Nasal septum is the structure that divides and separates the nostrils. It is partly cartilaginous, but has bony parts too. This structure runs in between the left and right airways of the nose. Nasal septum has a thin skin covering that is rich in blood vessels. The ideal positioning of this structure is through the centre, so that the nostrils on both sides are equal in size. However, such normal nasal septum is uncommon as more than 80% of humans are said to have slightly deviated ones. Deviated nasal septum is a condition that denotes displacement of the septum from its normal position. Minor deviation to any one side is very common, but, in some people, it can be so severe that the person will experience difficulty in breathing, along with a myriad of other symptoms. So, deviated septum can occur in varying degrees and the symptoms and treatment will also vary.
Causes of deviated nasal septum
As mentioned above, the severity of nasal septum deviation may not be the same for all. It has been observed that in most cases, the septum is slightly deviated to one side, making that nostril narrower than the other. This condition is so minor that it may not even cause symptoms, and goes unnoticed. But, this does not mean that all such cases will be asymptomatic. However, most of those with severe nasal septum deviation will show symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Even the cause may sometimes play a role in the severity of deviation. The following are some of the common deviated septum causes.
So, a slight deviation of the nasal septum is considered normal. According to ENT specialists
, such small degree of deviation normally happens after the age of seven. In such cases, deviation is mostly found to occur towards the right nostril.
The most common cause for moderate to severe nasal septum deviation is injury or trauma. Such injury is very common in sports persons. A blow to the face, tripping on the staircase, getting hit by a ball or some other thing, colliding with another person or any other such reason may cause deviated septum. In case of newborns, such injury (like compression of septum) is common during normal childbirth process.
In some people, septum deviation is found to be associated with genetic connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Symptoms of deviated nasal septum
The severity of symptoms is proportional to the degree of deviation. While minor deviations may not cause any symptom, some people may develop some problems, as and when they contract cold or respiratory tract infection. However, moderate to severe septum deviation can cause a wide range of symptoms. In this case too, the type of symptoms may depend on the nature of the deviation. The skin that covers the nasal septum may get dry and cracked, casing nosebleeds
. The deviation may block the airflow causing difficulty in breathing
, which may aggravate with cold or respiratory tract infection. Sinus infections are also common in such people, as the normal mucus drainage may get affected. They may also experience post nasal drip, nasal congestion
, snoring, facial pain and headaches
Treatment of deviated nasal septum
A condition of deviated septum that is not causing any bothersome symptoms or problems can be simply managed using medicines like decongestants, antihistamines
, etc. But one that is causing frequent nosebleeds, sinus infections, severe breathing problems or other troublesome symptoms, is usually treated with a surgical procedure called septoplasty. It is a permanent fix for the problem. In this surgery, the surgeon may readjust or get rid of the deviated portions of the septum, so that the septum can be moved to a normal position and the breathing space of the nostrils is even out.
Sometimes, septoplasty could be combined with rhinoplasty
wherein, the surgeon performs a surgery to improve the appearance of the nose or reshape the same. Together, the procedure is called septorhinoplasty.
Recovery from septoplasty depends upon the severity of the deviated septum. Complications of the surgery are rare and may include infection, perforation in the septum, reduced or loss of sense of smell, and bleeding.
One cannot do much for preventing a deviated nasal septum
which occurs at birth. However, for those who have not come across this medical disorder, it is wise to take the necessary steps to prevent any injuries to the head or nose. Always wear seat belts while driving and helmets while riding bikes. People who are in contact sports should take appropriate protection. Normally, a deviated septum does not raise any major concern and it can be dealt with the help of medicines. Problem occurs when the deviation is so severe that it can block the nasal passageway completely and the affected person finds it difficult to breathe through his/her nose. And because of this, the condition could be more severe in small children.