Deviated Nasal Septum

(Deviated Septum)
  • Definition

    The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.
    A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections .
    Deviated Septum
    IMAGE
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  • Causes

    Causes include:
    • Present at birth—arose during fetal development (5% of cases)
    • Birth injury to the nose
    • A blow to the nose, often during an accident or while playing sports
  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors include:
    • Contact sports, especially karate or football without appropriate protective headgear
    • Trauma is the most common risk factor
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:
    • Stuffy nose (one or both sides)
    • Sinus infections
    • Nosebleeds
    • Breathing noisily during sleep
    • Facial pain or headache
  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will examine the nasal passages. A nasal speculum will hold the nose open. A thin telescope is passed into the nose.
  • Treatment

    Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called septoplasty . It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the two nostrils.
    Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose ( rhinoplasty ) is performed at the same time. The two procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.
  • Prevention

    To help prevent a deviated septum:
    • Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
    • Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports
  • RESOURCES

    American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org

    HealthFinder, US Department of Health and Human Services http://www.healthfinder.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Society of Otolaryngology http://www.entcanada.org

    The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons http://www.plasticsurgery.ca

    References

    Beers MH, Berkow R, et al. Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy . 17 th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck and Company;1999.

    Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm . Accessed July 24, 2008.

    Revision Information

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