Deviated Septum 

Introduction
The shape of your nose can give your face “character,” but it may also give you headaches, breathing problems, sinus infections, and cause snoring.  The septum in most people’s nose is naturally a bit off center.  The septum is the wall that divides the breathing passages in the nose down the middle to form the nostrils.  People with a deviated septum have a severely off center or crooked septum, which can lead to health problems.  A deviated septum may be present at birth or result from injury.  Fortunately, a deviated septum can be fixed with a relatively simple surgical procedure.

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Anatomy
The nasal septum gives your nose support and shape.  It is a dividing wall in the center of the nose.  The septum forms two air passages, leading out to the nostrils.  Near the face, the septum is made of bone.  Toward the end of the nose, the septum is made of flexible cartilage.

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Causes
People may be born with a deviated septum, but it may also result from a broken nose.

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Symptoms
A deviated septum may make it difficult or impossible for you to breathe through either nostril.  You may snore or experience sleep apnea, a condition where breathing temporarily stops during sleep.  Some people have frequent nosebleeds.  You may develop headaches, facial pain, and sinus infections if natural nasal drainage is blocked.  Colds and allergies may make your symptoms worse if they cause the nasal passages to swell and narrow.

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Diagnosis
Your doctor can easily diagnose a deviated septum by reviewing your symptoms and examining your nose.  A nasal speculum allows the doctor to gently spread your nostril open before using a light to examine the position of your septum.

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Treatment
Treatment may depend on the severity of your deviation and symptoms.  Some people may simply benefit from medications to help drain the sinuses and reduce swelling in the nasal passages.  For people with severe symptoms, surgery may be used to correct the deviated septum.  Most people experience a significant reduction in symptoms following septoplasty, a surgical procedure that is used to fix a deviated septum.  It is performed through the nostrils and involves repositioning, reshaping, or removing sections of the septum to correct its position.  Septoplasty is usually an outpatient procedure.  It may be performed with general or local anesthesia.  Following surgery, the nasal passages are packed with gauze and medication to collect drainage and prevent infection.  A rhinoplasty, an elective surgery to reshape the nose, may be performed at the same time as a septoplasty.

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Prevention
If you participate in sports that carry a risk of nose injury, wearing protective face equipment can help protect your nose.

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Am I at Risk
Your risk is increased for deviated septum if you participate in activities that increase your risk for a broken nose.  Such activities include fist fighting, boxing, and certain sports.  Injuries from violence and accidents may also cause a deviated septum.

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Complications
An untreated deviated septum can lead to repeated nosebleeds and sinus infections.  If it contributes to sleep apnea, it is concerning because sleep apnea can lead to heart problems and death.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.