A deviated septum is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It can cause discomfort, breathing difficulties, and other health issues. This article will discuss what a deviated septum is, its symptoms, causes, and the benefits of treating it. We will also explore various treatment options available to help you breathe easy once again.
What is a Deviated Septum?
The nasal septum is a thin wall made of bone and cartilage that divides the two sides of the nose. When this wall is displaced to one side, it is considered “deviated,” making one nasal passage more narrow. This can lead to trouble breathing, nasal congestion, and other symptoms. In some cases, the deviation may be so severe that it blocks one or both nostrils entirely, making it difficult to breathe through the nose.
A deviated septum can be present at birth (congenital) or develop over time due to injury. It is estimated that 70% to 80% of the population has some degree of septal deviation, although not everyone experiences symptoms or requires treatment.
Symptoms of a Deviated Septum
A deviated septum can cause various symptoms, depending on the severity of the deviation. Some common symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils
- Nasal congestion, particularly on one side
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Recurrent sinus infections
- Postnasal drip
- Snoring or sleep apnea
- Facial pain or pressure
Not everyone with a deviated septum will experience these symptoms. In some cases, the deviation may be minor and not cause any noticeable issues. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, the specialists at Penn Medicine Becker ENT & Allergy can determine the underlying cause and discuss appropriate treatment options with you.
The Causes of a Deviated Septum
There are several things that can contribute to the development of a deviated septum. Some of the most common causes include:
- Congenital anomalies: Some people are born with a deviated septum due to genetic factors or abnormal development during pregnancy. A deviation that is present at birth may worsen over time.
- Injury or trauma: Accidents, sports injuries, or other forms of trauma can cause damage to the nasal septum. These septal deviations occur at any age and may be the result of a direct blow to the nose or face.
- Aging: As we age, the cartilage in our nose can weaken and change shape, leading to a deviated septum. This is a natural process and may not cause any noticeable symptoms or require treatment.
- Inflammatory conditions: Certain inflammatory conditions, such as allergies or chronic sinusitis, can cause swelling of the nasal passages. Over time, this can lead to a septal deviation.
For some people, more than one health or anatomic issue might be contributing to nasal blockage. A board-certified ENT will be able to accurately diagnose the source of your symptoms.
The Benefits of Treating the Deviated Septum
Addressing a deviated septum can significantly improve your quality of life. Treating a deviated septum can:
- Improve breathing: By correcting the deviation, you can experience better airflow through your nostrils, making it easier to breathe.
- Reduce nasal congestion: Treatment can help alleviate chronic nasal congestion, particularly on the side of the deviation.
- Decrease frequency of sinus infections: Correcting the septum can promote better sinus drainage, reducing the risk of recurrent sinus infections.
- Relieve facial pain and headaches: Treating the deviated septum can alleviate pressure on the nasal passages, reducing facial pain and headaches.
- Improve sleep quality: For those with sleep apnea or snoring caused by a deviated septum, treatment can lead to better sleep quality and overall well-being.
Treatment Options for a Deviated Septum
There are several treatment options available for a deviated septum, ranging from non-invasive methods to surgical intervention. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the deviation and the symptoms experienced by the patient. Consult with an experienced facial plastic surgeon or ENT to determine the most appropriate treatment option for your specific needs.
Non-Invasive Treatments for a Deviated Septum
In some cases, non-invasive treatments can help manage the symptoms of a deviated septum. These options include:
- Nasal decongestants: Over-the-counter or prescription nasal decongestants can help reduce nasal congestion and improve breathing. However, they should not be used for extended periods, as they can cause rebound congestion.
- Antihistamines: If allergies are contributing to your symptoms, antihistamines can help reduce inflammation and congestion in the nasal passages.
- Nasal corticosteroids: Prescription nasal corticosteroids may decrease inflammation in the nasal passages, improving airflow and reducing congestion.
- Saline nasal sprays: Regular use of saline nasal sprays can help keep the nasal passages moist and reduce congestion.
While non-invasive treatments may provide temporary relief, they do not address the underlying cause of the deviated septum.
Rhinoplasty: Surgical Correction of the Deviated Septum
For more severe cases or when non-invasive treatments are not effective, deviated septum repair surgery may be necessary. Rhinoplasty, also known as a nose job, is a surgical procedure that can correct a deviated septum and also improve the overall appearance of the nose. During the procedure, the surgeon will make incisions inside the nostrils to access the nasal septum. The septum is then straightened and repositioned to remove the nasal obstruction.
Rhinoplasty is typically performed under general anesthesia and may be done as an outpatient procedure. Recovery time varies, but most patients can return to work and light activities within one to two weeks. Full healing and final results can take several months to a year.
Preparing for Surgery to Fix a Deviated Septum
Before undergoing surgery to correct a deviated septum, it is essential to properly prepare for the procedure. Here are some steps to take in preparation for your surgery:
- Consult with your surgeon: Discuss your expectations and any concerns you may have with your surgeon. They will provide you with detailed information about the procedure, risks, and recovery process.
- Undergo a physical examination: Your surgeon may perform a physical examination to assess the severity of your deviated septum and ensure you are a suitable candidate for surgery.
- Stop smoking: If you are a smoker, it is essential to quit smoking at least two weeks before the surgery, as it can interfere with the healing process.
- Avoid certain medications: Your surgeon may advise you to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or other blood-thinning medications, to reduce the risk of bleeding during the surgery.
- Arrange for transportation and assistance: Since you will be under the influence of anesthesia, you will need someone to drive you home after the procedure. It is also helpful to have someone available to assist you during the initial recovery.
Following these steps will help ensure a smooth surgical process and reduce the risk of complications.
Aftercare Following Surgery to Fix a Deviated Septum
Proper aftercare is crucial for a successful recovery after surgery to correct a deviated septum. Here are some tips for post-operative care:
- Follow your surgeon’s instructions: Your surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for your nose after the surgery. Make sure to follow these guidelines carefully to ensure a smooth recovery.
- Keep your head elevated: To minimize swelling and promote healing, it is essential to keep your head elevated, especially during the first few days after surgery.
- Apply cold compresses: Gently applying cold compresses to your nose and face can help reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.
- Avoid blowing your nose: Refrain from blowing your nose for at least two weeks after the surgery, as this can disrupt the healing process.
- Take prescribed medications: Your surgeon may prescribe pain relievers, antibiotics, or other medications to manage pain and prevent infection. Make sure to take these medications as directed.
- Attend follow-up appointments: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments with your surgeon to monitor your progress and address any concerns.
By adhering to these aftercare guidelines, you can expect a successful recovery and enjoy the benefits of improved breathing and overall well-being.
If you’re suffering from a deviated septum, don’t suffer in silence any longer. Come to Becker ENT & Allergy for the best diagnosis and treatment options available. We are dedicated to providing our patients with the highest quality of care and will work with you to find the best solution for your individual needs. Get on the path to breathing easier by contacting us today!