Ear, Nose & Throat

How to Tell if You Have a Deviated Septum

Fri, Sep 16, 2022

How to Tell if You Have a Deviated Septum

A deviated septum in the nose can be mild or severe. In the latter case, it can block one nasal passage, making it difficult to breathe. It can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including snoring, dry mouth, and a sensation of being congested.

Knowing how to tell if you have a deviated septum is important because treatments are available. If you suspect you have this nasal deformity, a specialist can confirm the diagnosis and give you both non-surgical and surgical treatment options.

What is a Deviated Septum?

 A view of a prepped operating room shows surgical equipment and instruments.

The nasal septum is a thin cartilage wall that divides the two nasal passages. It should run straight through the nose, but it can be crooked and off-center. When this occurs, it is known as a deviated septum.

You might get a deviated septum as a result of physical trauma to the nose. Contact sports and car accidents are among the most common causes of deformity to the nasal septum.

However, some people are born with the condition. If you were born with a mild deformity, it might not trouble you until conditions cause it to worsen. Inflammation or mild trauma can make it worse. Aging also affects nasal tissue and could make the deviation more severe.

How Can You Tell if You Have a Deviated Septum?

An ear, nose, and throat specialist is in the best position to tell you if you have a deviated septum. There are several characteristic signs that indicate an issue with the septum. If you suffered an injury to the nose and have any of these signs of a deviated septum, talk to a specialist:

  • A feeling of congestion and difficulty breathing through one side of the nose in particular
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • Snoring or generally noisy breathing while asleep
  • Mouth breathing during sleep

Less commonly, a deviated septum can cause pain in one side of the face. This is more likely with a severe deviated septum.

Treatment for a Deviated Septum

Septoplasty surgery is the only treatment that actually corrects the deformity of a deviated septum. However, if symptoms are mild, a specialist might recommend you attempt non-surgical interventions first. If these don’t help you get relief, you can try surgery next.


Anti-inflammatory medications and decongestants decrease swelling in nasal tissue to improve breathing. Medications are not ideal long-term solutions, as some are stimulants that can make you feel jumpy. Some decongestant sprays can cause dependency if used too frequently. Antihistamines might help, but they can also make you drowsy.

Steroid Sprays

A nasal steroid spray can also reduce swelling and help drain fluid from the nasal passages. It takes a few weeks of using the spray to see any positive effects.


Ultimately, the only thing that can fix or cure a deviated septum is surgery. Septoplasty is a surgical procedure used to correct the deformity. Surgeons use it to treat adults but not often young children unless the deviation is severe.

An ear, nose, and throat specialist—or otolaryngologist—will examine you to determine if a septoplasty is the right treatment option. They perform the procedure by going through the nostrils. This approach limits bruising and other signs of surgery. Some patients undergo a rhinoplasty at the same time, which does cause bruising and increases recovery time.

A septoplasty typically takes just an hour or two to complete and is an outpatient procedure for most patients. You might receive general or local anesthesia. The surgeon will readjust or even remove part of the septum, depending on the specifics of the deformity. You can expect to go home the same day to recover.

Full recovery takes a few months, at which point the nasal tissues will be totally stable again. Until that point, it is important to be avoid any trauma to the nose. Your surgeon will explain what to do and not to do during recovery, but generally, for a few weeks you should:

  • Avoid blowing your nose.
  • Keep your head elevated while sleeping.
  • Avoid clothing that you have to pull over your head.
  • Refrain from engaging in strenuous exercise or activities that could trigger a nosebleed.

A septoplasty is a fairly common and very safe procedure. If you notice signs you have a deviated septum, talk to a specialist to make sure this is the underlying issue and to learn about your treatment options. Contact us today to request an appointment to speak to one of our ear, nose, and throat specialists.

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