Deviated Nasal Septum

The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered. A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections .

  • Causes

    Causes include:

    • Present at birth—arose during fetal development (5% of cases)
    • Birth injury to the nose
    • A blow to the nose, often during an accident or while playing sports

  • Definition

    The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.


    A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get
    sinus infections
    .

    Deviated Septum
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will examine the nasal passages. A nasal speculum will hold the nose open. A thin telescope is passed into the nose.

  • Prevention

    To help prevent a deviated septum:

    • Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
    • Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports

  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:

    • Contact sports, especially karate or football without appropriate protective headgear
    • Trauma
      is the most common risk factor

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Stuffy nose (one or both sides)
    • Sinus infections
    • Nosebleeds
    • Breathing noisily during sleep
    • Facial pain or headache

  • Treatment


    Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called
    septoplasty
    . It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the two nostrils.


    Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose (
    rhinoplasty
    ) is performed at the same time. The two procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.