A deviated septum is a condition wherein the bone and cartilage that split the nose’s nasal cavity in half (or nasal septum) are pronouncedly crooked or off-center, making it difficult to breathe.
However, an imbalance in the size of breathing pathways (nostrils) is almost natural. It is estimated that around 80% of people worldwide have some misplacement to their nasal septum, sometimes without knowing it. It is likely because the misalignment of their nasal septum is minor, thus not impairing their breathing. Only severely misaligned nasal septum causes breathing difficulties and requires treatment.
Some individuals are born having a deviated septum, while this condition in others may result from a nose trauma or injury that shifts the septum off-center.
Symptoms of Deviated Septum
Nasal congestion is the most common symptom of a deviated septum, particularly only one side of the nose is more congested than the other, resulting in difficulty breathing. Also, persistent or recurring sinus infections can indicate a deviated septum.
You might have a deviated septum if you frequently experience:
- Post-nasal Drip
- Facial Pain
- Noisy breathing
In some individuals, a deviated septum can also cause a disorder called sleep apnea, wherein a person repeatedly stops breathing while asleep. This is a severe disorder as it might progress into hypertension or heart disease. If you snore loudly in your sleep and feel tired during the daytime (even when you’ve had a whole night’s sleep), your deviated septum may be causing you to sleep apnea. In this case, you should get yourself checked immediately.
If you are experiencing nasal and head symptoms as described above and suspect that you have a deviated septum, consult with an ENT (ear, nose, throat physician). The same symptoms may indicate other conditions such as nasal allergies or chronic sinusitis. It would be best to get adequately diagnosed to get the proper treatment.
Medication can relieve symptoms of a deviated septum sometimes. However, relief does not mean the condition is being corrected. Suppose remedy is inadequate in providing relief from the symptoms. In that case, you might need to consider undergoing septoplasty — a surgical procedure that restores the misalignment of the septum, ultimately alleviating the breathing difficulties.
During a septoplasty, the surgeon works through the nose internally; makes a small incision in the septum to remove the extra cartilage or bone. This removal should even out the breathing space of both nostrils.
Septoplasty is typically done outpatient, under either general or local anesthesia. The procedure usually takes about 90 minutes, depending on the severity of the condition or if you have elected to combine the deviated septum correction with rhinoplasty or sinus surgery.
Likewise, septoplasty can be done simultaneously with sinus surgery.
Often, septoplasty is done simultaneously with rhinoplasty or what is popularly referred to as a “nose job.” Rhinoplasty is an aesthetic surgery done on the nose to modify or improve its shape or function. Rhinoplasty is often done in conjunction with septoplasty to improve the nose’s physical appearance while the internal structure is corrected. A deviated septum typically presents a crooked nose.
This combined procedure is referred to as septorhinoplasty. Many people opt for this collaborative procedure to not go under the knife a second time. Also, targeting both the septum and external structural support of the nose addresses the problem entirely. Usually, with the ease of breathing after this procedure, snoring is also diminished.
Any surgery comes with risks of varying degrees. In the case of septoplasty, however, its primary benefit of relieving breathing outweighs whatever threats there may be. Septoplasty and septorhinoplasty are common and safe procedures conducted by licensed physicians with infrequent side effects. Nonetheless, it is vital to discuss the possible risks of surgery with your doctor before actually making a treatment decision.
If you are considering septoplasty, rhinoplasty, or septorhinoplasty, meet with your ENT or surgeon to discuss it, together with other treatments involved and risks. Discuss your goals and be forthcoming about what symptoms bother you the most and if you would like both internal and external repairs done on your nose.
Do remember that the perfect nose does not exist. Not anywhere in the world. If your deviated septum and its symptoms are manageable, there may be no call for surgery. However, if you decide to go for septoplasty or septorhinoplasty, know that it is best done at 15 years of age and up when the nose has ceased to grow. On the other hand, surgical correction and enhancement can emphasize your natural and unique beauty, resulting in healthier self-esteem, not to mention the improved quality of life.