Septal Deviation


Within the human nose lies a thin wall called the nasal septum, which divides the nostrils. Ideally, this septum is located at the center, providing an equal passage on either side for the air we breathe. However, for various reasons, this septum can deviate or shift to one side, a condition known as septal deviation. This deviation can lead to breathing difficulties and other complications.

Understanding Septal Deviation

Septal deviation is not uncommon. While some people are born with a deviated septum, others may develop it due to injury or trauma. It’s important to understand that not everyone with a deviated septum will experience symptoms or require treatment. But for those who do, the impact on daily life can be significant.

Woman in pain from septal deviation

Symptoms Associated with Septal Deviation

The presence and severity of symptoms depend on the extent of the deviation. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing: One nasal passage might be smaller or more constricted due to the deviation, leading to reduced airflow.
  • Recurrent sinus infections: Impaired airflow can lead to stagnation and bacterial growth, causing infections.
  • Nosebleeds: The surface of the nasal septum can become dry, increasing the risk of nosebleeds.
  • Facial pain: A significantly deviated septum can cause facial pain due to the pressure on the inner walls of the nose.
  • Noisy breathing during sleep: Especially noticeable in infants and young children with septal deviations.
  • Awareness of the nasal cycle: It’s normal for the nostrils to take turns being obstructed, but this is more noticeable in people with a deviation.

Causes and Risk Factors

While some individuals are born with a deviated septum, it can also result from:

  • Injury or trauma: A blow to the face, often from contact sports, vehicle accidents, or even altercations, can cause the septum to deviate.
  • Growth: The septum can change position during normal growth, leading to deviation.
  • Congenital issue: Some people are born with a deviated septum due to developmental factors in the womb.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing septal deviation involves a physical examination by an ENT specialist. Using a nasal speculum and light, the doctor will inspect the nostrils to determine the extent and direction of the deviation.

Treatment for septal deviation depends on the severity of the symptoms.

  • Decongestants: These medicines can reduce nasal tissue swelling, helping to open the air passages on either side of the septum.
  • Antihistamines: Helpful if symptoms are due to an allergy that causes nasal congestion and swelling.
  • Nasal steroid sprays: Can reduce inflammation and open the nasal passages.
  • Surgical intervention: In cases where medication doesn’t offer relief, a septoplasty might be recommended. This is a surgical procedure to straighten a deviated septum. Another procedure, rhinoplasty, is performed to change the shape or appearance of the nose. Both can be done simultaneously.

Septal deviation, while common, can vary in its impact on individuals. For some, it’s a mere anatomical variation with no noticeable symptoms. For others, it’s a source of recurrent infections, breathing difficulties, and diminished quality of life. Recognizing the signs and seeking appropriate medical intervention is vital. Modern medicine offers a range of treatments, from medications to surgical solutions, that can alleviate the symptoms and challenges posed by a deviated septum, ensuring better respiratory health and improved overall well-being.