blow to the nose. To diagnose a deviated septum, Dr. Sikand will perform a thorough physical examination, and review all symptoms. In addition, an endoscopy may be performed. An endoscope and a bright light are used to open up the nostrils and nasal passages, enabling a thorough visual evaluation.

What Problems Can a Deviated Septum Cause?

Deviation of the nasal septum may cause:

  • difficulty breathing through the nose
  • increased frequency or severity of sinus infections
  • nosebleeds

This condition can also lead to facial pain, headaches and postnasal drip, which can significantly affect quality of life. In addition, a deviated nasal septum may contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. Occasionally, septal deviation may trigger or contribute to headaches also called rhinogenic headaches. Those with only minor displacement may not even be aware of the deviated septum and experience no symptoms at all.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Nasal Septal Deviation?

First, medical treatment is directed at alleviating the symptoms caused by a deviated septum. Therefore, control of allergies or other causes of inflammation with nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines, or decongestants may be needed.

The procedure is highly effective in restoring nasal breathing (about 90%). Furthermore, it is beneficial in decreasing obstructive breathing in sleep apnea patients and decreasing sinus infections. In addition, it can also help control rhinogenic headaches in many patients.

Surgical treatment is indicated for persistent symptoms and the operation is called a septoplasty. Typically, this surgery takes about thirty minutes. It can be performed in the office or at an outpatient surgery center. Nasal packing is usually not required after surgery. There are no external incisions with this procedure. In most cases, recovery takes 1-2 days.

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