The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.
A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections .
- Present at birth—arose during fetal development (5% of cases)
- Birth injury to the nose
- A blow to the nose, often during an accident or while playing sports
Risk factors include:
- Contact sports, especially karate or football without appropriate protective headgear
- Trauma is the most common risk factor
- Stuffy nose (one or both sides)
- Sinus infections
- Breathing noisily during sleep
- Facial pain or headache
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will examine the nasal passages. A nasal speculum will hold the nose open. A thin telescope is passed into the nose.
Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called septoplasty . It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the two nostrils.
Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose ( rhinoplasty ) is performed at the same time. The two procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.
To help prevent a deviated septum:
- Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
- Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014 -
- Update Date: 05/01/2014 -