Dealing with a stuffy nose during allergy season or cold season can be annoying, but if you find yourself dealing with congestion more often than not — and specifically the kind of congestion where you actually notice continually changing obstruction in your nasal passages — there’s a chance you might be living with a deviated septum.
If you’re sitting there right now thinking, “What is a deviated septum, and should I be fearful if I have it?” the good news is that it’s a pretty common nose disorder that can usually be treated by medications, or in some cases, corrected by surgery once it's diagnosed by a doctor. Read on for a few key things to look out for when it comes to deviated septums, and if you feel like you might be dealing with one, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.
What Is a Deviated Septum, and What Are the Symptoms?
The thin wall between your nasal passages is called your septum, and when that thin wall is displaced or pushed to one side, it creates a deviated septum. When a person’s septum is severely deviated, it can block one nostril, limiting the airflow. This results in a feeling of congestion or stuffiness.
Deviated septums can be congenital, but most of the time they’re caused by trauma to the nose (i.e., catching a football with your face instead of your hands).
Some of the more common symptoms of a deviated septum include: a pretty constant feeling that one or both of your nostrils are stuffed up, nosebleeds, choosing to sleep on one side because it’s easier to breathe on that side, and “noisy breathing” or snoring. However, some people with deviated septums may not notice any symptoms at all, only discovering it after a doctor’s appointment.
Can a Deviated Septum Be Fixed?
There are typically two lines of defense against deviated septums once they’ve been diagnosed: symptom management and surgery. Symptom management usually involves your doctor prescribing an antihistamine, nasal decongestant, or nasal steroid sprays. Breathe Right strips, which lift and open nasal passages to provide instant relief, can be used along with these medications to provide additional drug-free support at night.
If a person continues to suffer symptoms even after trying these medications, a septoplasty may be required. During this operation, the nasal septum is straightened and repositioned. Occasionally, rhinoplasty (which is surgery to reshape the nose) is performed along with a septoplasty.
If congestion and a stuffy nose have been a part of your life for way too long, it’s time to make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor to get those nostrils checked out! Receiving a diagnosis is the first step toward finding relief, and it can provide some big improvements in your daily life (and your nightly sleep).
[Nasal strips may provide temporary relief from symptoms of nasal congestion due to deviated septum, but nasal strips should not be considered as an alternative to definitive surgical correction.]