January 19, 2019
Do You Have a Deviated Septum?

Do You Have a Deviated Septum?

by Berkeley Wellness  

Many people blame their colds, sinus problems, and snoring on a deviated septum. But how do you know if that's really the cause? And will correcting a deviated septum make you feel any better or help you—and your bed partner—get a better night's sleep?

The wall that divides

The nasal septum, made of cartilage and bone, separates the nostrils. If it’s crooked or off-center due to a congenital defect or trauma to the nose, it can interfere with normal airflow and cause other problems. Deviated septum is common in adults, and it may worsen over time as the nose droops with age. But whether it needs to be treated depends on the symptoms. And the likelihood of having symptoms depends on the location of the deviation, more so than its degree. That is, a small narrowing in one critical area can cause more problems than a large narrowing in another area.

Some signs that may suggest you have a deviated septum:

  • Trouble breathing through your nose, usually more so on one side. You may often feel like you have a cold, with a stuffy nose.
  • Recurrent bacterial infections of the nose, sinuses, or both, since a deviated septum causes air to flow in eddies inside the nostril, rather than smoothly, which can lead to inflammation and stagnant mucus with trapped bacteria. Or vice versa: infections, as well as allergies, can trigger nasal inflammation, which worsens the airflow problems associated with the deviated septum.
  • Snoring. If you have a nasal obstruction, you are more likely to breathe through your mouth when you sleep, which causes the palate to vibrate. A deviated septum can also contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, characterized by episodes of stopped breathing and explosive snoring.
  • Frequent or chronic postnasal drip, nasal crusting, nosebleeds, headaches, dry mouth, and sore throats.

Straight advice

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can diagnose a deviated septum by using a light and nasal speculum and rule out other possible causes of symptoms, such as sinus polyps or other growths in the nose. For a more detailed exam, an endoscope may be used to look at the back of the nose and sinuses.

Saline sprays and steam inhalation may lessen symptoms. Depending on where the deviation is, adhesive nasal strips might also help with breathing and tone down snoring. It's most important to treat sinusitis and allergies if you have them. If symptoms are severe, surgery to straighten the septum, called septoplasty, is an option. It is usually performed on an outpatient basis and should be covered by insurance. (A "nose job" for cosmetic purposes alone, called rhinoplasty, is not covered, but it may be if done in conjunction with septoplasty.) The surgery can improve nasal airway function, sleep, and overall quality of life.