Deviated Septum

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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What are the symptoms of deviated septum?

A deviated septum may not cause any problems in some people. When a deviated septum does cause symptoms, they may include:

  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Nasal congestion, usually one side more than the other
  • Recurrent sinus infections
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sleep problems, such as loud snoring or sleep apnea
  • Headache postnasal drip

How is deviated septum diagnosed?

Your health care professional can diagnose a deviated septum during the physical examination. Usually a bright light and an instrument that can help visualize the nasal septum by opening the nostril (nasal speculum) will help make the correct diagnosis. Some deviated septums are deep in the nose and may require further evaluation in the office with a small telescope or endoscope.

How is deviated septum treated?

A deviated septum is an extremely common condition and many people with a deviated septum do not need treatment.

Some symptoms such as a stuffy nose or postnasal drip may be alleviated with medication, including decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal sprays. In many cases, medications are tried before surgery is recommended.

If a person has a deviated septum and it causes breathing problems or sleep apnea and snoring, surgery may be recommended to repair the septum. Surgery to fix a deviated septum is called a septoplasty, submucous resection of the septum, or septal reconstruction.

When should I see a doctor about a deviated septum?

See your doctor about a deviated septum if you have:

  • trouble with nasal breathing,
  • sleep problems (particularly sleep apnea), or
  • chronic sinus problems.

A deviated septum may cause any of these problems, however, there are other reasons these symptoms may occur and it is important to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015
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