What Are the Symptoms and Causes of a Deviated Septum?

The medical term “deviated septum” refers to a slight to severe asymmetry of the nostrils. This is caused by the imperfect formation of the cartilage that forms the division between the nostrils. It is a very common phenomenon, and the vast majority of people have some level of deviation. However, in some cases, the deviation is so severe that the asymmetry is quite noticeable. Patients with more radical deviation may have trouble breathing through one nostril and experience frequent bleeding from the larger nostril.

What are Common Symptoms of a Deviated Septum?

As stated above, a more severe deviation is usually visible to the naked eye. By examining your nostrils in a mirror, you can compare their size and get a decent idea of the extent of any deviation. However, there is some chance that it occurs farther up the nasal pathway. So this is not a fail-safe method.

One of the most common symptoms linked to a deviated septum is continuous difficulty breathing out of one nostril. Due to the placement of the septum, the smaller nostril cannot draw in air at normal volumes. While some patients can still manage to breathe through the smaller nostril, they may experience a sensation similar to congestion.

Another common symptom is frequent nose bleeds originating from the larger nostril. The larger nostril is necessarily taking in larger volumes of air to compensate for the partially blocked nostril. The increase in volume exposes that side of your nose to more drying elements, making it more difficult to keep your sensitive nasal tissues moist. The result is that patients with severely deviated septums are more likely to experience nose bleeds and be more at risk for airborne illnesses due to the decreased ability of the nasal passages to block pathogens.

The congestion caused by the deviated septum can also result in more frequent sinus infections, headaches, and even snoring. If you are regularly experiencing any of these conditions, then it is important to speak with your doctor about the possibility of a deviated septum and what you can do to treat it.

What Causes a Deviated Septum?

For many people, having a deviated septum is a matter of inheritance or fetal development. They are born with the condition. You may also develop a deviated septum later in life as a result of a facial injury. A broken nose or trauma to the surrounding area can both contribute to changes in the shape of the cartilage. As a result, your doctor will often ask patients with a deviated septum if they have experienced injured recently.

To diagnose the condition, your physician will often use a light and nasal speculum to slightly open the nostrils and have a look at the separating tissue. In some cases, your doctor may use a nasal spray to temporarily dry the nasal tissue to see more clearly. Given that it is a physical malformation, visual diagnosis is enough to identify the problem.

How Do You Fix a Deviated Septum?

To fix a deviated septum, a septoplasty is required. This procedure, sometimes referred to as a function rhinoplasty, aims to correct the shape of the septum from the interior perspective. The procedure will not cosmetically alter the nose. Still, cosmetic rhinoplasty can be performed in addition to the septoplasty. Together, they work to improve the overall appearance and function of your nose simultaneously. For this combination, a board-certified plastic surgeon will be required.

A septoplasty alone will take about an hour to perform. The procedure requires your surgeon to reposition or remove cartilage that is contributing to the deviation. To maintain the form, Dr. Linville places splints and gauze along the septum. Although it is an outpatient procedure, Dr. Cain Linville states that patients will require a ride home and should not drive until the following day.

You will have a follow-up visit scheduled for the removal of the splints and gauze, and you should be able to return to normal work about a week after the surgery. After this period, patients should experience immediate relief of their symptoms.