A deviated septum is a condition characterized by the displacement of the thin wall, known as the nasal septum, between the two nasal passages. This displacement causes the septum to be off-center, resulting in one of the nasal passages being smaller than the other. Interestingly, up to 80% of the general population may have some degree of nasal septum deviation, with some individuals unaware of their condition due to the absence of noticeable symptoms.
However, when a deviated septum is severe, it can lead to significant problems. The blockage of one side of the nose can reduce airflow, making it challenging to breathe comfortably. In more severe cases, the constant exposure of the deviated septum to the drying effect of nasal airflow can contribute to issues such as crusting and occasional bleeding.
To alleviate these symptoms, various treatment options are available, including medications to reduce swelling. In cases where conservative measures are insufficient, surgical intervention is necessary to correct the deviated septum and restore proper nasal function.
Most septal displacements often go unnoticed, with no apparent symptoms. however, certain septal deformities can lead to the following signs and symptoms:
- Nasal obstruction: one or both nostrils may become blocked, making it challenging to breathe through them. this obstruction can become more noticeable during episodes of cold or allergies when nasal passages tend to swell and narrow.
- Nosebleeds: dryness on the surface of the nasal septum can increase the likelihood of nosebleeds.
- Facial pain: while there is ongoing debate about the potential nasal causes of facial pain, severe deviated septums that result in surfaces within the nose touching each other can generate pressure and potentially contribute to one-sided facial pain.
- Noisy breathing during sleep: nocturnal noisy breathing can be attributed to factors like a deviated septum or swelling of nasal tissues.
- Awareness of nasal cycle: typically, individuals do not consciously notice the nasal cycle, which involves alternating obstruction between the two nostrils. being aware of this cycle can suggest nasal obstruction.
- Sleeping position preference: some individuals may prefer sleeping on one side to optimize their ability to breathe through the nose, especially if one nasal passage is narrowed.
There are various factors that can cause a deviated septum:
- Congenital condition: Some individuals are born with a deviated septum, which means the displacement of the nasal septum was present from birth.
- Nasal injury: An injury to the nose can also lead to a deviated septum by pushing the nasal septum out of its normal position. This can happen during childbirth in infants, while children and adults can experience nose injuries due to accidents, contact sports, falls, fights, or other physical encounters. A broken nose is a common result of such injuries and can cause a deviated septum.
- Aging: As a person ages, changes in nasal structures can worsen an existing deviated septum, potentially causing increased obstruction over time.
- Infection-related swelling: Swelling and irritation of the nasal or sinus cavities due to infections can further narrow the nasal passage, contributing to nasal obstruction.
The risk factors associated with this condition include:
- Not using a seat belt while traveling in a motorized vehicle.
- Playing contact sports