The nasal septum is the thin wall located between our nasal passages, beginning at our nostrils. When you look in a mirror, it is the part separating our nostrils from one another.
It is quite normal for the septum to be off-centre or “deviated,” meaning that one nasal passage is slightly smaller than the other. In cases where this is more severe it can lead to blockages in our nose, reducing airflow and making it harder for us to breathe. For some people a deviated septum can also cause crusting or bleeding in the nose.
Most of the time we won't be able to tell if we have a deviated septum. The deviation can be fairly minor and have little to no impact on daily life. However, a more severely deviated septum can affect us in a number of ways.
- Our nostrils can feel obstructed or blocked, which can get much worse when we have a cold or allergies which cause our nasal passages to swell up.
- If our nasal septum becomes dry, we might find that we have nosebleeds more frequently.
- We might also breathe noisily or snore during sleep, disturbing ourselves or others.
- We might prefer to always sleep on one side as this makes breathing easier.
Over time, these symptoms can start to impact upon our quality of life. Having a blocked nose can be very frustrating, making it harder to breathe and reducing our sense of smell. There can also be quite significant implications for our sleep. If we have nosebleeds, these can be disruptive and distressing. A nasal blockage which causes us to snore can affect our loved ones and those around us, sometimes placing a strain upon our relationships.
A blockage in our nose might be caused by swelling of the tissues lining the nasal passage. There are various medications which can help to reduce swelling, and nasal dilators can also be used to open up our nasal passages. However, if the blockage is as a result of a deviated septum, a special type of nasal surgery called septoplasty will most likely be required to fix the problem.
Some people are born with a deviated septum, meaning that that displacement happened in the womb during foetal development. A baby's septum can also become displaced during birth. There are many nose traumas or injuries which can happen to us as children or adults which may lead to a deviated septum, including injuries from contact sports and collisions such as car or bike crashes. The ageing process can also play a part, worsening the effect of a deviated septum as we get older.
If you think you have a deviated septum, the best thing is to come in for an assessment where I can carry out a thorough examination and work out exactly what is going on. I'll be able to suggest the best course of treatment, making sure that you are totally clear about all the details, and there will be a chance for you to ask any questions. If you have a severely deviated septum, surgery may be the best way to fix the problem. If I believe surgery will be helpful, I'll talk you through things clearly, so that you have all the information you need to make an informed choice about whether to have surgery or not. The choice will always be in your hands, and you will never be pressured into choosing surgery.
The operation to correct a deviated septum is called a septoplasty. It is performed under general anaesthetic and is a day case procedure, meaning you will usually be able to return home on the same day as the operation.
During septoplasty the deviated tissue in your nose is removed and the cartilage taken out, straightened and then replaced. Your nose will be swollen for a few weeks after the surgery, and I usually recommend that you take at least two weeks off work to recover. It can take several months for your nose to feel totally normal, but a successful procedure will effectively deal with the symptoms of a displaced septum.
At Circle, our Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Unit specialises in providing an accurate diagnosis for any medical conditions relating to the ear, throat and nose, followed by any appropriate non-surgical or surgical treatment that is needed.
As a dedicated ENT doctor, I have spent years helping people achieve a better quality of life by providing treatment for the range of illnesses and injuries that can hold us back. If you are suffering with any of the symptoms of a displaced septum, the best thing is to come in for an examination. I will be delighted to meet with you and to assess the best way forward.
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