If you are having difficulty breathing through your nose or one side is smaller than the other, a deviated septum may be to blame. Take a good hard look in the mirror and observe whether the cartilage that divides your nostrils has moved out of position.

If your symptoms are severe, an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) may refer you for treatment. Surgery may be needed to repair a crooked septum and improve airflow.


The nasal septum is a thin wall made up of bone and cartilage that divides the right and left nasal passages. If its position becomes deviated (deviation), air cannot flow easily between either nostril, leading to symptoms like nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, discharge from either nostril, difficulty sleeping through breathing issues and difficulty inhaling during sleep.

If you suspect a deviated septum, consult either your primary care doctor or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will review your symptoms, medical history, physical exam and use instruments like an otoscope (light-filled scope) or nasal endoscope (a thin flexible tube fitted with light and camera to examine inside ears, noses and sinus passages).

Most people with deviated septums find symptom relief through medication without surgery being required. However, if these treatments don’t help or the deviation is severe enough that surgery might be needed to correct it and improve breathing.


Deviated septums can be diagnosed based on symptoms and physical examination. Your healthcare provider may use a handheld tool called a nasal speculum to open your nostrils gently so they can assess the shape, size and impact of the septum on nasal passages. Your healthcare provider will also discuss symptoms as well as any past injuries or trauma to the nose.

Your doctor will review your health history and perform a physical exam, which includes an in-depth inspection of the inside of your nose and sinuses with an otoscope (nasal endoscopy).

Symptoms may include difficulty breathing through one side of the nose, difficulty snoring and nosebleeds as well as sleeping on one side to optimize airflow. Treatment begins with medications to reduce inflammation and congestion such as decongestants or nasal steroid sprays – these may help alleviate some symptoms but they will not treat the root of the problem.


Undergoing surgery to correct your deviated septum can dramatically improve breathing, reduce or eliminate nasal blockage, sinus headaches and nosebleeds, as well as other related symptoms. While surgery will likely address most issues relating to your nose, allergies and asthma symptoms will still likely need to be managed with at-home treatments.

Crooked septae can disrupt normal sinus drainage, leading to frequent or chronic sinus infections. Your physician can diagnose deviated septae by gathering your medical history and performing a physical exam; they may also use a small endoscope with light to check inside of nostrils and nasal cavity.

Some individuals with mildly deviated septa can only experience temporary symptoms when suffering from a cold or sinus infection, exacerbated by airflow problems caused by their deviated septum; these temporary effects typically resolve themselves once their respiratory or sinus condition clears. Other people experience constant discomfort from breathing difficulties related to their deviated septum even without an underlying respiratory infection or allergy trigger present.


Even though many people with deviated septums don’t experience symptoms, it is still wise to see a physician if you experience nasal congestion or sinus infections. Either a primary care provider or an ENT can confirm whether your symptoms are caused by deviated septum and offer medical or surgical solutions to relieve them.

Most adults and children suffer from a crooked nasal septum that restricts airflow through the nose and sinuses, often leading to symptoms like constant congestion or pressure on one side, bloody noses, blocked sinuses which result in frequent sinusitis attacks, loud breathing or snoring during sleep, loud breathing or even loud snoring while asleep. Treatment options for a deviated septum include medications and surgery known as septoplasty to straighten out its shape, called septoplasty. Bone or cartilage removal during septoplasty allows airflow through both nostrils more evenly; surgery usually occurs without anesthetic. If medications fail to help, an ENT doctor may perform additional surgery involving removal of portions of nasal septum through deviated nasal septectomy procedure.

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