The thin wall of bone and cartilage that divides your nose into left and right nasal passages is known as the septum. It can become deviated when it is displaced or off-center, making one of your nasal passages narrower than the other or making it shaped improperly.
A deviated septum is an extremely common condition, affecting up to 80% of people. Most people may not experience any symptoms, although because of natural changes in the anatomy as you age, a deviated septum can deteriorate over time, causing symptoms to worsen.
Deviated Septum Signs and Symptoms
Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of a deviated septum, which can vary in severity by person:
- Nasal obstruction, with difficulty breathing
- Nasal congestion, especially uneven or one one side
- One-sided facial pain
- Chronic sinusitis (sinus infections)
- Dry Mouth
- Snoring and disrupted sleep patterns
- Preference for sleeping on a particular side
If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to talk to an expert to see if you are dealing with a deviated septum.
Common Causes of a Deviated Septum
There are a variety of causes for a deviated septum, and people may not know immediately if something caused a septum deviation. Here are some of the common causes of a deviated septum.
Congenital and Trauma at Birth
Sometimes a fetus can develop a deviated septum while growing in the womb and will be born with a deviated septum. Other times, the physical trauma of childbirth itself can lead to a deviated septum. Often people don’t know if they are born with a deviated septum, and may not experience any symptoms or issues until they get older.
A traumatic injury to the face is a very common event that can lead to a deviated septum. A nose doesn’t have to be broken in an injury to lead to a deviated septum. A deviation can happen even from injuries to the nose that seem mild. Injuries that lead to a deviated septum often happen from:
- Playing sports – especially high contact sports like football, hockey, boxing, or rugby
- Falling down
- Being in a car accident
- A physical fight or assault
Normal Development and Aging
As you grow and develop, the nose and septum also grow. Sometimes natural growth can lead to a septum which is off center or leans to one side. In fact, normal development may be the most common cause of a deviated septum. Additionally, as you get older, changes in your facial anatomy and cartilage can occur, causing or worsening an existing deviated septum from another cause.
How is a Deviated Septum Diagnosed?
To diagnose a deviated septum, you should visit a trusted Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist who specializes in deviated septum repair, like Dr. Alen Cohen, M.D., F.A.C.S., at the Southern California Sinus Institute.
Dr. Cohen will take a medical history, which reviews your current and past health, discussing any possible causes for a deviated septum or the symptoms you’re experiencing. Be sure to share if you have had any injuries to the nose in the past, if you experience chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, snoring, or other breathing obstruction issues.
A physical exam will take a close look at the structures of the nose and nasal passages to determine any asymmetry or deviation. Dr. Cohen may ask you to breathe deeply or to take short, fast breaths so he can observe breathing issues. He may use instruments such as a nasal speculum to gently widen the nostrils and get a better view of the nasal tissues and structures. At times he may scope your nose to look deeper in the nose and at the sinuses to make sure understands your breathing completely.
Deviated Septum Repair
Symptom relief from deviated septum repair (septoplasty) can make a huge difference in quality of life for many people who are living with this condition. The procedure is minimally-invasive and relatively low risk, with no scarring and a fast recovery time.
A septoplasty is a procedure that functionally repairs the septum internally, straightening it and correcting the deviation to allow better airflow through the nasal passages. Performed in-office or as an outpatient procedure, it can be performed with local or general anesthesia and patients can go home the same day.
Some people choose to pair a septoplasty with a cosmetic procedure to reshape the nose. This is a septorhinoplasty. While only the functional part of the procedure may be covered by most insurances, it can still be a cost-savings to bundle these procedures for people paying out of pocket for the cosmetic portion.
Get Expert Help for a Deviated Septum
No matter the cause of a deviated septum, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms that can worsen over time. Seek out care with a trusted expert expert. Dr. Alen Cohen is the premiere provider of nasal and sinus care in Los Angeles at the Southern California Sinus Institute is an expert in deviated septum repair.
Contact us today for a consultation!