A deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum becomes deviated. The nasal septum is the wall of bone and cartilage that separates the inside of the nose into two halves. An ideal nasal septum is centered exactly in the middle of the nasal cavity, separating each side of the nose into two equal parts. In reality, however, an estimated 80% of nasal septums are off-center.
In most cases, a nasal septum that is off-center causes no symptoms and goes unnoticed. However, if the septum shifts severely away from the midline, a condition known as a deviated septum, breathing difficulty may occur. For those with deviated or crooked septums, breathing is usually worse on one side and repeat sinus infections may also result if the septum interferes with sinus drainage. Other symptoms may include blockage of one or both nostrils, nasal congestion, nose bleeds, occasional facial pain or headaches, postnasal drip, and nosy nighttime sleep in pediatric patients. Sometimes mild deviations cause symptoms only when a patient has a cold. Septal deviations may be congenital or due to nasal trauma or prior nasal surgery.
Diagnosing a Deviated Septum
A trained ear, nose and throat specialist like Michigan physician Dr. Haitham Masri can diagnose a deviated septum. Often patients present with chronic sinusitis, nasal congestion or nasal obstruction. During examination, you may be asked if you’ve ever experience a nasal injury or prior nasal surgery. Your nose will be examined both externally and internally. In order to view the inside of the nose, a bright light and nasal speculum will be used. The physician may recommend additional testing at some point.
Septoplasty is the most common treatment for a deviated septum. This surgery is performed entirely through the nostrils. This means that no external incisions are made and, thus, no visible scarring occurs. The surgery may take anywhere from one to one and a half hours to complete and is often performed with local or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis. During the procedure, portions of the septum may be surgically removed or readjusted to straighten the septum. Septoplasty may be combined with rhinoplasty to improve the appearance of the nose (septorhinoplasty) or with sinus surgery.