Deviated Nasal Septum

A deviated nasal septum is a condition in which the wall that divides the nasal cavity is crooked or off center. In addition to a cosmetically unappealing appearance, a deviated septum can interfere with sinus drainage and cause health problems.

Symptoms & Complications

A perfect nasal septum – one that divides the left and right nostrils evenly – is difficult to find. It is estimated that up to 80% of the population suffers from a deviated nasal septum, though most are only slightly off-center and rarely noticed. When the deviation is bad enough, a variety of symptoms may be present. These include breathing difficulty, nasal congestion, nosebleeds, facial pain and pressure, headaches, postnasal drip, frequent sinus infections, and noisy breathing or snoring. Symptoms are usually worse on one side of the nose. Some individuals only experience problems when they are suffering from a cold or respiratory tract infection.

Most septal deviations form during fetal development or birth. Others are the result of injury or trauma to the nose. In some cases, cartilage in the tip of the nose deteriorates as we grow older, leading to a deviated nasal septum.

Correcting a Septal Deviation

Minor nasal septum deviations don’t require surgery; instead, symptoms are treated medically and may include drugs, antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal steroid sprays. More serious cases require septoplasty, a surgical procedure designed to reposition a crooked septum and improve breathing. This involves removal of excess bone and cartilage to create a larger space for breathing. It’s usually performed on an outpatient basis using a local or general anesthetic. Many patients opt for a rhinoplasty (a surgical procedure to reshape the nose) at the same time.

These procedures are common and considered safe; side effects and complications are rare.

To prevent a deviated nasal septum, be sure to wear a helmet or other type of facial protection when playing sports, and always keep your seatbelt fastened while riding in a motor vehicle.