What a crooked septum affects and when septoplasty is necessary
A wall called a nasal septum divides the inside of your nose. It provides structure in your nose, and it’s covered by a mucous membrane. Your septum grows until about age 18. Your nasal septum should be in the middle of your nose, and each passageway should be about the same size. However, most septums aren’t centered. A severely crooked septum — called a deviated septum — may reduce the airflow through your nose.
The specialist to see for a deviated septum is called an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. An ENT is also called an otolaryngologist.
What causes a deviated septum?
Your deviated septum might have formed before you were born. Then, you were born with the condition. Or, you may have a deviated septum because of a nasal injury. If you play contact sports or drive a car, you risk injuring your nose. Trauma to your nose during sports or a driving accident may cause damage to your septum. Aging can also make a mild deviated septum worse. This might cause you to need treatment.
Symptoms you might have
A deviated septum may affect a lot of areas of your life. You may have lived most of your life with the following symptoms of a deviated septum:
- Postnasal drip
- Blocked nostrils
- Chronic sinus infections
- Chronic mouth breathing
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Noisy breathing while asleep
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
How is it diagnosed?
Your ENT examines the inside of your nose. An ENT uses a tool with a bright light called a nasal speculum. The doctor spreads open your nostrils with a speculum to see your nasal passages easily. The doctor may look further into your nose using a longer scope. They can then determine how deviated your septum is.
Treatments for a deviated septum
You can manage the symptoms of a minor deviated septum. Caring for the lining of your nose with prescription or over-the-counter medications usually eases symptoms:
- Antihistamines ease allergy symptoms such as blockage and a runny nose.
- Nasal steroid sprays reduce inflammation to help with blockages and drainage.
- Decongestants reduce the swelling of nasal tissue; sprays may worsen symptoms so consider a pill form.
Medications won’t fix a deviated septum. Only surgery can repair it. To correct a deviated septum, consider a surgery called septoplasty. This surgery straightens and repositions your septum. Your nose may also need a procedure to reshape it during surgery. This procedure is called rhinoplasty.
Septoplasty takes from 30 to 90 minutes. You’ll be under general anesthesia. The procedure lifts your nose’s membranes and other barriers out of the way to fix the septum. The doctor may remove extra bone or cartilage if necessary. You may need stitches to keep everything in place. Packing your nose with cotton is usually enough.
What’s recovery like?
Surgeons usually perform septoplasty as an outpatient procedure. The first few days of recovery may be hard. Your nose will be swollen and packed with cotton to stop bleeding. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to prevent discomfort. Take it easy for several weeks after surgery to heal your nose.
During recovery, you should sleep with your head elevated to reduce swelling. Avoid blowing your nose for a few days after surgery. Avoid clothes that you have to put on over your head, and stick with button-up or zip-up tops. It may take up to a year for cartilage in your nose to fully heal into its new shape.
Do you have a deviated septum? Our physicians can help. Visit Mercy.com to find an ENT near you today.