What is Septal Deviation?

The nasal septum is the structure that divides the inside of the nasal cavity and separates the right side of the nose from the left side. It is comprised of cartilage in the front and bone in the back. Ideally, it should sit in the center of the nose so that there is an equal airway on both sides. However, trauma or anatomical malformations can push the septum to one side.

Signs of Septal Deviation

Often, the level of deviation is so insignificant that a patient may live his or her entire life without noticing an issue. The following unpleasant symptoms can be a result of a significant deviation:

  • Frequent facial pain
  • Nose bleeds
  • Snoring
  • Headache
  • Sinus infections
  • Nasal obstruction

What Causes Septal Deviation?

A septal deviation is typically a result of trauma, although in some cases it is simply how a patient’s nose developed during his or her childhood.

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Our quiz measures symptoms, along with frequency and duration, and is used as a tool for diagnosis and treatment.

A septal deviation can be diagnosed in three possible ways.  The first test detects deviations in the front of the nose.  The second and third tests can detect a deviation further back in the nasal passage.


Anterior rhinoscopy is an examination that uses a light and a nasal speculum.  This process detects if there is a deviation that might be in the front of the nose.

Nasal Endoscopy

Nasal endoscopy uses a flexible fiberoptic endoscopy to access the posterior (back) portion of the nasal cavity.  Nasal endoscopy is performed by sliding a tiny camera through the nasal passages. This procedure doesn’t require anesthesia, although some patients may prefer a numbing nasal spray. Usually, an endoscopy can be completed with no medications at all. This procedure is performed routinely in our Sinus Center office and allows our physicians to fully access each patient’s anatomy.

Medications will not cure a deviated septum; however, there are medications available to help relieve symptoms caused by a septal deviation.


Some medications include:

  • Decongestants (Mucinex-D, Sudafed)
  • Antihistamines (Zyrtec, Allegra, Clarinex,  Xyzal, Claritin)
  • Nasal steroids (Nasacort, Nasonex, Omnaris, Veramyst, Flonase)
  • Nasal antihistamines (Patanase, Astepro)


For patients with a severe septal deviation, medication is usually less effective, and patients may ultimately require surgery.


Septal reconstruction (septoplasty) is a procedure used to straighten deviated cartilage within the septum. This surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure and takes approximately 30–45 minutes. Septoplasty is performed entirely through the nose and will not leave external scars or bruising after surgery. Long-term benefits include alleviation of nasal obstruction, improved sinus drainage, and decreased snoring.

Recovery Time

Patients traditionally need to refrain from physical work for at least five to seven days after this surgery. For patients who work from home or do mostly desk work, it’s okay to return to work within three to four days.


Patients traditionally see a notable improvement in their breathing after surgery. Symptoms such as chronic nosebleeds, snoring,  and headaches are greatly reduced.