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Understanding and Testing for a Deviated Septum

Nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, and frequent sinus infections can be more than just minor inconveniences—they might be symptoms of a deviated septum. This common condition, where the nasal septum (the bone and cartilage dividing the nostrils) is displaced, can often go unnoticed. If you’re experiencing persistent nasal issues, a simple deviated septum self test can help determine if a deviated septum is the culprit. Luckily there are options to help correct this issue such as Septoplasty surgery. 

What is a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum occurs when the nasal septum is misaligned, causing one nasal passage to be smaller than the other. While it’s estimated that over 80% of people have some form of nasal deviation, the severity can vary significantly. Some individuals might experience no symptoms, while others could struggle with significant nasal obstruction, sinus infections, and other related issues.

Common Causes of a Deviated Septum

Deviations of the nasal septum can result from several factors:

  • Injury or Trauma: Sports injuries, accidents, or even rough handling of the nose can lead to a deviated septum.
  • Congenital Conditions: Some people are born with a deviated septum due to genetic factors or issues during fetal development.
  • Age-related Changes: The cartilage in the nose can deteriorate over time, leading to deviation.

Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

The symptoms associated with a deviated septum can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the deviation:

  • Nasal Obstruction: One of the most common signs is difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils. This can affect daily activities and quality of life, making it hard to breathe freely, especially during physical activities.
  • Frequent Sinus Infections: Blocked nasal passages can lead to chronic sinus infections. When the sinuses cannot drain properly, mucus builds up, creating an environment for bacteria to thrive, resulting in repeated bouts of sinusitis.
  • Nasal Congestion and Drainage: Persistent stuffiness or a runny nose can be indicators. This can cause discomfort and may require constant use of nasal decongestants or other remedies to manage the symptoms.
  • Nosebleeds: The dryness and irritation from a deviated septum can cause frequent nosebleeds. The uneven airflow can dry out the nasal membranes, leading to cracking and bleeding, which can be particularly bothersome.
  • Facial Pain: Severe deviation can result in facial pain, especially around the nasal area. This pain can sometimes be misinterpreted as a headache or migraine, complicating the diagnosis and treatment.
  • Snoring and Sleep Issues: Difficulty breathing through the nose can lead to snoring and disrupted sleep. This can affect not only the person with the deviated septum but also their sleeping partner. Over time, poor sleep quality can lead to fatigue, irritability, and other health issues.

In severe cases, a deviated septum may require surgical intervention, such as septoplasty, to correct the deviation and improve the quality of life. Regular check-ups with an ENT specialist can help manage and treat the symptoms effectively.

Self-Test for a Deviated Septum

While a medical evaluation is needed for a definite diagnosis, you can do a simple self-test at home to check for a deviated septum:

  1. Close One Nostril: Use your finger to close one nostril.
  2. Breathe In: Take a deep breath through the other nostril.
  3. Switch Sides: Repeat on the other side.

If there’s a big difference in airflow between the two nostrils, you might have a deviated septum. Doing this test regularly can help identify if there’s an ongoing issue.

Treatment Options

Treatment for a deviated septum depends on how severe the symptoms are:

  • Medications: For mild cases, decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays can help manage symptoms.
  • Surgery (Septoplasty): For more severe cases, septoplasty is recommended to realign the septum. This involves an incision inside the nostril to reposition the septum, and sometimes removing and reinserting it for better alignment.

Post-Surgery Recovery

Recovering from septoplasty involves managing swelling and bruising, which are common after the procedure. Most patients can expect to resume their normal activities within a few weeks, though individual recovery times may vary. It’s essential to follow post-operative care instructions meticulously to ensure proper healing and symptom relief. This often includes keeping your head elevated, applying ice packs to reduce swelling, and avoiding strenuous activities. Regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon are crucial to monitor progress and address any concerns that may arise during the recovery process.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you often have nasal blockage, recurrent sinus infections, or similar symptoms, it might be time to see a specialist. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve your quality of life.

For those thinking about septoplasty or other treatments for a deviated septum, consulting a qualified plastic surgeon can offer personalized advice and a tailored treatment plan.

By recognizing the signs and doing a simple self-test, you can take control of your nasal health. If you think you have a deviated septum, seeking professional advice is the best way to get effective treatment and relief from symptoms.

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