A deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum (the bone and cartilage that divide the nose in half) is crooked. 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 trauma to their nose. For example: a car accident, sport, tripping over or just a bump while playing around.
Deviated septum symptoms
Most people with a deviated septum have no symptoms at all, but some people may have:
- a blocked nose, which may be just one nostril, or may change from one nostril to the other
- frequent sinus infections.
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
Specific medications designed to help you breathe through your nose may help treat the symptoms of a deviated septum, such as:
- nasal corticosteroid sprays.
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. However, you may be able to prevent injuries to your nose by:
- wearing a seatbelt when in a car
- wearing a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike.
Last reviewed: June 2017