Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Even if your nose looks totally straight, you might still have a problem lurking underneath the surface, and a little strip of cartilage may be the cause.
Separating the nostrils and nasal passages is the nasal septum, a wall made up of cartilage and thin bone. If any part of that wall is crooked or asymmetrical, it’s known as a deviated septum, and is way more common than you think: up to 75% of the population has the same issue.
About 20% of people are born with a deviated septum, and the rest are usually a result of a trauma to the nose - even from minor injuries. It might be something as minor as falling off your tricycle as a kid and bumping your face. There's no noticeable harm, but it causes a little bend in the cartilage that remains that way as you grow up.
Luckily, the majority of deviated septums don’t cause any issues. But for some, these little bends can turn into a major problem. Here are some signs that you may need to check out whether you have a deviated septum.
Symptom 1: Nosebleeds
When one side of your nasal passages is blocked through a bend in the cartilage, the airflow is no longer smooth, and that can cause the nasal lining to dry out. If that occurs, the resulting inflammation and irritation can cause tears in the tissue, causing a nosebleed.
If the nosebleed is minor, such as a few drops of blood when you blow your nose, then it's no big deal. However, if you’re getting nosebleeds frequently, like every day for over a week or so, and it's enough blood that you need to apply pressure to stop the flow, it's worth getting checked out.
Symptom 2: Frequent sinus infections
If a septum is very deviated, it can block drainage in the area, and this can cause bacteria or viruses to linger instead of getting flushed out. That increases your chances of repeated infections. You may notice feeling pain on either side of your nose, aches in your upper jaw or teeth, headaches, green or yellow nasal discharge, or coughs from the discharge going down the back of your throat.
Infections will also stick around longer with a deviated septum. That's because it’s not getting cleared out as quickly as it would be without the deviated septum.
Symptom 3: Nasal congestion
Another issue with the lack of drainage and improper airflow in the nose is regular congestion in the nostril due to the obstruction, which sometimes can be mistaken for allergies or a lingering cold.
Also, the congestion can cause excessive mucus production as your body tries to flush out the area. When that occurs, the mucus can start accumulating in your throat or the back of your nose, causing post-nasal drip.
The resulting sore throat and cough that comes along with the drip can strengthen the belief that you're struggling to beat a cold instead of dealing with a deviated septum.
Symptom 4: Noisy breathing or snoring
The congestion caused by a deviated septum can cause regular breathing problems, such as noisy breathing through the nose, or breathing primarily through the mouth instead. Mouth breathing causes its own problems, since it can cause dry mouth, a condition that may lead to dental health issues.
Even more seriously, the congestion might cause sleep apnea. When this happens, your breathing stops during sleep, setting you up for a host of potential health issues, from fatigue due to lack of sleep, to poorer brain function, to higher heart risks.
Symptom 5: Headaches
If your head is always pounding, your nose might be the reason. The pressure from nasal congestion, along with the decreased oxygen from your breath not flowing freely, can create sinus problems that ends in headaches. Because of that, you might feel soreness in your face and between your eyebrows, as well as the icepick-to-the-brain feeling of a migraine.
When to see your doctor
In general, if you’re battling with issues like these, it's best to get them checked out. The good news is that fixing a deviated septum is often easy. Your doctor may try medication such as nasal steroids first, which can reduce swelling, mucus, and congestion.
If medication don’t work, you might need surgery to fix the issue. Septoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to remedy a deviated septum. During septoplasty surgery, the septum is straightened and repositioned to the middle of the nose. A septoplasty can be performed by itself, or often it can be combined with a rhinoplasty nose surgery.
But even if surgery is needed, it’s an outpatient procedure. There’s no reason to suffer through these problems when they’re so simple to fix, if a deviated septum is the culprit. A septoplasty is a fairly common procedure and is the third most common head and neck procedure in the USA. Patients tend to do very well with these procedures, with downtime of around a week. The initial swelling subsides within a few weeks, although it may take a few months for you to receive the full benefits of septoplasty. During the initial healing period, there may be minor pain and difficulty breathing. Your physician will prescribe appropriate pain medication.
Whether your appearance changes from septoplasty depends largely on the extent of the procedure. Often, the issue can be remedied without any outwardly noticeable changes, but when the deviation is severe, your nose might be slightly altered once it heals.
If you believe you are suffering from a deviated septum, talk to your doctor and get a professional examination. If you have received a diagnosis of a deviated septum, and need surgery to correct it, please contact us to find out how we can help you with solving these issues once and for all.