Deviated Septum – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Deviated septum

In the case of a deviated septum , the septum deviates from the normal straight and central position and is crooked or curved. Deviated septum is very common hereditary, but it can also be acquired through an injury, such as a blow to the nose.

What is a deviated septum?

The nasal septum curvature is a deviation (deviation) of the nasal septum (septum) and is referred to with the medical term as septum deviation.

The nasal septum consists of both cartilage and bone. It usually runs down the middle of the nose and separates it into two nasal cavities. However, since the human body is never completely symmetrical and designed as in the textbook, it is completely natural and very common for the nasal septum to be slightly curved. This is the case for about 80% of people.

As long as one is not restricted in one’s breathing, this small deviation can be considered normal. One speaks of a pathological (pathological) deviated septum when it causes breathing difficulties or frequent inflammation, which may not only infect the nose but also the sinuses and throat and lead to chronic symptoms.


Deviated septum is either congenital or acquired. The congenital form is hereditary. Acquired deviated septum can be caused by trauma to the nose. It can happen that after a hit on the nose, for example from a fall or during sports, the bone breaks and then does not grow back together evenly.

In children who are still growing, the bony and cartilaginous parts of the nasal septum may grow at different rates, causing the nasal septum to become crooked. Even if the midface bone does not grow evenly, a curvature can develop.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The central hallmark of deviated nasal septum is interference with normal breathing . Congested noses quickly lead to a complete blockage of the airways. Not only the crooked nasal septum alone is responsible for the symptoms. The unfamiliar flow of air through the nasal passages also contributes to the symptoms.

Complaints about a blocked nose are more common, although this appears completely clear during an examination. In many cases, those affected do not experience any pain or other symptoms. However, a subsequent displacement due to an accident or swelling of the mucous membranes quickly leads to problems.

Severe colds, but also an allergic cold then block the passage for breathing air. The permanent narrowing of the airways leads to an accelerated air flow. As a result, the mucous membranes dry out quickly and are more prone to nosebleeds . If the curvature of the nasal sheath affects the air circulation in the paranasal sinuses, recurring inflammation can be observed in these areas.

Bacterial infections even threaten to become permanent under these conditions. If the curved nasal septum is in direct contact with the turbinate, it increases the tendency for spontaneous headaches to occur . Excessive flow of secretions, on the other hand, is not one of the typical signs.

On the other hand, the misalignment of the nasal septum occasionally reduces the sense of smell . The reduced nostrils disturb those affected in their sleep. Pronounced snoring and audible nasal whistling massively reduces the quality of sleep. As a result, patients suffer from a reduced ability to concentrate the following day .

Diagnosis & History

A slight curvature of the nasal septum does not usually cause any symptoms. In the more severe form, breathing through the nose is often difficult because the flow of air is impeded by the crooked course of the septum. Those affected therefore breathe more through the mouth, which can lead to more frequent inflammation in the throat ( pharyngitis ) and snoring .

The nose is no longer adequately ventilated and as a result germs settle in the nasal cavities. This leads to a runny nose and swelling of the nasal mucosa. In the further course, inflammation develops, which spreads to the sinuses ( sinusitis ). Since the nose normally filters the air we breathe and frees it from germs, pure mouth breathing can cause the germs to travel through the trachea to the lungs and trigger acute bronchitis there.

The doctor can use a rhinoscopy to examine the inside of the nasal cavity and determine whether there is a deviated septum. For this purpose, a nasal endoscope (tiny camera) is inserted after a surface anesthetic (numbing) of the nasal mucosa. This enables the doctor to see the exact position, condition and course of the nasal septum and to make a reliable diagnosis.


If left untreated, a deviated nasal septum can lead to complications that limit the quality of life of those affected. Complications can also occur in the course of treatment, for example in the form of a nasal septum operation (septoplasty). Since a deviated nasal septum makes it difficult to breathe through the nose, those affected unconsciously breathe through their mouth.

Such breathing problems often result in throat infections and restless sleep. In addition, the risk of viral infections increases, which can trigger protracted sinusitis (sinusitis). If those affected suffer from these symptoms in the long term, an operation on the deviated nasal septum should be carried out.

Since superfluous pieces of cartilage and bone are removed during this operation, the overlying sensitive mucous membranes must first be removed. If the surgeon inadvertently injures the mucous membrane, this can lead to the formation of a hole in the nasal septum. This would have to be removed with the help of another surgical procedure. After the operation, bleeding under the mucous membrane may occur.

These can lead to the formation of a bruise (septal hematoma). A septal hematoma must be drained during surgery. An operation on the nasal septum can impair the sense of smell and lead to a change in the shape of the nose. Permanent numbness in the nose can also occur. The operation is performed under general anesthesia. Accordingly, the typical side effects of anesthesia can occur. This can lead to nausea, difficulty swallowing or hoarseness, for example.

When should you go to the doctor?

