Do you have trouble breathing? How about snoring, headaches, and face pain? You could be suffering from a deviated septum. A deviated septum happens when the bone and cartilage (nasal septum) separating the nasal cavity in half is crooked and pushes towards one side. This can cause problems breathing because it makes one side of the passage smaller. About 80% of people suffer from some type of alignment problem within their nasal septum, most of them not knowing about it.

Deviated septums can be caused by trauma or an injury to the nose. People can also be born with one. This can cause headaches, postnasal drip, loud breathing, nosebleeds, snoring, face pain, lack of sleep, and more serious, sleep apnea. Treatment includes medications that if minor, can bring some relief. Other times, if bad enough, surgery is required.

Surgery for a deviated septum, septoplasty, requires a small incision to be made so the surgeon can take out extra cartilage or bone. This opens up space for breathing in the nose. Another type of surgery that some people get for deviated septums is septorhinoplasty, which is septoplasty and rhinoplasty (nose job) combined to change how the nose looks. Sometimes this surgery is also used with surgery for sinuses.

Septoplasty is typically an outpatient surgery that requires local or general anesthesia. It can take roughly one and a half hours and the patient is usually release a few hours later. After the surgery, the doctor will place gauze (packing) or splints inside the nose to help it stay set, heal and to avoid infection. This surgery comes with minimal bruising and swelling. It is recommended that the patient wait until age 15 or so when their nose is at full size. In some cases, with minor deviated septums, a new balloon procedure is being used. This helps for those who are not sure about surgery.

If you are having problems breathing and with your sinuses, talk with your physician. They can check to see if it is a deviated septum, or refer you to a specialist (ENT – ear, nose and throat physician), who can discuss treatment and surgery options. There are a few risks with septoplasty which include bleeding, a septum hole, loss of smell and infection. These are rare but can still happen.