Dealing with a deviated septum: What you should know
Did you know that an estimated 80 percent of people in the United States struggle with breathing properly due to a crooked or deviated nasal septum?
The nasal septum is a wall of cartilage and connective tissue that separates the nasal passages. When the nasal septum is off-center, or crooked, it causes a nasal obstruction to one or both nasal passages. Nasal obstruction can occur from a variety of causes, including a condition present at birth, trauma or an accident, prior surgery or nostril collapse (also known as “valve collapse”).
When a deviated septum is severe, it can block one side of a patient’s nose and reduce airflow, causing difficulty breathing – particularly during acute illness, such as an upper respiratory infection (URI) and sinusitis.
Most septal deformities do not show any symptoms and many patients are not aware they have a deviated septum. However, some septal deformities may cause the following signs and symptoms:
Obstruction of One or Both Nostrils. This obstruction can make it difficult to breathe through the nostril or nostrils. This may be more noticeable when a patient has a cold (upper respiratory tract infection) or allergies that can cause the patient’s nasal passages to swell and narrow.
Nasal Congestion and Sinus Infections. A deviated septum can lead to frequent sinus infections and post-nasal drip (PND).
Nosebleeds. The surface of a patient’s nasal septum may become dry and increase his or her risk of nosebleeds.
Disturbed Sleep. A deviated septum and swelling of the intranasal tissues can negatively affect a patient’s quality of sleep and can lead to dry mouth due to chronic mouth breathing.
Steps for Treatment
For people who experience mild symptoms, over-the-counter and prescription treatment options are available at the local drugstore.
For those who suffer from severe nostril obstruction, frequent nosebleeds or recurring sinus infections, or believe they have a deviated septum, scheduling an appointment for a consultation with an otolaryngologist, or a double-board certified head and neck surgeon, and facial plastic surgeon is recommended. Depending on particular factors pertaining to each patient, the surgeon may suggest a septoplasty procedure.
A septoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to realign the septum and restore a patient’s ability to breathe properly. Although septoplasty procedures do not cause changes to the external appearance of the nose, septorhinoplasty procedures are available for patients who wish to correct the internal alignment of the septum, while altering the external, aesthetic appearance of the nose for facial harmony.
Sometimes external changes are required to help with breathing issues. For example, in a nose that has been traumatized or has had surgery in the past for any reason, it is often necessary to place cartilage grafts taken from the septum, the ear, or rarely the rib, to reconstruct the nose to give it better function. A comprehensive evaluation of the internal and external nose is performed at the consultation, which usually includes a CT scan to examine the septum in its entirety along with the sinuses.
Depending on a patient’s diagnosis and insurance coverage, procedural costs to correct a deviated septum may be partially or significantly covered by insurance.
For more information about functional septorhinoplasty procedures, please schedule a consultation at Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center or contact us at 424-644-2400.
Kian Karimi, MD, FACS is board certified in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery and is fellowship-trained in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Recognized nationwide for his expertize, Dr. Karimi maintains an active practice in general otolaryngology, facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, and endonasal endoscopic skull base surgery. As part of the Pacific Eye, Ear & Skull Base Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute, he is affiliated with Providence Saint Johns Health Center, as well as having privileges at UCLA-Santa Monica.