All You Need to Know About a Deviated Nasal Septum
A deviated nasal septum, or DNS, is a physical disorder of the nose affecting the nose and leading to breathing and other problems.
What is a deviated septum?
Made up of bone and cartilage, the nasal septum separates the nostrils and ideally lies exactly at the center of the nasal cavity. It is meant to divide the nostrils evenly and ensure the left and right sides of the nose are of equal size. However, in about 80% of people, the nasal septum is a little off-center. This slight displacement is only considered ‘deviated’ if the shift is substantial or leads the individual to experience symptoms due to the displacement.
What causes a deviated septum?
DNS can often be the result of injuries to the nose, causing the nasal septum to be moved out of position, although it more commonly occurs during childhood when the nasal bones are still soft, it is known to occur in adults too. A deviated septum could also be a congenital disorder, caused either by compression of the nose during childbirth or during fetal development.
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What are the symptoms of a deviated septum?
A deviated septum can result in the following symptoms:
- Blockage of nostrils: The deviated septum creates narrower nasal passageways, often on one side, leading to blockage. This can make it difficult to breathe through the nose and lead to dry mouth due to constant mouth breathing. However, in cases of milder deviation, blockages occur only when the individual has a cold or another respiratory tract infection that worsens their nasal airflow.
- Nasal congestion: This commonly occurs on one side due to it being narrower than the other.
- Frequent nosebleeds: DNS can make the nasal passages dry and cracked by disrupting regular airflow in the nose, increasing the risk of nosebleeds.
- Frequent sinus infections: The altered airflow in the narrower nostril can also lead to sinus openings being blocked, triggering sinus infections that either last longer than usual or recur.
- Postnasal drip: The narrowing of one’s nasal passage due to DNS can prevent proper drainage of mucus, leading to mucus draining into the throat and causing congestion and cough. A deviated septum can cause the mucus to build up and thicken, making the congestion worse.
- Headaches and facial pain: This can occur due to congestion itself. Or it can be triggered by bone spurs from the injury that caused the deviated septum, which could either stab a part of the nose from within, or exert pressure on one side from within.
- Disturbed sleep: Blocked airways due to DNS can worsen sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Regardless of whether they have sleep apnea, however, people with DNS also experience more disturbed sleep, on account of not being able to breathe comfortably through the night.
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How is a deviated septum treated?
Decongestants, antihistamines, or nasal sprays with steroids are sometimes prescribed to treat symptoms resulting from DNS. However, the surgical option of a septoplasty, which involves realignment of the septum, is also recommended in some cases.