The nasal septum is the thin wall inside your nose that separates the two nasal cavities or nostrils. Normally, the septum is supposed to be in the centre of the nasal cavities, equally dividing the nasal cavity. However, most of the time, it is a little off- centre. This just results in one nasal cavity being smaller than the other, which is not a major problem. But when the septum is more than slightly off- centre, this is the time when there is a deviated septum. It could be either a birth defect, or it could be the result of an accident or injury to the nose. In some cases, it is not a serious issue, but at times, it becomes so severe that it completely blocks the nasal cavity, and reduces the airflow. Most of the time, medications help, but if it is a severe condition, a surgery is necessary.
Causes of a deviated septum
Sometimes, the septum is deviated in the foetal stage, and only becomes obvious during birth. The most common cause though, is an injury to the head and nose. This is most apparent with kids, who are actively involved in sports, or it could also be due to sheer clumsiness.
Most often, the deviation is so minor that you won't even know you have a deviated septum but there are signs and symptoms that you need to be aware of, in case you have a serious condition. These signs are symptoms are:
- Blocking of nostrils - every so often do we get a blocked nose that doesn't let us breathe properly, these are the times we put it down to a cold or congestion. But in case, the blockage doesn't clear, and is not related to a cold or allergy, then you could have a deviated septum.
- Congestion - when you have a nasal congestion you experience a condition called post-nasal drip. This is when the mucus doesn't come out of your nose and goes back into your throat.
- Bleeding nose - when you notice an increase in the frequency of nosebleeds, this could be a sign too, as the nose becomes dry.
- Recurring sinusitis - another symptom is the recurrence of sinusitis with its typical blocked nose, headache, and face pain.
- Snoring or noisy breathing while sleeping - most people snore, but in case you notice a change in the pattern of snoring or noise while sleeping by children, there could be a more severe underlying problem of deviation in the septum.
How is a deviated septum diagnosed?
Diagnosis is made by physical exam. Your ENT doctor will carefully examine your external and internal nose. This involves using a nasal speculum to gently spread the nostrils and a bright light to examine the inside of the nose and septum.
A surgery is only necessary when treatment options like, decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal cortisone sprays fail to improve the situation. The only way to correct the problem is to go for surgery. The surgical procedure is called septoplasty. It repositions your septum, and takes up to 2 hours to complete. Though this procedure is safe, there are some risks involved, and are mainly pertaining to anaesthesia.