What is the nasal septum?

The septum is the wall in the middle of the nose.  It separates the right and left sides of the nose.

The septum is made of cartilage, bone, and a membrane called mucosa. You can think of these layers as being put together like a sandwich. The cartilage and bone are in the center. The mucosa covers each side of the cartilage and bone. The mucosa can be thought of as the skin inside the nose.

What is a deviated nasal septum?

The word deviated just refers to a septum that is not straight.

It’s important to remember that no one has a “perfectly straight” septum.  Everyone has natural little curves and bends in the septum.  For most people, these little curves don’t cause any real nasal problems.  The nose usually functions just fine even if the septum is not perfectly straight.

A deviated septum refers to a septum that is crooked. This means that it is bent, curved, or pushed to one side.  When the septum is deviated, it can narrow the inside of the nose.  This can cause nasal stuffiness and obstruction.  Sometimes, just one side of the nose feels congested.  In many cases, though, both sides are congested.

How would I know if I have a deviated septum?

The most accurate way to diagnose a deviated septum is for your doctor to examine the inside of your nose. Sometimes, a deviated septum can be seen right away near the entrance of the nostrils. In other cases, the deviated part of the septum is hidden inside the nose. Your ENT doctor may look inside your nose with a little camera called an endoscope to get a detailed look at the deeper parts of the nose. This can help diagnose things like a deviated septum.

Sometimes, a deviated septum can also be seen on x-rays or CT scans that show portions of the nose.

How is a deviated septum treated?

Many people with a deviated septum do not need any treatment for it. When the deviated septum is affecting the function of the nose, surgery can be helpful. Surgery to correct a deviated septum is called a septoplasty.

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