A deviated septum occurs when the septum (the wall between your nostrils) is off center. Crooked bone or cartilage causes a deviated septum. People can be born with a deviated septum or it might bend as they grow. An injury can also cause a deviated septum, like a broken nose.
Because symptoms can be very minor, many people do not even know that they have a deviated septum. With others, a deviated symptom can impact their daily life.
Some people do not have any difficulties because of a deviated septum; therefore, no symptoms are noticed.
It is very common for the nasal septum – the bone and cartilage separating the nostrils – to move from the exact center of the nose; in fact, almost 80% of people have some deviation, and most are completely unaware of it and will never need treatment. Severe deviation of the septum, however, can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including pain, frequent sinus infections, severe nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, and at least partial loss of smell.
The vast majority of deviated septums are caused by impact trauma to the nose, i.e. blows to the face. Deviation can also be caused by disorders affecting connective tissue, such as Marfan’s syndome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or it can be the result of a birth defect if the nose is compressed during childbirth. In some cases, deviation occurs during fetal development and is already present before birth.
The severity of a deviated septum can change over time; individuals with previously negligible deviations sometimes find that nasal swelling caused by normal allergies or illnesses can significantly worsen their symptoms.
Many people with a deviated septum do not require treatment. For others who are affected by the symptoms regularly, treatment of the symptoms may be suggested.
Taking antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays if their symptoms are stuffy nose or postnasal drip.
If symptoms are severe and include sleep apnea or snoring, surgery may be suggested. Septoplasty is a surgery that repairs the deviated septum. It can also be called septal reconstruction or submucous resection of the septum.
Since most deviated septums are the result of strikes to the nose, prevention is mostly a matter of avoiding these. Auto accidents are a common cause of impact trauma, particularly among drivers and passengers who neglect to wear seat belts. Athletes who participate in contact sports are also at greater risk for nose injuries, and should thus always be mindful of their equipment and technique.
Preventing deviated septum in patients suffering from connective tissue disorders is difficult; management of these conditions is usually more concerned with cardiovascular and joint issues, and problems are typically tended to only after they arise.
Deviated septums occurring during prenatal development or childbirth are essentially impossible to avoid, assuming proper care is taken during the pregnancy and delivery.