What is a deviated septum?

Deviated nasal septum is a common disorder of the nose. The septum is the bone and cartilage that separates the right and left sides of the nasal cavity. Displacement or deviation of the septum is most commonly caused by trauma, i.e. direct impact to the face. It may also be congenital or related to systemic cartilage disorders.

What are the symptoms of a deviated septum?

When a patient has a deviated nasal septum, the septum in the nasal cavity leans to the left or right. This can cause poor drainage of the sinuses. Patients therefore may complain of difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils, nasal congestion, headaches, bloody noses, snoring, or sleep apnea. Many patients with a deviated septum do not have symptoms.

How is a deviated septum diagnosed?

Diagnosis is made by physical exam. Your otolaryngologist will carefully examine your external and internal nose. This involves using a nasal speculum to gently spread the nostrils and a bright light to examine the inside of the nose and septum.

What is the treatment of a deviated septum?

In most cases, a deviated septum is corrected surgically. The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis (not requiring a hospital stay). The surgery is performed entirely through the nostrils, so no external bruising or incisions are seen. The procedure itself averages one-two hours to complete. Sometimes the surgery is combined with sinus surgery or rhinoplasty. Patients typically have increased nasal obstruction after surgery which improves during the next several weeks. This is due to swelling that occurs during surgery.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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