What is a deviated septum?
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, breathing through the nose can be difficult. Most people naturally have some deviation — only people with severe deviations need treatment.
What are the symptoms of deviated septum?
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:
- 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:
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) because 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.
How is deviated septum diagnosed?
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.
Conditions other than a deviated septum can cause nasal congestion. 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.
How is deviated septum treated?
Medications that can help you breathe through your nose include:
- 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.
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Last reviewed: May 2021