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. With 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
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Causes

A deviated septum may be present at birth. It may also be the result of an injury during birth, an accident, or while playing sports.

Risk Factors

Trauma is the most common risk factor. Contact sports, such as karate or football, increase the risk of trauma.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Stuffy nose—one or both nostrils
  • Nosebleeds
  • Breathing noisily during sleep
  • Facial pain or headache

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying special attention to the nasal passages.

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 2 nostrils.

Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose (rhinoplasty) is performed at the same time. The 2 procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.

Prevention

To help reduce the chances of a deviated septum:

  • Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
  • Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2018 -
  • Update Date: 05/01/2014 -