Do I Have a Deviated Septum?

Woman holding nose with a deviated septum suffering a headache and nasal pain.

In order to keep roads in good condition, construction is needed. But things are also delayed by construction. We’ve all been stuck in a construction-related traffic jam. Even a small lane change can cause hundreds of thousands of cars on a freeway to slam on their breaks, and the whole system crawls to a slow.

So, just for a minute, stay with this one… a highway and your nostrils are alike in a certain way. Air goes in and out, mucus moves in and out, and both of these functions are necessary to keep you healthy. The left nostril (or lane, if you will) and right are separated by a piece of tissue called a septum.

But backups in your nose take place when that septum isn’t aligned because it’s deviated. This can result in, uh, traffic backups of mucus. To get to the bottom line, problems start to happen when things get backed up and your nose doesn’t function as it should.

A deviated septum, what is it?

The septum is a small strip of tissue that divides your left and right nasal passages. Usually, this is a straight piece of tissue. But this tissue can sometimes get pushed off to one side. Hence the name, “deviated septum”. So, you’re thinking: How do I get a deviated septum? Sometimes, it happens because of a traumatic event; in other instances, you might simply be born with a deviated septum.

Problems, from trouble breathing, sleeping, or lengthy sinus infections can be caused by a deviated septum. So you should contact us or your provider about your choices if you think you might have a deviated septum.

How do I know if I have a deviated septum?

In some instances, a deviated septum can be somewhat symptomless. But that’s not true for everybody. A deviated septum will, in many instances, show numerous possible indications. Here are some of the most common indications of a deviated septum:

  • Headaches: In some cases, a deviated septum can cause a disruption to the regular flow of air and drainage of your sinuses. Headaches (particularly in the front of your head) can be the consequence.
  • Postnasal Drip: Your sinuses, throat, nose, and ears are all interconnected. So mucus will drip back down into your throat when your nose is clogged. Postnasal drip is the term for this. You might have a deviated septum if this is happening regularly.
  • Sinus infections: Just because you’ve had a single sinus infection doesn’t indicate that you have a deviated septum. But a deviated septum can make it difficult for your nasal passages to properly drain. Repeated sinus infections can be the outcome. So, if every time you catch a cold, it develops into a sinus infection, a deviated septum might be at the root of your issue.
  • Facial Pain: Similarly, your deviated septum can result in pain in your face. When there is an abnormal amount of pressure in your sinuses and nasal cavity this can be the outcome.
  • Frequent nosebleeds: Moisture can’t always get where it needs to go when you have a deviated septum (traffic jam). Consequently, your nasal cavities might sometimes become dry. Regular nose bleeds can be the outcome.
  • Nasal congestion: Breathing or smelling could become really difficult if you have blockage in one or both of your nostrils. Normally, this congestion will be more severe on one side than on the other, but it does depend on the nature of your deviated septum. If you find your nostrils are blocked up frequently, it may be a sign of a deviated septum.
  • Excess Snoring: A deviated septum can negatively impact your sleep cycle. This means increased snoring for some individuals. Sleep disruptions like sleep apnea can be the outcome for others.
  • Noisy breathing: While you’re sleeping or during heavy activity, your breathing can be noisy.
  • Reduced sense of smell: Like all organs, the instrument of your nose is delicate. When airflow is reduced due to injury or disruption of your sense of smell can be jeopardized.

So… what problems will a deviated septum cause in you personally? Well, you may experience all of these. Or you may only experience a few. A correct diagnosis can only come from your provider.

Diagnosing a deviated septum

Naturally, you’ll want to have it checked out once you start noticing symptoms. So what should you expect when you come in to see us? Generally, most appointments will start with a conversation about your medical history. We will talk with you about things like whether you’ve been having chronic sinus infections, when your symptoms began, and if you’ve been snoring. We’ll also very likely want to discuss past nasal traumas or surgeries because each of those can increase the risk that you have a deviated septum.

A physical exam will also be carried out. This usually involves looking up your nose (but with specialty equipment). We might gently open your nostrils to take a better look and see if we can identify the condition of your septum. We will look for blockages or anything that isn’t the shape it should be.

We may also use several diagnostics, including the following:

  • Nasal endoscopy: This involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a very small camera on the end of it into your nose to take a better look at what’s happening.
  • Imaging studies: We might use a CT scan or even an MRI.
  • Allergy testing: Since allergies can contribute to nasal inflammation, allergy tests are frequently carried out to rule out that possibility.

Once we have done all these tests, we’re usually able to diagnose you with a deviated septum (or rule it out if your septum is straight).

How do you fix a deviated septum?

Clearly, treatment will be next after you discover you have a deviated septum. Here are a few strategies we may take to deal with your deviated septum:

Approaches that don’t involve surgery

  • Nasal strips: During some physical activities, or while asleep, these can be helpful. They may be good for borderline cases.
  • Medication: Nasal steroids or nasal decongestants are in this group. But usually, the root cause isn’t dealt with just the symptoms.
  • Allergy management: If your allergies are contributing to your clogged up nose, it makes sense to manage them as much as you can.

Surgical approaches

  • Turbinate reduction: Turbinates are small structures on the inside of the nose. In some cases, they can become enlarged, exacerbating any nasal congestion you may be feeling. In some situations, septoplasty is coupled with turbinate reduction in order to help increase nasal air (and mucus) flow.
  • Rhinoplasty: This is also a surgical procedure, except this one is created to alter the shape of the nose more generally. When used to manage a deviated septum, rhinoplasty is frequently combined with septoplasty.
  • Septoplasty: The septum can in some cases be straightened with “deviated septum surgery” known as a septoplasty. Your septum can be effectively repositioned when this surgery is done by an ENT. This is often the most prominent and effective treatment for a deviated septum.

Don’t wait to get help

If construction is causing a roadblock, traffic will free up when the construction is finished. But when you have a deviated septum, that’s not the situation. Those traffic jams will continue happening unless you take measures to treat your condition.

So give us a call for an evaluation if you think you might have a deviated septum.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.