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How Do You Fix a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum or septal deviation occurs when the nasal septum goes out of alignment. The condition can result in breathing difficulties, sleep apnoea and frequent nosebleeds. In this article, we explore this condition in detail and discuss how to fix it.

Tagged: Facial Treatments

Author: Mr. Bryan Mayou, MB ChB FRCS

Date: 27th April 2023

Medically Reviewed by:  Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396)

Last reviewed: 22nd February 2024

What is a Nasal Septum Deviation?

A deviated septum is a medical condition in which the thin wall between your nasal passages, also known as the nasal septum, deviates from its central position.

Typically, the nasal septum sits at the centre thereby allowing for equal air passage through both nostrils. However, the septum is displaced to one side in individuals with a deviated septum which creates an imbalance in the size of nasal passages with one nostril smaller than the other.

The existence of a deviated septum leads to a host of challenges, especially difficulty in breathing. This is caused by the obstruction in one of the nasal passages which significantly restricts the flow of air through the nose. The decreased airflow through the narrower nasal passage can create a sense of discomfort while inhaling or exhaling.

In some cases, the deviated septum can dry out as a result of exposure to the altered airflow pattern. The drying out of nasal tissues results in crusting, and since these tissues are delicate, they can get damaged which results in nosebleeds for some.

Therefore, a deviated septum can significantly affect your quality of life especially if the deviation is severe. Treatment options range from managing the symptoms through medication and non-surgical methods to corrective surgical procedures, like septoplasty and rhinoplasty. 

What Causes a Deviated Septum?

The main cause of a deviated septum is due to typical development, this is when the septum expands along with the nose as it grows, occasionally moving to one side.

A deviated septum may result from an injury to the nose. Sporting events, slips and falls, car crashes, or getting hit in the nose can all result in nasal injuries. Additionally, a deviated septum may be congenital, or present from birth. The irregularity could be the result of a challenging birth or a connective tissue disorder. 

Here is a look at the most common factors responsible for this medical condition: 

Some individuals are born with a deviated septum. This can result from genetic predispositions or irregularities during fetal development due to which the septum deviates from its central position while the fetus is still in the womb.

Physical impact on the nose is one of the most common causes of a deviated septum. This can occur through accidents, sports injuries or any form of blunt-force trauma to the face. Such incidents can displace the nasal septum especially if the nose is not properly realigned following the injury.

In some cases, certain medical procedures performed on the nose can have the unintended effect of deviating the septum. The alteration of nasal structures during surgery might cause the septum to shift from its original position.

The structure of the nasal passages can also change with age thus leading to a deviation in the septum over time. This gradual deviation is caused by the shifting or weakening of the nasal cartilage over time.

Understanding the factors behind a deviated septum is a crucial step toward properly managing and treating it. It is also worth noting that in some cases, the cause is unknown, and individuals can develop septal deviation without having experienced any of the aforementioned factors. 

How to Fix a Deviated Septum?

Correcting deviated septum involves rhinoplasty surgery that reshapes and restructures the nose to promote airflow through the nasal passages. During this operation, the surgeon will straighten the septum by either trimming, repositioning or replacing the nasal bone and/or cartilage.

A rhinoplasty is often combined with a septoplasty to provide both cosmetic and functional benefits. Also known as a submucosal resection, a septoplasty addresses common functional issues like breathing problems and sleep apnoea. 

Signs of a Deviated Septum

Most septal displacements go unnoticed, and you might not even be aware that your septum is deviated. However, certain septal deformities may result in the following symptoms:

  • Dry mouth and throat due to only being comfortable breathing through your mouth. 
  • Nosebleeds. Your nasal septum's surface could dry out, which would make nosebleeds more likely. 
  • Facial discomfort. There is some disagreement about whether or not a nasal problem could be the cause of facial pain. However, a significantly deviated septum, in which surfaces inside the nose touch and exert pressure, may be the source of one-sided facial pain. 
  • Blocked nostrils. Breathing via the nostril(s) may be challenging due to a deviated septum. When you have a cold or allergies, which can make your nasal passages enlarge and constrict, your nasal passage might shrink further.  
  • Pressure or congestion in your nose, even when you are feeling well, which could feel stuffy or compress your airways. 
  • Awareness of the nasal cycle. The nose naturally alternates between being blocked on one side and then being blocked on the other—due to the nasal cycle.  Being acutely aware of the nasal cycle is unusual and may point to a nasal obstruction. 
  • Snoring or noisy breathing. One of the various causes of noisy breathing or snoring whilst you sleep may be a deviated septum or an enlargement of the tissues in your nose. 
  • Preference for sleeping on a certain side. If one nasal tube is restricted, some people might prefer to sleep on a specific side to improve nighttime nasal breathing. 

What is Deviated Septum Surgery?

The surgical procedure for deviated septum, medically known as septoplasty, is a medical involves reconstructing nasal passages for functional benefit. The primary goal of the surgery is to straighten the nasal septum thereby improving airflow through the nose and alleviating the symptoms associated with the deviation.

The procedure is typically performed under general anaesthesia and does not involve any external incisions. Surgeons access the septum through the nostrils where they carefully cut, reposition and remove parts of the bone and cartilage to achieve better alignment.

