What Is a Deviated Septum?

nose bleed

Story at-a-glance -

  • A deviated septum refers to a severely misaligned nasal septum, which causes one nasal passage to be larger than the other
  • The deformity alters the airflow in the nose and blocks the sinus openings, resulting in a variety of problems, including sinus infection, reduced airflow, sleeping problems and improper nasal drainage
  • A misaligned septum may hinder proper drainage of the sinuses, ultimately resulting in repeated sinus infections

A deviated septum is a condition wherein the nasal septum is tilted far toward the left or right side of the nose.1 It's a relatively common deformity that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race. Keep in mind, that a deviated septum is different from a mildly crooked septum, which may occur in around 80 percent of Americans.2,3

As a medical condition, a deviated  septum refers to a severely misaligned nasal septum, which causes one nasal passage to be larger than the other.4 This deformity alters the airflow in the nose and blocks the sinus openings, resulting in of problems such as sinus infections, reduced airflow, sleeping problems and improper nasal drainage.5

Complications Associated With a Deviated Septum

If left untreated, a deviated septum may block one or both of your nostrils, making it difficult for you to breathe through your nose. This may lead to the following complications:6,7

Chronic sinus problems — A misaligned septum may hinder proper drainage of the sinuses, ultimately resulting in repeated sinus infections.

Frequent nosebleeds — The altered airflow in your nasal passages may dry out the surface of your septum and make you more susceptible to nosebleeds.

Headaches and/or facial pain — The pressure caused by nasal congestion, along with a sinus infection, may cause you to experience headaches and facial pain.8

Dry mouth — A deviated septum may increase your tendency to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose, resulting in a dry mouth and throat.

Postnasal drip — Your nose's thin, clear secretions may increase, making you feel like mucus is accumulating in your throat or dripping from the back of your nose.9

Sleep apnea — A severe deviated septum may lead to sleep apnea, a serious disorder that repeatedly disrupts proper breathing during sleep, depriving various body parts of the oxygen that they need to function properly.10

Nasal blockage in one or both of the nostrils also can be fatal for infants, as they're very dependent on nasal breathing.11

When Should You See a Doctor Regarding a Deviated Septum?

Many cases of deviated septa do not require treatment from a health professional, since they're mild enough not to cause any troublesome symptoms.12 Some people only notice signs of a deviated septum when they're suffering from a common cold, allergy or other respiratory infection.13

However, if your deviated septum is hindering your breathing or causing frequent nosebleeds and/or recurring sinus infections, you should consult a physician right away, particularly an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, to discuss the treatment option that fits your needs.14

A Deviated Septum May Be Misdiagnosed for Other Conditions

The symptoms of a deviated septum are similar to other conditions that affect the nose, and could be mistaken for the following  issues:15

  • Common cold
  • Allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Nasal polyps

Make sure that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor in order to avoid misdiagnosis and get the proper treatment for your condition.

MORE ABOUT DEVIATED SEPTUM

Deviated Septum: An Introduction

What Is a Deviated Septum?

Deviated Septum Symptoms

Deviated Septum Causes

Deviated Septum Surgery

Deviated Septum Treatment

Deviated Septum Prevention

Deviated Septum Diet

Deviated Septum FAQ

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