Merck Manual

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Deviated Septum

By

Marvin P. Fried

, MD, Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020
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Deviated septum is a condition in which the nasal septum is bent or off center, causing one nostril to be smaller than the other.

Inside the nose is the nasal cavity, which is divided into two passages by the nasal septum. The nasal septum is composed of both bone and cartilage and extends from the nostrils to the back of the nose. Usually, the nasal septum is straight, lying about in the middle of the two nostrils. Occasionally, it may be bent (deviated) because of a birth defect or injury and positioned so that one nostril is much smaller than the other. Most people have some minor deviation of the septum so that one nostril is tighter than the other.

Symptoms

A minor deviation usually causes no symptoms. However, if severe, a deviation may block one side of the nose, causing nasal congestion and making a person prone to inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis), particularly if the deviated septum blocks drainage from a sinus into the nasal cavity.

Also, a deviated septum may make a person prone to nosebleeds because of the drying effect of airflow over the deviation. Other symptoms may include facial pain, headaches, and noisy night breathing.

Diagnosis

  • A doctor's evaluation

Doctors can usually see the deviation during an examination.

Treatment

  • Usually no treatment

  • Surgery

A minor deviation usually requires no treatment. A deviated septum that causes breathing problems or causes troublesome symptoms may be surgically repaired. This usually requires a common procedure, most often done under general anesthesia as an outpatient. Most often, the results are very successful.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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