What is Deviated Septum? Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
A deviated septum is a medical condition that affects the structure of the nose and can cause difficulty breathing and a range of other symptoms. It occurs when the thin wall that divides the two nostrils, known as the nasal septum, is displaced or off-center. This can cause congestion, chronic sinusitis, nosebleeds, and snoring.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage this condition and improve your quality of life. With the right treatment plan and lifestyle modifications, you can reduce the symptoms and enjoy improved breathing. In this article, we’ll discuss what a deviated septum is, the symptoms it causes, and the treatment options available.
What is a Deviated Septum?
A deviated septum is a deviation in the center of the nasal septum, which is the wall that divides the two nostrils. Normally, it sits squarely in the middle of the nose, but if it becomes displaced, the flow of air through the nose is blocked. This can cause several health issues, including difficulty breathing, chronic sinusitis, and a stuffy nose. The septum is a wall of cartilage that separates the nostrils.
A deviated septum occurs when the septum is curved or skewed so that one nostril is blocked while the other is not. The condition is relatively common and can affect people of any age or sex. A deviated septum is not contagious or life-threatening. However, it can cause several health issues, including difficulty breathing, chronic sinusitis, and a stuffy nose.
Signs & Symptoms of a Deviated Septum
Difficulty breathing: When the nasal septum is displaced, the flow of air through the nose is blocked, which can cause a feeling of breathlessness. This symptom is more likely to occur when you’re lying down, as the septum is pushed to one side when you’re in the supine position.
A chronic stuffy nose: A deviated septum can cause a chronically stuffy nose, which can lead to sinus infections.
Nosebleeds: A deviated septum can also cause nosebleeds, as the displaced septum can irritate the mucous membranes inside the nose and make them bleed more easily.
Snoring: A deviated septum can also cause snoring, as the displaced septum can cause the soft tissue in the nose to collapse and obstruct the airway during sleep.
Causes of a Deviated Septum
Trauma to the nose: A blow to the nose, particularly when the nose is broken, can cause the septum to shift and become deviated.
Congenital factors: A deviated septum may be present at birth, as the nasal septum may be abnormally formed.
Infections: A deviated septum can sometimes be caused by an infection in the nose, such as viral or bacterial rhinitis.
Dislocation: A deviated septum can also be caused by a displaced cartilage. This may occur after a deviated septum has been diagnosed, as a blow to the nose can cause the septum to shift again and become further displaced.
Diagnosing a Deviated Septum
A deviated septum can be diagnosed by a physician using a nasal endoscopy or a CT scan. If a deviated septum is diagnosed, the physician may recommend lifestyle changes before proceeding with surgery to correct the condition. This can include changing your diet, reducing stress, and sleeping with your head raised. If these changes don’t alleviate the symptoms, surgery may be recommended.
Treating a Deviated Septum
If a deviated septum has been diagnosed and lifestyle changes do not alleviate the symptoms, surgery is often the next step. The type of surgery to treat a deviated septum will depend on the type of deviation but is often performed as a minimally invasive procedure.
Lifestyle Modifications to Manage a Deviated Septum
If a deviated septum has been diagnosed, the following lifestyle changes may be recommended before proceeding with surgery. These changes can help ease the symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Changing your diet: Some physicians may recommend that you change your diet to reduce the symptoms. Eating a healthier diet, such as a low-salt diet, can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Reducing stress: A deviated septum can often be made worse by stress. You may benefit from taking up a hobby or engaging in therapy to reduce your stress.
Sleeping with your head raised: Sleeping with your head raised can help to drain the mucus from your nose, which may reduce the symptoms of a deviated septum.
Using saline sprays: Saline sprays can help to flush away the mucus from your nose. Spraying saline into your nose can improve your quality of life, particularly if you have a cold and your nose is blocked.
Surgery for a Deviated Septum
If the symptoms of a deviated septum are particularly severe, surgery may be recommended. There are several different types of surgery that may be used to treat a deviated septum, including septoplasty, turbinate reduction, and septal cartilage graft. The type of surgery recommended will depend on the type of deviation and the symptoms being experienced.
After surgery, most people are able to resume their normal activities after a few days. You should follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and make sure to rest as you’re told. You may also be prescribed antibiotics after surgery to prevent infection.
Alternatives to Surgery
If you’re worried about surgery or don’t think surgery is right for you, there are other alternatives you can try to manage your condition. They include:
Yoga: Yoga is a form of meditation that can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can worsen the symptoms of a deviated septum.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is effective at managing the symptoms of a deviated septum.
Homeopathy: Homeopathy has been proven to be effective at treating the symptoms of a deviated septum.
Complications of an Untreated Deviated Septum
If a deviated septum is left untreated, it can cause several complications. These include:
Rhinosinusitis: Which are an infection of the nose and the sinuses. It is one of the most common complications of a deviated septum.
Rhinitis: Rhinitis is a swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose. It can be caused by allergies or irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
Epistaxis: Epistaxis is the medical term for nosebleeds.
Obstructive sleep apnea: An untreated deviated septum can cause obstructive sleep apnea.
Recovering from Treatment for a Deviated Septum
After surgery to correct a deviated septum, you should follow your physician’s instructions carefully. You will likely receive instructions about how to care for the incisions, how to take pain medication, and when you can return to work. It’s important to follow these instructions to ensure a smooth recovery.
You may experience some swelling and discomfort after surgery, but these symptoms should subside within a few weeks. If you experience any other symptoms that don’t subside within a few weeks after surgery, you should seek medical advice.