The wall between the nostrils that separates the two nasal cavities is called the nasal septum. It is made up of cartilage and bone and ideally should run down the center of the nose, equally separating the nasal passages. In many people, the septum is not straight, making one nasal passage smaller than the other. When the nasal septum is significantly off center, blocks one side of your nose, reduces airflow and makes breathing difficult, it is called a deviated septum. A deviated septum can also lead to sleep apnea, snoring, nasal congestion, sinus infections and nosebleeds.
Deviated septums may be congenital, meaning present at birth, or the result of an injury to the nose, such as a broken nose.
Diagnosing a Deviated Septum
It is common for the septa to be unequal in size and is typically treated only when it results in heavy snoring, sleep apnea or interferes with a person's quality of life. To diagnose a deviated septum, the physician will examine the nose using a nasal speculum to spread open the nostrils.
Treatment of a Deviated Septum
Symptoms may be managed with medications but to correct a deviated septum, septoplasty surgery is needed. Septoplasty is usually performed when breathing problems and snoring do not get better with medication.
Septoplasty is a surgical procedure to treat a deviated septum and, in some cases, reduce the size of an enlarged turbinate.
Septoplasty usually takes about 90 minutes and can be performed under local or general anesthesia. A surgeon will work through the nose and make an incision in the septum. The surgeon will then remove the excess cartilage or bone that is causing the septum to deviate. After the septum is straightened, small splints, sutures or plastic tubes may be used to stabilize the septum.
Recovery time is usually about a week, with full recovery after a month.