Deviated Nasal Septum

Overview

Definition

The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.

A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections.

Deviated Septum
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Causes

Causes include:

  • Congenital (present at birth)
  • Birth injury to the nose
  • A blow to the nose, often during an accident or while playing sports

Risk Factors

Trauma is the most common risk factor. Contact sports, such as karate or football, increase the risk of trauma.

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Stuffy nose—one or both nostrils
  • Nosebleeds
  • Breathing noisily during sleep
  • Facial pain or headache

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying special attention to the nasal passages.

Treatments

Treatment

Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called septoplasty . It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the 2 nostrils.

Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose (rhinoplasty) is performed at the same time. The 2 procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.

Prevention

To help prevent a deviated septum:

  • Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
  • Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

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RESOURCES

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org 

Health Finder—Department of Health and Human Services http://www.healthfinder.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entcanada.org 

The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca 

References

Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/?q=node/1406. Accessed February 17, 2015.