Deviated septum facts
- The thin wall between the nostrils is
made of cartilage and bone, and is called the septum. When this is off-center or
crooked, it is called 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
- A deviated septum often does not have
any symptoms, but some symptoms include difficulty breathing through the nose,
sleep problems, headache, and
- Some symptoms of deviated septum may be
treated with medication. More severe cases of deviated septum may require
surgery to repair the septum.
What is the definition of deviated septum?
The wall between your nostrils is called your nasal 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.
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.
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
- Sleep problems, such as contributing to 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. 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.
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.
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
Medically reviewed by Peter O’Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine
"Devaiated septum: The basics"