Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

A blocked nose caused by a deviated septum can affect your breathing.

A blocked nose caused by a deviated septum can affect your breathing.
beginning of content

Deviated septum

2-minute read

A deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum (the bone and cartilage that divide the nose in half) is crooked, making one nasal passage smaller. If severe, it can make breathing through the nose difficult. Most people naturally have some deviation – only people with severe deviations need treatment.

What causes deviated septum?

Most people are born with a slightly crooked nasal septum, but it is often never noticed. In some people, the deviation is visible early in life.

Some people develop a deviated septum (also called deviated nasal septum, or DNS) as a result of an injury to their nose that moves the nasal septum out of position. For example, a car accident, sport, tripping over or a bump while playing around.

Illustration showing a deviated nasal septum and a normal nasal septum.
A deviated septum is a condition where the nasal septum is crooked. Most people have a slight deviation, only severe deviations need treatment.

Deviated septum symptoms

Most people have no symptoms and don’t know even they have a deviated septum. If you have a badly deviated septum, the most common symptom is difficulty breathing through the nose, which is usually worse on one side. Some people may also have:

Some people also experience more general symptoms, such as:

Deviated septum diagnosis

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. The doctor may use a nasal endoscope — a long tube with a bright light at the tip — to see further back into your nose.

Nasal congestion can be caused by conditions other than a deviated septum. For example, you may have a different kind of structural problem inside your nose, chronic sinusitis or allergies. In rare cases, bleeding and blockage can be signs of a nasal tumour.

Deviated septum treatment

Medications designed to help you breathe through your nose may relieve the symptoms of a deviated septum, such as:

If medications do not help, surgery (known as septoplasty) may be needed to straighten the nasal septum. In some cases, surgery to reshape the nose (rhinoplasty) may also be needed. While nose surgery is usually safe, there is a small risk of complications such as bleeding, infection or numbness around the nose or front teeth.

Deviated septum prevention

Many people with a deviated septum were born with the condition. You may be able to prevent injuries to your nose that can lead to a deviated septum by:

  • wearing a seatbelt when in a car
  • wearing a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Nose Surgery (rhinoplasty) - Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons

Nose surgery, also known as rhinoplasty, is designed to reshape or repair the nose by improving the appearance and/or function of the nose.

Read more on Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website

Nose - rhinoplasty - Better Health Channel

Rhinoplasty may be performed for cosmetic reasons or to correct a structural problem.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Important things to know about OSA treatmentsAs the causes of sleep apnea vary there is no single treatment that works for everyone.Deciding which treatment is most appropriate is best done by talking to your doctor.Weight loss is advisable in anyone who is overweight.Reduction of alcohol consumption, avoid

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Sinusitis - myDr.com.au

Because the drainage holes from the sinuses are narrow, they block up easily. So any excess mucus production can cause a blockage, and pressure builds up in the sinuses.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo