Having a deviated septum is fairly common. So how do you know it’s time to see a doctor about yours? Read on to learn the signs.

Of course you know that you have two nostrils. But did you know that they can be different sizes?

Your nostrils and nasal cavity are divided into halves by your nasal septum. Ideally, that separation will be equal, but in fact, in 80 percent of the population, it isn’t.

This asymmetrical quality is what’s called a deviated septum. While many people aren’t aware they have this issue or can only tell when they have a cold, if the septum is severely off-center, it can cause problems. Here are the signs you should see an ear, nose and throat specialist for treatment.

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  1. Frequent sinus infections: A deviated septum can prevent adequate drainage of your sinuses, which can lead to infections.
  2. Difficulty breathing: A crooked septum can obstruct one or both nostrils, making it difficult for you to breathe through your nose. The situation may get worse when you have a cold or allergies, when your nasal passages become swollen and more narrow.
  3. Frequent nosebleeds: When your septum is deviated, your nasal passages can be drier, which, in turn, can cause more frequent nosebleeds.
  4. Difficulty sleeping: Anyone who has ever had a cold knows how hard it can be to sleep when you can’t breathe through your nose properly. Those with a deviated septum may favor sleeping on one side of their body for easier breathing. It can also cause loud nighttime breathing, or snoring, which could disturb a partner’s sleep.

“If you have severe nasal obstruction, and allergy and sinus medications do not improve your breathing, you may be an excellent candidate for nasal airway surgery,” said Amit Kochhar, MD, clinical assistant professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and director of the USC Facial Nerve Center at Keck Medicine of USC. “The best place to begin is an appointment with your ear nose and throat specialist or facial plastic surgeon. They have the best training to diagnose if your underlying issue is a deviated septum. If so, a small surgical procedure may be all you need to dramatically improve your breathing and quality of life.”

The standard treatment for a deviated septum is septoplasty. During the surgery, your surgeon will reposition and straighten your septum so it is straight. They may have to cut and remove parts of it, then reinsert them to get them in the proper position. Septoplasty may be done on its own or in conjunction with rhinoplasty to reshape the nose itself.

By Anne Fritz

If you are in the Los Angeles area and suffer from issues related to a deviated septum, schedule an appointment with one of our ear, nose and throat specialists by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting ent.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.