From the outside, most noses look basically straight. But from the inside, about 80 percent of people have a crooked divider in the middle of the nose which is known as a deviated septum.
The nasal septum is the dividing wall that separates your nose into two sides. The back of the septum is made up of bone covered on both sides by mucus membranes. The front part of the septum is more flexible because it is made up mostly of cartilage which is covered by skin that contains a large number of blood vessels. Ideally, the nasal septum is exactly in the middle of the nose so the two sides of the nose are of equal size.
Deviated Septum Symptoms
For most people, the nasal septum is off center, or has a bend in it. In minor cases, this may not cause any symptoms. But a severe bend, or deviation, can make it difficult to breathe through the nose. A deviated septum can also cause one or more of these symptoms:
• Blockage of one or both nostrils
• Nasal congestion, sometime worse on one side
• Frequent nose bleeds caused by the drying effect of air flowing over the deviation
• Frequent or recurring sinus infections if the deviation blocks drainage form the sinus cavity
• Facial pain or headaches
• Noisy breathing at night
Causes of a Deviated Septum
While some people are born with a deviated septum, the most common cause is an injury to the nose that causes the nasal septum to be pushed out of position. This may occur during the birthing process in infants, or may be the result of a fall or other injury. Most accidents involving the nose occur during contact sports, active roughhousing, or automobile accidents.
Deviated Septum Treatment
For patients with a mild deviation that does not cause significant symptoms, no treatment is necessary.
If breathing is hindered by the deviation, treatment may begin with trying to manage symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe decongestants to help reduce congestion, antihistamines to help prevent allergy symptoms like a runny nose, or cortisone sprays to bring down inflammation in the nasal passages.
The only way to actually repair a deviated septum is through surgery called septoplasty. During this surgery your doctor will reshape and straighten the cartilage and bone in the septum of the nose. This procedure is done from inside the nostrils and does not usually cause any bruising or swelling on the face. There is no visible change to the shape of the nose from this surgery.