You’ve been suffering from chronic nasal congestion and you tend to get sinus infections easily. Could you have a deviated septum? The septum is a wall that divides the nose into two passages. Normally these passages are equal in size. In simple terms, a deviated septum is a crooked septum. In other words, the septum, or part of it, is not in the middle of the nose. A deviation of the septum is caused by trauma. This could be birth trauma or an injury to the nose later in life.
What problems can a deviated septum cause?
If the septum is crooked, it may block one or both sides of the nose. Many people have a mildly deviated septum that causes no problems. The more crooked the septum, the more of a problem it becomes. The most common difficulty a deviated septum causes is blockage to breathing through the nose. In addition to causing airway obstruction on the side the septum is pushed into, swelling usually occurs on the concave or opposite side of the nose. This swelling may take months or years to occur. Therefore, an injury to a person's nose may not cause a stuffed feeling until the swelling finally occurs sometime after the actual accident.
What can be done to improve a deviated septum?
If the septum is crooked enough to cause symptoms such as those mentioned above, it can be surgically straightened. This operation is called a septoplasty where portions of the septum are removed and/or moved back towards the middle. No incisions are made on the outside of the nose. This type of surgery is generally done in a hospital operating room. Surgery lasts about 45 minutes and most patients are ready to leave the hospital 1‑2 hours after surgery.
What to expect from surgery to correct a deviated septum
Usually there is very little bleeding during or after surgery. The doctor will place gauze dressing under the nose to catch any mucus or blood during the first 12‑24 hours after surgery. Occasionally if the bleeding doesn't stop it is necessary to put a small pack in the nose to press on the bleeding area and thereby control it. The surgeon may also choose to use internal splints or stents to hold the repaired septum in position for a few days to a week. These will be removed in the office.
This operation does not cause black eyes. There is usually minimal swelling of the outside of the nose. The interior of the nose will be swollen for a few days to a week, causing you to feel all stuffed up as if you had a cold. It is unusual for there to be pain enough to take anything stronger than Tylenol.
Most people are up and around the same day if not the day following surgery. Returning to work may be reasonable two days to a week after surgery, depending on the type of work as well as how the person feels. The nose may be sore to the touch for a few weeks or so and normal breathing usually comes within 2‑3 weeks.
Our ear, nose and throat doctors at Advanced Specialty Care can evaluate and fix deviated septum issues. If you or your family member is having nasal breathing problems, visit one of our ENT offices in Norwalk, Ridgefield, Danbury, New Milford and Southbury, and let and an ear, nose and throat specialist help you with diagnosis and treatment options.