ENT Specialists of Alaska

ENT Specialists of Alaska

Do I Have a Deviated Septum?

Woman holding nose with a deviated septum suffering a headache and nasal pain.

In order to keep roads in working condition, construction is needed. But things are also delayed by construction. We’ve all been stuck in a traffic jam caused by construction. Even a small lane change can cause hundreds of thousands of cars on a freeway to step on their breaks, and the whole system slows down.

So, just for a minute, go with this one… a highway and your nostrils are similar in a certain way. Air moves in and out, mucus goes in and out, and both of these functions are necessary to keep you healthy. The left nostril (or lane, if you will) and right are separated by a piece of tissue known as a septum.

But backups in your nose occur when that septum isn’t straight because it’s deviated. And, well, mucus can become like a traffic backup. The point is that when things drag, problems start to happen, and your nose won’t work as it should.

A deviated septum, what is it?

The septum is a small strip of tissue that divides your left and right nasal passages. Usually, this piece of tissue should be straight. But this tissue can sometimes get pushed off to one side. Hence the name, “deviated septum”. So, you’re thinking: How do I get a deviated septum? Sometimes, it happens due to a traumatic event; in other instances, you might simply be born with a deviated septum.

Problems, from trouble breathing, sleeping, or prolonged sinus infections can be caused by a deviated septum. So you should get in touch with us or your provider about your choices if you think you may have a deviated septum.

If I had a deviated septum, how could I tell?

In some instances, a deviated septum can be rather symptomless. But some cases don’t follow this course. A deviated septum will, in many cases, manifest numerous possible indications. Here are some of the most common indications of a deviated septum:

  • Reduced sense of smell: Like all organs, the instrument of your nose is fragile. So any disruption or injury to it, such as a deviated septum, can alter the way air flows, and decrease your sense of smell as an outcome.
  • Nasal congestion: Breathing or smelling may become really difficult if you have congestion in one or both of your nostrils. Depending on the exact nature of your deviated septum, the blockage will usually be worse in one nostril than the other. You might have a deviated septum if you notice that your nostrils are regularly blocked.
  • Postnasal Drip: There’s an internal interconnection between your ear, nose, and throat. So when your nose is plugged up, mucus will drain back through your throat. Postnasal drip is the term for this. You might have a deviated septum if this is happening regularly.
  • Noisy breathing: While you’re sleeping or during heavy activity, your breathing can become noisy.
  • Headaches: Sometimes, a deviated septum can result in a disruption to the normal flow of air and drainage of your sinuses. Headaches (especially in the front of your head) can be the consequence.
  • Excess Snoring: Your sleep cycle can be negatively affected by a deviated septum. For some, this means louder snoring. Sleep disruptions like sleep apnea can be the outcome for others.
  • Facial Pain: Pain in your face can also be a problem. When there’s an unusual amount of pressure in your sinuses and nasal cavity this can be the outcome.
  • Frequent nosebleeds: Moisture can’t necessarily get where it needs to be with a deviated septum (traffic jam). As a result, your nasal cavities may sometimes dry out. Regular nose bleeds can be the outcome.
  • Sinus infections: Just because you’ve had a single sinus infection doesn’t mean that you have a deviated septum. But a deviated septum can make it hard for your nasal passages to properly drain. Over time, this can lead to chronic or repeated sinus infections. So if you find yourself fighting a sinus infection after every cold, a deviated septum may possibly be the cause.

So… what issues will a deviated septum cause in you personally? It depends, you may experience all of these problems. Or you may only encounter a few. Only your provider will be able to correctly diagnose you.

How is a deviated septum diagnosed?

Once you begin noticing the symptoms, it’s logical that you’d want to get that assessed! So, when you come in for an appointment, what should you expect? In general, most appointments will start with a conversation about your medical history. We will most likely ask about when your symptoms began, whether you’ve been snoring, and if you may have chronic sinus infections, that kind of thing. Your risk of having a deviated septum increases if you’ve had a nasal trauma or surgery, so we’ll also want to chat about that.

We will also conduct a physical exam. This normally entails looking up your nose (but with specialty equipment). We will attempt to identify the condition of your septum by carefully opening your nostrils to have a better look. We will look for obstructions or anything that isn’t the shape it should be.

We may also use numerous diagnostics, such as the following:

  • Imaging studies: This might include an MRI or a CT scan.
  • Allergy testing: Since allergies can play a role in nasal inflammation, allergy tests are frequently performed to rule out that possibility.
  • Nasal endoscopy: So we can take a better look into your nose, we will insert this thin, flexible tube with a little camera on the end.

Once we have completed all these tests, we’re normally able to diagnose you with a deviated septum (or rule one out if your septum is straight).

How do you fix a deviated septum?

Of course, once you know you have a deviated septum, the next move is treatment. Here are a few approaches we might take to treat your deviated septum:

Non Surgical Approaches

  • Allergy management: It makes sense to control your allergies as much as you can, especially if they are contributing to a plugged nose.
  • Nasal strips: These can help while sleeping or some physical activities. They may be good for borderline cases.
  • Medication: This may include over-the-counter nasal decongestants or nasal steroid sprays. But typically, the root cause isn’t dealt with just the symptoms.

Surgical approaches

  • Turbinate reduction: Turbinates are little structures on the inside of the nose. Sometimes, they can become enlarged, exacerbating any nasal congestion you might be feeling. In some circumstances, septoplasty is combined with turbinate reduction in order to help improve nasal air (and mucus) flow.
  • Septoplasty: Sometimes called “deviated septum surgery,” septoplasty is a surgical procedure created to straighten a deviated septum. Your septum can be effectively repositioned when this surgery is performed by an ENT. This is frequently the most common and effective treatment for a deviated septum.
  • Rhinoplasty: This surgery is designed to more generally correct the shape of your nose. When used to manage a deviated septum, rhinoplasty is often combined with septoplasty.

Get the help you require

If construction is causing a roadblock, traffic will free up when the construction is finished. But when you have a deviated septum, that isn’t the case. Those traffic jams will keep taking place unless you take steps to treat your condition.

So give us a call for an assessment if you think you may have a deviated septum.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Questions? Talk To Us.