In some cases, a rhinoplasty, which reshapes the external appearance of the nose, can be performed concurrently with septoplasty for cosmetic reasons. 

What Are the Benefits of Deviated Septum Surgery?

The benefits of deviated septum surgery include addressing any symptoms associated with septal deviation. The procedure can improve breathing function by enhancing the passage of air through the nose. It can also treat headaches, sinus pain and frequent nosebleeds. When combined with rhinoplasty, it can improve the overall appearance of the nose as well. 

How to Fix a Deviated Septum without Surgery

Non-invasive treatments for a deviated septum include specific sprays, decongestants and antihistamines. These treatments focus on managing symptoms, especially for individuals experiencing mild to moderate discomfort as a result of the septal deviation.

How to fix a deviated septum at home:

  • Nasal Steroid Sprays: Prescribed to reduce nasal inflammation, these sprays help to ease breathing through the nostrils by decreasing swelling in the nasal passages.
  • Decongestants: These medicines work by shrinking swollen tissues in the nasal passages thus facilitating easier airflow. However, they are meant for short-term use to prevent potential rebound congestion.
  • Antihistamines: For individuals experiencing exacerbated symptoms as a result of allergies, antihistamines can help manage allergic reactions thus reducing nasal congestion and improving breathing.
  • Nasal Strips: These strips can be applied to the outside of the nose to help widen the nasal passages. They are capable of offering temporary relief from blocked airflow and can improve sleep as well.
  • Saline Sprays: Also known as rinses, saline sprays can help relieve irritation by keeping the nasal passages moist and clear of allergens.
  • Humidifiers: Especially useful during dry months, humidifiers help soothe irritated nasal tissues and thin mucus in the nasal passages by adding moisture to the air.

While these non-invasive treatments can provide relief, they do not correct the underlying structural issues associated with a deviated septum. Rhinoplasty for men and women is a surgical procedure for deviated septum that provides more permanent results.   

Frequently Asked Questions

If a deviated septum is not treated, it could result in a range of complications depending on the severity of the condition. While mild cases might not pose significant challenges, severe septal deviation can affect one’s quality of life. Potential issues include recurring sinus infections, frequent nosebleeds, headaches, chronic nasal congestion and difficulty in sleeping.

Some symptoms, such as swelling within the lining of the nostrils, can be treated with over-the-counter medications. This does not treat the deviated septum itself, but one of the symptoms it causes.

However, patients with a more severe deviated septum may, over the course of their lifetime, also develop regular sinus infections. Chronic sinus infections cause nasal passages to become inflamed and irritated over time, which increases the risk of developing more severe infections.

Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder, can also result from an untreated deviated septum. This is where a person momentarily stops breathing while sleeping at night. The most prevalent kind of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when an obstruction in the airway reduces oxygen flow, which also can be caused by a deviated septum.

These conditions alone can drastically affect your quality of life, so if you find that you are being impacted to the point of disturbed sleep or regular infections, you may benefit from surgery to correct this. For the most severe cases, it may be that you are suitable for surgical ultrasonic rhinoplasty, which leverages the very latest technologies, though your surgeon will discuss the possibility of this with you. 

Yes, a deviated septum can impact your breathing by obstructing at least one of the nasal passages. As a result of this obstruction, patients experience difficulty breathing through the nose as well as a higher susceptibility to sinus infections. 

No, a deviated septum does not go away naturally. Since the condition is caused by the physical deviation of the nasal septum, it cannot correct itself over time without medical intervention.

You can usually ignore a deviated septum if it doesn't impair your ability to breathe or cause frequent sinus infections. However, you may want to think about surgery if your deviated septum closes one or both nostrils, making it difficult or impossible to breathe through your nose. It is less invasive than a cosmetic rhinoplasty, so your nose's swelling and healing should be simple to manage between you and your surgeon.

Deviated septums are one of the most common nose deformities, but many people don’t even realise they have one. If you are experiencing problems with your breathing or sleeping due to a deviated septum, you can get a surgical procedure to alleviate your symptoms. A functional rhinoplasty, also known as a septoplasty, is when the nose is reshaped to promote airflow and drainage. 

It takes a few months for patients to fully recover from deviated septum nose surgery. The initial swelling typically lasts two to three days and within three to four weeks, many patients will feel recovered enough to resume daily activities. However, it can take up to three months for the nose to fully settle and heal from the operation. 

The risks of deviated septum surgery include bleeding, infection and an undesirable change in the shape of the nose. In some cases, especially with persistent septal deviation after a septoplasty operation, revision surgery is necessary. 

Most people can’t feel a deviated septum with their fingers. However, you may be able to feel that the nasal septum isn’t quite aligned if you touch the middle of your nose. The best way of diagnosing whether you might have a deviated septum or not is simply by looking at it in the mirror.

Words From Our Founder

Mr. Bryan Mayou

Septorhinoplasty corrects a deviated septum, addressing breathing difficulties that may disrupt sleep or exercise. By reshaping the internal nasal structure, we ensure clear airflow, allowing both physical activity and restful sleep - improving the overall quality of life. Septorhinoplasty surgery can also address any concerns a patient has about the appearance of their nose as well, allowing us to tackle asesthetic and functional concerns, through one procedure.
Mr. Bryan Mayou

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