A deviated septum may prove more difficult to manage with the onset of allergies and other nasal passage-blocking ailments.
Do you have trouble inhaling through one or both nostrils? Are you subject to frequent nose bleeds? Do your partners accuse you of being a noisy sleep-breather? A deviated septum might be to blame, but fear not: it's treatable.
A deviated septum results when the cartilage-and-bone barrier wall between the nostrils strays to one side such that one nasal passage is bigger than the other, potentially making it harder for air to flow in and out of the nose. In most cases, you're born with a deviated septum or you acquire on through nasal injury: Because facial anatomy isn't perfectly symmetrical in the vast majority of humans, many noses show some degree of septum deviation, according to Abtin Tabaee, M.D. associate professor in the department of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Treatment is typically only considered in cases of significant nasal obstruction, and while deviated septum surgery can correct the condition, whether or not it's worth the cost and recovery time is a subjective question.
"Ultimately, this is a patient quality-of-life issue rather a medically harmful condition," Tabaee told Women's Health. "Treatment is therefore based on the severity of the patient’s symptoms."
A deviated septum may prove more difficult to manage with the onset of allergies and other nasal passage-blocking ailments. Evaluation will require a patient's complete medical history, consultation with an otolaryngologist (or ear, nose, and throat doctor—ENT), and an endoscopy, which entails sticking a lighted, camera-tipped tube up a patient's nose to take a look inside the nasal passages. Treatment might constitute medication for allergies or rhinitis conditions, Tabaee said, but if a deviated septum really interferes with the patient's daily life, surgery might be a worthwhile route.
Deviated septum surgery, or septoplasty, repositions the nasal septum in the center of the nasal cavity, moving the bone and cartilage through the mucous and skin layer lining the nose. This shouldn't change the patient's facial appearance at all (unless the patient has also requested rhinoplasty), but the surgery is often performed together with other procedures to improve nasal obstruction.
Septoplasty is typically an outpatient procedure performed in an operating room, Tabaee said, for which patients can expect to miss two to three days of work if they're employed. Post-surgery pain and mild bleeding often linger for a day or two, while tissue swelling and nasal congestion can last for one to two weeks. Patients can expect to use a saline spray or rinse, and to meet with their surgeon for periodic cleanings during recovery. But, according to Tabaee, the procedure is low-risk and "generally highly successful." So if your deviated septum is causing you habitual discomfort and eternal stuffiness, consult with a doctor to see if you might be a good candidate for septoplasty.