Nasal septum deviation occurs when the nasal septum, the bone and cartilage that divides the nasal cavity in half, is off center, bent or crooked. Typically, this results in one nasal passage that is smaller than the other. Most people do not have a perfectly straight septum. In fact, about 80% of the population has some time of nasal septum deviation that often goes unnoticed. More severe deviations, however, can cause difficulty breathing, nasal airway obstruction and chronic sinusitis. These patients often require treatment for nasal septum deviation.
Causes of Nasal Septum Deviation:
- Nasal septum deviation is a structural abnormality. It can be present at birth or occur after an injury to the nose.
- Congenital septum deviation: A deviation of the nasal septum can occur during fetal development. This condition is present at birth, but may not be noticed until later in life.
- Injury or trauma to the nasal septum: Injury to the nose can cause the septum to move out of place or bend. Trauma to the nose that results in a deviated septum most often occurs during rough play, contact sports or car crashes.
- Aging process: Aging can affect the structure of the nose and worsen a deviated septum over time.
Symptoms and Complications of Nasal Septum Deviation:
- Nasal congestion
- Mouth breathing
- Difficulty breathing on one side of the nose
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pain
- Chronic sinusitis or frequent acute sinusitis
- Compensatory turbinate hypertrophy (on the opposite side of the nose)
- Sleep apnea
Treatment of Nasal Septum Deviation
The goal of treatment for septum deviation is to improve breathing and alleviate symptoms. While medications cannot treat the deviation of the septum itself, they can potentially improve some of the symptoms. Decongestants can temporarily relieve congestion and stuffiness. Nasal steroid sprays are used to reduce swelling of the turbinates and nasal passages. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat sinusitis and infections. Home remedies such as nasal irrigation and saline rinse can also relieve some symptoms. When medicine alone does not result in adequate relief, surgery may be needed.
Surgical Correction of Nasal Septum Deviation
A septoplasty is a surgical procedure that corrects the deviation of the nasal septum. During a septoplasty, the surgeon works through the nostrils, and no external incisions are necessary. An incision is made in the tissue covering of the septum to expose the bone and cartilage. The portion of the septum to be corrected is then removed, reshaped or repositioned. Straightening of the septum creates a more even space on both sides of the nasal cavity resulting in improved airflow. Septoplasty is also done in conjunction with sinus surgery or turbinate reduction to maximize results. Septoplasty is typically performed as an outpatient procedure in a surgery center and under general anesthesia. The length of the surgery and the recovery time depend on the extent of the repair. Often splints are placed inside the nose to stabilize the healing septum and are later removed. Most patients experience minimal swelling and significant results.