What is deviated septum?

The thin wall between the nostrils is made of cartilage and bone, and is called the septum. The septum is made up of bone and cartilage. When this cartilage or bone is off-center (deviated to one side) or crooked, it is referred to as a deviated septum.


  • A deviated septum may be present at birth, may become crooked during growth, or may be caused by injury to the nose and face.
  • A deviated septum often does not have any symptoms, but some symptoms include difficulty breathing through the nose, nasal congestion, sinus infections, nosebleeds, sleep problems, headache, and postnasal drip.
  • Some symptoms of deviated septum may be treated with medication.
  • More severe cases of deviated septum may require surgery to repair the septum.

Deviated Septum Symptoms

Is nasal congestion a symptom of a deviated septum?

Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs of Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion, or "stuffy nose," is a term that refers to the obstruction to the flow of air in and out of the nose. In contrast, the term "runny nose" refers to a discharge (fluid) coming from the nasal passages. Nasal congestion most commonly is the result of inflammation and swelling of the lining tissues of the nasal passages and sinuses....

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 contributing to loud snoring or sleep apnea
  • Headache postnasal drip


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What are the causes of deviated septum?

Most people do not have a perfectly straight septum, but it may be misaligned due to a two main causes:

  • A person can be born with a deviated septum (congenital), or it can bend due to normal growth during childhood.
  • Another cause of deviated septum is injury or trauma, such as a broken nose.

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.

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. Imaging may occasionally be done with a CT scan to view the extent and other associated to findings, but this is not often done.

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.


What is hearing loss? See Answer

Can deviated septum be prevented?

A deviated septum that is caused by injury to the nose or face may be prevented by following safety precautions:

  • Always wear proper helmets and headgear when playing sports
  • Always wear your seatbelt when riding in a car

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Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine


"Devaiated septum: The basics"