Identifying Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Options of a Deviated Septum

Dr. Nadim Bikhazi covers identification and steps to treat a deviated septum

The septum (partition between nostrils) provides structural support for one’s nasal cavity.  It is composed of cartilage (on the front part) and bone (on the deeper part).  Injury to the septum can lead to deviation (i.e. a deviated septum). This defines any septum which is not aligned as required for full functionality. In general, this will make the septum appear crooked, bent, and in essence out of shape.

This article engages the intricacies of this condition.

Common Symptoms

What are some of the symptoms for those with a deviated septum? How can one know this is a concern?

The following symptoms will present themselves:

1) Crooked Shape

2) Difficulty Breathing from Nasal Cavity

3) Stuffiness

4) Sinus infections

Most patients will display a combination of symptoms while suffering from this physical condition. If it is formulated due to an injury, the “sharp pain” will also become visibly aggressive. The treatment is then catered to these symptoms and that is why customized treatment plans are designed for each patient.

A standardized diagnosis involves examining the patient’s nasal cavity to ensure there is no underlying concern to handle.

Potential Causes

What causes a deviated septum? A segment of all patients can have genetic abnormalities leading to this structural concern. While this is rare, it has to be mentioned.

In general, the remaining causes are related to an acute physical injury (i.e. being punched in the nose). It’s recommended to have it assessed by a medical professional to ensure obstruction does not lead to further injury or discomfort.

Other times patients may not recall a particular incident but rather that they have never breathed well through the nose.  This may have been caused by an injury early in childhood which gradually deviates as the nose grows. The average patient will have an aggravated form of this structural condition. It can be due to an unexpected injury, which has misaligned an otherwise healthy septum. If that’s the case, immediate treatment can resolve the concern and let it heal back to normal.

A medical professional has to determine the cause before putting together a comprehensive treatment.

Treatment Options

How is a deviated septum treated? What does the medical professional have up their sleeve to remedy the concern?

Medications-decongestants usually offer limited benefit as there is a structural problem that most likely needs to be corrected by surgery.

There are various approaches to treatment for a deviated septum. A medical professional is authorized to customize a treatment based on the patient’s symptoms and structural needs.

Treatments can include:

1) Application of Ice (2-3 Days After Injury)

2) Reparation of Fractured Nasal Bone

3) Septoplasty or balloon dilation to correct the structural deviation.

Some patients will require all three forms of treatment at varying stages of the process. The medical professional will aim to reset the nasal bones if there are signs of external deviation.  This is best done within 2 weeks of the acute injury.

A septoplasty is needed to repair and correct the cartilaginous/bony deformity.  This surgery usually takes less than 1 hour to perform and the recovery is roughly 3-4 days.  Internal plastic splints are used to keep the septum straight while it heals.  These are easily removed in the first week.  Post-op pain is mild-moderate and not as severe as people believe.

Additional Tips

If dealing with a possible deviated septum, the patient can run a quick self-test. This can be done with a mirror-check for visible displacement or deviation. If nothing is noticeable (i.e. minor deviation), look for other symptoms such as those that are listed above. For prolonged discomfort, it’s best to speak with a medical professional.

Do not aggravate the deviated septum and cause further injury. Full protection is a mandatory requirement for patients who are in discomfort or pain. Exposing the nasal cavity during this period will heighten one’s sensations around the nasal cavity exponentially.

Generally, it is best to seek an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) Specialist to help determine the best treatment options on a case by case basis.