If changes in the shape of the nose occur as a result of an accident, blow or fall, a doctor should be consulted. If you experience pain, discomfort or breathing difficulties, you need to see a doctor. A deviated septum can develop from a sudden event or during the natural growth and development process.

A doctor’s visit is necessary as soon as disturbances or discomfort occur and the person concerned feels the need for relief. If there is a feeling of tightness in the nose, abnormal speech and swelling of the mucous membranes, it is advisable to have the symptoms clarified by a doctor. If a fear of suffocation sets in or a feeling of lack of oxygen develops, a doctor is needed.

Nosebleeds, infections and persistent colds are signs of health problems. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time or if they increase in intensity, a doctor’s visit is advisable. In the case of sleep disorders, rapid fatigue and exhaustion, a check-up visit with a doctor should be initiated.

A feeling of illness, psychological abnormalities and peculiarities of behavior are further indications of a health problem that should be examined and treated. If feelings of shame arise or the person concerned withdraws from their social environment, there is usually a problem that should be discussed with a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

If the curvature of the nasal septum is so severe that it causes symptoms, it must be treated surgically. A septoplasty is performed; nasal septum straightening and/or septal resection, removal of portions of the nasal septum to bring it back into a straight position.

If possible, children should only be operated on after the growth phase has ended, otherwise there is a risk that the septum will move again. The operation usually takes place under general anesthesia and is performed through the nostrils. The doctor separates the nasal cartilage from the bone, removes or straightens the deviated portions of the septum, and straightens the septum back together.

Depending on the severity, the procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes. At the end, special tamponades with air tubes inside are inserted into the nose for 1-2 days. They allow you to breathe through your nose immediately after the operation.

Outlook & Forecast

A deviated septum offers a good prognosis. Curvature can be treated effectively nowadays. Surgical straightening of the nasal septum is usually successful. The procedure makes it easier to breathe through the nasal cavity. However, there is a risk of complications, such as inflammatory diseases. In addition, the nasal septum may deviate again. If the curvature of the nasal septum is not treated surgically, there is a risk of recurrent inflammation in the ENT area.

Those affected suffer from difficult breathing and other symptoms. Well-being is significantly reduced by these side effects. Life expectancy is not reduced by a deviated septum. However, the quality of life decreases and in the long term health problems can arise due to the lack of oxygen.

People who suffer from a deviated septum should consult an ENT doctor . The doctor makes a prognosis with regard to the severity of the curvature. In addition, the prognosis is improved by good control of the nasal septum. If there is a suspicion that a deviation will occur again, this can be prevented by an early operation. In conclusion, a curvature of the nasal septum offers a very good prognosis if it is recognized and treated early.


There is no way to prevent a deviated septum as it is either congenital or caused by injury. However, it is recommended to have the malposition treated by a doctor as soon as possible, so that no further symptoms and damage to the respiratory tract occur as a result of the curvature of the nasal septum. However, you should avoid martial arts such as boxing, as the risk of getting a deviated septum from a blow to the nose can be significantly high.


In most cases, the measures and the options for aftercare for a deviated nasal septum are significantly restricted and reduced. Therefore, those affected should ideally consult a doctor at an early stage so that no further complications or symptoms can occur. As a rule, the sooner a doctor is consulted, the better the further course of the disease.

Therefore, those affected should initiate an examination at the first signs and symptoms. In most cases, a deviated septum is treated by surgery. After that, those affected should rest and also protect their body. You should refrain from exertion or other stressful and physical activities in order not to unnecessarily burden the body.

Bed rest should also be observed for full recovery to occur. As a rule, this disease does not reduce the life expectancy of the patient. After a successful procedure, regular checks and examinations are still very useful in order to identify other complaints at an early stage. However, further aftercare measures are not available to the person concerned and are also not necessary.

You can do that yourself

Patients with a deviated nasal septum are subject to an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. Those affected should therefore always ensure that they do not expose themselves to unnecessary stress and avoid places where a high level of transmission of existing pathogens is to be expected. The immune system can be strengthened with a healthy and balanced diet . In the fight against viruses, bacteria and other germs, the body’s defenses can be mobilized more quickly. A vitamin-rich diet and the avoidance of harmful substances such as alcohol and nicotine are advisable.

Physical exertion should also be avoided. Due to the limited ability to breathe, this causes symptoms. Nevertheless, sufficient mobility is important for maintaining health. If stressful situations arise, regular breaks should be taken. Keep calm so that the situation is not aggravated by hectic activity. Meditative exercises or the practice of yoga are helpful for this . This stabilizes the inner balance and at the same time supports necessary physical movement. Premises should always be checked for good oxygen levels. Regular ventilation and walks promote the absorption of oxygen and relieve heart activity.

In addition to the limitations and stresses of everyday life, a surgical intervention should be considered. This can bring about lasting relief, which may not be achieved by self-help despite following all the instructions.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.