The nasal septum is the thin wall that separates the two nostrils. Everyone has a septum, and a great majority of people, up to 80 percent, have a slightly deviated septum, or a septum that isn’t completely straight.
While many people experience no trouble from an off-centered septum, the misalignment can make it difficult for some to breathe.
What are the Symptoms?
While a great number of people with a slightly deviated septum have no symptoms, if the condition is severe, a person can experience extreme discomfort. One of the more common symptoms is difficulty breathing, as one or both nostrils are significantly blocked off or obstructed. A deviated septum can also cause nosebleeds, as the nasal cavity dries out more easily. Pain in the face, particularly on one side, can also rarely occur.
The condition can also mean sleeping problems from some people. Some people find that it’s more comfortable to sleep on one side than the other, as it’s easier to breathe through the nose when they rest on one side. A deviated septum can also lead to loud snoring or sleep apnea, a condition that occurs when a person stops breathing repeatedly while asleep.
What Causes It?
A person can either be born with a deviated septum, or the condition can develop at some point during his or her life. One common cause for a deviated septum is a nasal injury. Most commonly getting hit in the nose can damage the septum. Some people develop a deviated septum or have the misalignment become more pronounced as they get older. Early in life, the deviated septum might cause no problems. But, if the deviation grows more pronounced, a person can develop breathing or other nasal problems.
Are There Significant Risks?
Having a deviated septum can reduce a person’s quality of life considerably. If the issue impacts a person’s sleep, he or she might not get a full night’s worth very often, which can lead to decreased productivity and make a person more likely to get sick or to injure him or herself. Some people find that they breathe through their mouths, which increases the chance of dry mouth developing, which increases the risk of oral infection or cavities in the teeth.
What Are the Treatment Options?
The only way to fully treat a deviated septum is with surgery. But, in some cases, a doctor might prescribe medications to treat the symptoms associated with the condition. For example, if a patient has severe nasal congestion as a result of the airway being blocked, decongestants or a nasal steroid spray might be able to help, as they reduce swelling. Along with not being a permanent fix, both medications have their drawbacks including ongoing costs.
What is Septoplasty?
Septoplasty is the procedure performed to correct the position of a deviated septum. During the surgery, a doctor will typically straighten the septum and/or adjust its position. At the end of the procedure, the septum should be centered, so that neither side of the nasal cavity is blocked or obstructed.
The procedure is often performed along with rhinoplasty, or nose reshaping. Septoplasty itself typically doesn’t alter the appearance of the nose. If a patient has a deviated septum as well as a nose he or she thinks is too large or small, he or she might consider nose reshaping as well. Discussing surgical options with a trained surgeon is an absolute must, so that a patient understands what to expect and what the results might be.
Expectations and Results
The results from a septoplasty are typically noticed quite shortly after surgery, as the nasal passages are now wider and permit more air flow.
Dr. Jeffrey Epstein is board certified in both facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and otolaryngology/head and neck surgery. He is available to discuss your concerns about a deviated septum with you or to go over surgical treatment options. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Epstein in either Miami or New York. Call (305) 666-5884 in Miami or (212) 759-3484 in New York City.