A woman wearing a red shirt holding the bridge of her nose.
Around 80% of people suffer from a deviated septum, which can cause nosebleeds, facial pain, and sleep disturbances.

What to Know About a Deviated Septum

The nasal septum is the thin tissue between your nasal passages. When that tissue is displaced or pushed to one side, it is called a deviated septum. In this article, you will learn how to tell if you have a deviated septum.

If the septum deviates to one side, the size of the nasal passages will not be equal in size. One nasal passage will be larger than the other.

Some people do not experience symptoms with a deviated septum. In fact, you may only know you have a deviated septum after a physical exam by a doctor. But in other cases, symptoms occur.

Keep reading below to learn more about a deviated septum and learn how to tell if you have the condition.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

Most people do not have completely equal nasal passages. In fact, as reported by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, about 80% of people have an off-center nasal septum, which makes the nasal passages uneven.

The severity of the deviation can vary from mild to severe. Usually, the more severe the deviation, the worse the symptoms are.

Signs and symptoms you may have a deviated septum include the following:

  • Blocked nose: One of the main signs of a deviated septum is upper airway obstruction. Because one side is smaller than the other, it can lead to a blocked nose in one nostril. It may be more apparent when you have a cold or allergies, and your nasal passages become swollen.
  • Facial pain: If the deviation is severe, it can lead to facial pain. The exact reason some people develop facial pain with a deviated septum is not clear. But it appears that the surfaces on the inside of the nose may touch, which can lead to discomfort.
  • Nosebleeds: The surface of the nasal cavity may become dry, which can lead to nose bleeds. Many people get an occasional nosebleed. But if you get frequent nosebleeds, it may be due to a deviated septum.
  • Dry mouth: Because the deviation can cause a blocked nose, it is common to breathe through your mouth. Chronic mouth breathing can often lead to dry mouth.
  • Snoring: The deviation can lead to problems breathing. It is even more common to have a blocked nose when lying down, which can lead to noisy breathing when sleeping or snoring.
  • Disturbed sleep: Since it can be uncomfortable to breathe when lying down, it can interfere with good sleep.
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What Causes a Deviated Septum?

Some people are born with a deviated septum. If you are born with a deviated septum, it might be mild and not cause symptoms. Many people with a congenital deviated septum are unaware that their nasal passages are unequal.

The other cause of a deviated septum is an injury or trauma to the nose. Trauma to the area can push the septum out of alignment. Various types of injuries can cause a deviated septum, such as car accidents, falls, and injuries from contact sports.

A deviated septum from an injury is often worse than one that someone was born with. Whether the deviation is something you were born with or due to an injury, it can become worse as a person ages.


If you have some of the signs and symptoms above, you may have a deviated septum, especially if you have had an injury to your nose. But to get a definitive diagnosis, it is important to see a doctor.

Getting a Diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will take a medical history and ask about your symptoms. Additionally, the physician will examine the inside of your nose to determine the extent of the deviation.

Treatment for a deviated septum is not always needed. If you do not have symptoms or if symptoms are mild, treatment may not be recommended. But if symptoms are present and bothersome, treatment options are available.


In many cases, treatment is conservative and may include medications to ease nasal stuffiness. Different types of medication are available that may decrease swelling in the nose and help ease stuffiness. Medications to open the nasal passages include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Nasal strips
  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • Saline nasal spray


If the above treatments do not work and symptoms are severe, surgery may be an option. Surgery for a deviated septum, called a septoplasty, involves the surgeon removing the excess bone or cartilage.

Typically, a septoplasty is performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the extra cartilage, which helps straighten the nose and correct the deviation. In some cases, splints are inserted into the nostrils to help support the septum and keep it straight.

Most people recover well from surgery for a deviated septum. Although rare, complications can occur and may include excess bleeding, pain, and infection.