A deviated septum occurs when the wall of cartilage and bone within the nose is crooked. Consistent nasal obstruction can affect everything from your ability to get a good night’s sleep to your overall well-being. While you may blame chronic congestion, allergies, or a persistent cold, it could be an underlying issue like a deviated septum.

Keep reading to discover what a deviated septum is and when to seek medical attention for your symptoms.

I. What is a Deviated Septum?

The nasal septum is the thin cartilage and bone wall separating the nostrils. Although the wall should evenly divide the nasal airways, it often leans (or deviates) to one side and creates asymmetrical passageways. This is called a deviated septum. A deviated septum is extremely common, affecting 70-80% of people. In many cases, the deviation is not too severe, and there is an absence of symptoms. Many individuals with the condition do not realize they have it.

A deviated septum is often caused by a blow to the face, car accidents, or sports injuries and can cause noticeable changes in one’s appearance and breathing. Deviations in the septum can also occur gradually as the cartilage shifts and bends with age and are common at birth. No matter how a deviated septum forms, it can interfere with the ability to sleep and breathe comfortably. Because a deviated septum doesn’t get better on its own, medical attention is often necessary to correct the defect and ease any severe symptoms.

II. Common Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

When a septum deviation becomes severe, blockages can develop in one or both sides of the nasal airways. This then causes difficulty breathing through the nose, especially when patients struggle with allergies or cold symptoms. For many, with increased nasal obstruction often comes a constant feeling of clogged sinuses, facial tenderness and pressure, headaches, and pain.

A displaced septum inhibits proper drainage causing the sinuses to become infected. People with a deviated septum often experience chronic or recurring sinus infections, which only increase pain and discomfort. A misaligned septum can also snoring and interrupted breathing or sleep apnea. Patients may find they can only sleep on one side due to blockages or an extremely narrow nasal passage. Another symptom of a deviated septum is recurrent nosebleeds. The bent septum wall affects how air passes through the nose, causing the moist nasal passages to become dry, resulting in frequent nosebleeds.

III. Warning Signs That Indicate It’s Time to See a Doctor

deviated septum Any of the symptoms mentioned above may cause enough discomfort for patients to seek medical attention. Persistent sinus infections, nosebleeds, and poor sleep can especially affect a person’s overall well-being and quality of life. If you know that you have a deviated septum and experience chronic infections or pain, reach out to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Even if you don’t think you have a deviated septum but are still experiencing these symptoms, contact an ENT specialist. The septum wall can move or become more severe over time and cause breathing problems later in life, so it’s worth scheduling a consult.

Other warning signs include worsening or new symptoms, especially ones that interfere with your sleep schedule or affect your breathing. Nosebleeds that occur regularly or weekly are also signs that it’s time to seek medical attention.

Keep in mind that a deviated septum doesn’t go away on its own and may worsen over time. Patients with any symptoms that affect their quality of life should discuss treatment options with an ear, nose, and throat specialist. 

IV. Diagnosis and Treatment

An ear, nose, and throat specialist can generally diagnose a deviated septum with a physical examination and a careful review of the patient’s medical history and symptoms. If needed, the specialist will apply a numbing spray and perform a simple fiberoptic nasal endoscopy. This diagnostic procedure involves inserting a thin tube with a light into the nasal passageway for better visibility. Mild symptoms from a deviated septum can be treated at home with decongestants, saline rinses, and antihistamines. However, these only temporarily relieve symptoms and can change the shape of the septum wall or widen the nasal passages.

Septoplasty, or deviated septum repair surgery is the most effective treatment option that provides long-term to permanent relief. Many people pair this procedure with a rhinoplasty to fix the inside and outside of their nose in the same operation. Because septoplasty is a complex surgery that requires general anesthesia and significant recovery time, there is a minimally invasive treatment known as VivAer.

VivAer Treatment offers long-term relief by reducing nasal blockages and opening the nasal airways. The procedure requires no incisions and is performed as an outpatient ENT treatment. Nearly all VivAer Treatment patients experience vast nasal breathing improvement (97%) and better sleep (89%). 


A deviated septum is much more common than many people realize. If you experience chronic nosebleeds, sinus infections, and congestion, consult with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to learn if you have a deviated septum and if you are a good candidate for VivAer Treatment.