The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.
A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections.
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Trauma is the most common risk factor. Contact sports, such as karate or football, increase the risk of trauma.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, paying special attention to the nasal passages.
Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called septoplasty. It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the 2 nostrils.
Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose ( rhinoplasty) is performed at the same time. The two procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.
To help prevent a deviated septum:
American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
HealthFinder—US Department of Health and Human Services
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons
Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Marcin Chwistek, MDLast Updated: 5/1/2014