The nasal septum divides the middle of your nose and is made of cartilage and bone. The turbinates are swellings on the outer walls of the nasal cavities. Both the nasal septum and turbinates are covered with a delicate mucosal tissue that regularly swells. The purpose of the septum and turbinates is to purify, heat and moisturize the air we breathe before it gets to the even more delicate lungs.
A deviated nasal septum is when the dividing bone or cartilage of the middle of the nose is twisted to one or both sides. If the septum is crooked you will have a higher likelihood of inferior turbinate hypertrophy as well. A septal deviation will allow turbinate hypertrophy because the structures inside the nose tend to grow to fill any open area. A deviated septumto the right will make a sapce for the left turbinate to grow. Both septal deviation and turbinate hypertrophy can be addressed during surgery. If you were to just straighten the septum without reducing the turbinates, you could create an obstruction on the opposite side. Turbinate hypertrophy (enlarged turbinates) are excessive swelling of the turbinates that block the nose. Nasal congestion can be caused by allergies, viral infections, dust or an anatomical obstruction inside the nose. These conditions can make breathing difficult, cause sinusitis, create snoring, daytime fatigue, and sleep apnea. Nasal congestion can sometimes be successfully treated with over the counter (OTC) and prescription oral medication or nasal sprays.
A misaligned septum makes it more difficult for air to pass through the nostrils and into your lungs. As a result, you may encounter trouble breathing—especially when you have a cold or allergies. Those conditions make your nasal passages swell and narrow, which further constrains your ability to breathe.
A clogged airway or impaired breathing through your nose often leads to sinus infections, post-nasal drip or what many people simply term “common cold” symptoms. If medicines do not help cure your sinus infections or nasal drip, you should seek help from an otolaryngologist.
People with a deviated septum feel “clogged up.” That can lead to headaches and facial pain. In some cases, facial and nose pain is caused by the nasal septum actually contacting the outside wall of your nose. Obviously, that’s a severely deviated septum and one that merits an exam by a trained ENT doctor.
One or all of these deviated septum symptoms can contribute to great difficulty sleeping. You know the frustration of trying to sleep when you’re heavily congested. Now imagine that condition nearly every time you lay your head on a pillow. A deviated septum can cause you to lose sleep and that can make you irritable. More critically, a deviated symptom can contribute to sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep disorder and can prove fatal.
How is a Deviated Septum Treated?
Fixing a crooked or fractured nasal septum is referred to as septoplasty. During septoplasty, your nasal septum is straightened and repositioned in the middle of your nose. The surgery will help reposition your septum to the proper position. Turbinate reduction is called a turbinoplasty. You may need these procedures if you have tried maximal medical management for your congestion that has not given you adequate breathing improvement. The purpose of the surgeries is to improve breathing, correct sleep apnea, or to decrease or eliminate sinus infections. The procedures are performed through the nostrils to reduce the enlarged turbinates and straighten the deviated nasal cartilage and bone. No external incisions are needed. The operating time is usually less than an hour and performed at a state of the art ambulatory surgery center. You probably don’t want to be awake so general anesthesia is usually used. Patients recover and generally get to go home an hour or two later. Breathing may be noticeably improved as soon as one week after the procedure. Breathing continues to improve over the next 12 months.