Your septum is the thin wall of cartilage that separates your nostrils from each other. While it should align evenly in the center and make your nostrils the same size, sometimes it becomes slightly deviated, which results in one nostril being larger than the other. If this unevenness is severe, this is referred to as a deviated septum.
While it is estimated that up to 80% of all septa are deviated to some degree, most people do not experience any symptoms from their deviated septum and require no treatment. Treatment for a deviated septum is only necessary if the condition is causing other health issues or is negatively impacting the quality of life. Here is a look at some of the treatment options.
If your deviated septum is causing symptoms, your doctor will likely first try to manage these symptoms before moving on to other more invasive treatment options. These treatments may include:
Decongestants: Sometimes a deviated septum can cause swelling in the nasal tissue, which causes your nasal airways to become blocked or restricted and leads to difficulties breathing. One way to treat this problem is to take an over-the-counter decongestant medication, which works to reduce the swelling in your nasal tissue and helps to keep the airways in both nostrils open. You can take decongestants as either a pill or a nasal spray, though nasal sprays are associated with dependency if they are used too often and can sometimes cause your symptoms to worsen once you stop using them. Decongestants are also a stimulant, meaning they can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to be elevated, resulting in an overall jittery feeling.
Antihistamines: If you are experiencing allergy symptoms as a result of your deviated septum, they can be treated with over the counter antihistamines. Antihistamines can sometimes cause drowsiness and should be taken with caution.
Nasal steroid sprays: Nasal corticosteroid sprays are prescription medications that work to reduce any inflammation that has developed in your nasal passages as a result of a deviated septum. However, it can take anywhere from one to three weeks for a steroid spray to reach the maximum effect, so make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Since medications for a deviated septum are usually only a temporary fix, you may need a more permanent solution if your symptoms are more severe. Some surgical options for correcting a deviated septum include:
Septoplasty: This is the most common way to repair a deviated septum, and it involves straightening and repositioning the septum into the center of your nose. This requires the surgeon to cut and remove parts of the septum and then reinsert them into the correct position. Most symptoms will usually completely resolve after this type of surgery.
Rhinoplasty: Sometimes, surgery to reshape your nose is also performed at the same time as a septoplasty in order to modify the bone and cartilage of your nose.