Do You Have a Deviated Septum? Here’s What to Do


Nobody's nose is perfect. There are some cases when the shape of a person's nose not only makes him or her unhappy with the way he or she looks, but can also affect the way the nose functions. A deviated septum can make it difficult to breathe. A smaller number might have a deviation that is severe enough to affect their quality of life.

Do You Have a Deviated Septum? Here's What to Do

If you have a deviated septum, nasal surgery such as septoplasty or combined septoplasty and rhinoplasty can help fix your problem. While surgery isn't required in all cases, it can provide the best results in certain circumstances.

How It Happens

The septum is the thin wall of cartilage that divides the nasal passages. In some people, the septum evenly divides the passages, running straight through the middle of the nose. As many as eight out of every 10 people might have a septum that is somehow crooked or off-center, but not off-center enough to cause a considerable amount of discomfort. Others do have a deviated septum, meaning it leans so far to one side of the nose that one of the nasal passages is blocked.

Typically, there are two ways that a deviated septum can develop. A person can be born with the issue, which typically means that the septum developed off-center while the fetus was growing in the uterus. The other cause of a deviated septum is an injury to the nose, such as being hit with a basketball or being punched in the nose. A car crash or other accident that impacts the nose can also lead to a deviated septum.

If not treated, the condition can get worse as a person gets older. For example, the septum can lean farther and farther over. Additionally, swelling in the nasal passages, due to allergies, a cold or sinusitis, can make the symptoms of a deviated septum worse.

Common Signs

It is possible to have a somewhat deviated septum that produces no signs or symptoms. But, when the septum is severely deviated, it usually causes a number of issues. Nasal blockage, usually of one nostril and nasal congestion, usually on one side, are two common symptoms of the condition. Both can become worse when a person has a cold or is suffering from allergies.

A deviated septum can also increase your risk for sinus infections and for nosebleeds. You might also notice that you have trouble falling asleep when you lie on one side, and that switching to the other side makes you more comfortable. If the blockage of the nose is severe enough, some people experience dry mouth, as a result of breathing through their mouths, instead of the nose.

Treatment Options

The options for treating a deviated septum range from attempting to manage or control the symptoms to correcting the septum through surgery. In many cases, the first course of action might be to use medicines to manage the symptoms. For example, a decongestant can help open up the nasal passages by reducing swelling and antihistamines can help people with a deviated septum and allergies.

While medications can provide some relief for the discomfort caused by a deviated septum, they aren't a permanent solution. Some medications, such as decongestants, can also have a number of unpleasant side effects, such as hypertension and an increased heart rate. Medicines can help treat the symptoms but they don't get to the root of the problem.

A permanent fix for a deviated septum is septoplasty, which can be combined with sinus surgery and rhinoplasty in certain cases. During septoplasty, a surgeon corrects the deviation by repositioning a person's septum. The procedure is performed inside the nostrils, so there is minimal scarring after the fact.

When performed along with rhinoplasty, the procedure is called septorhinoplasty. On its own, septoplasty doesn't change the shape of the nose or adjust its size. The combined procedure can be ideal for patients who want not only to improve the function of their nose, but to change the way it looks, too.

Whether a patient has septoplasty on its own or combined with another nasal surgery, the recovery period is similar. Protecting the nose as it heals is very important. It's usually recommended that people avoid working out and other strenuous activities for several weeks after the surgery. Any activities that could bump or jostle the nose should also be avoided, until the surgeon gives the all clear.

If you have trouble breathing through one side of your nose or experience frequent nose bleeds or other nasal problems, a deviated septum could be to blame. Speaking with a surgeon who specializes in nasal surgery, such as Dr. Nathan Nachlas, can help you determine the best course of action to take. Dr. Nachlas is double board certified in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology and has performed thousands of surgeries since the late 1980s.

For more information or to request a consult with Dr. Nachlas contact Sandy Friedman, Director of Patient Relations at 561-939-0909.

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Tagged Deviated Septum, Nasal Surgery