What is a Deviated Septum? Your 2-Minute Guide

Have you ever discovered that you’ve been living with a “defect” in your body for a long time, and you didn’t even know it? It’s quite common. Many of us don’t make that discovery until we experience some symptoms or malfunctioning.

If you visit a snoring doctor and he or she tells you that you have a deviated septum, and that’s causing your snoring, you might be clueless as to what the doctor is talking about!

First Understand What a “Septum” Is

So what is deviated septum? To understand this, let us first understand what a “septum” is. A septum is a wall that divides your nasal cavity into two sections: the right and left nostrils. You can bend the firm front section of this partition, as it is essentially made of cartilage. It is made of a central skeleton covered on each side by mucous membrane.

Ideally the septum should be situated in the center of your nose dividing the nostrils into two halves of equal size. As amazing it may sound, close to 80% of people, however, have their septum displaced, making one nasal passage smaller than the other.

When the septum is situated more on one side, it is called a “deviated septum” – where “deviated” means displaced, or straying to one side. When the deviation is minor, you may not even know that you have a deviated septum. But when the situation is severe, it can actually block one side of your nose, reducing air flow drastically. So a deviated septum can result in breathing difficulty, frequent sinus infections, nose bleeds, nasal congestion and many more problems.

Why Do I Have a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum may be the result of a birth defect, or may be the outcome of a trauma to the nasal region.

How Do I Know If I Have a Deviated Septum?

As mentioned earlier, most of the time we do not even know that we have a deviated septum, when the deviation is minor. However, you may know that you have deviated septum if you have these following signs and symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulties, especially noticeable when you have a cold or suffer allergies that result in your nasal passages to swell and become narrow.
  • Nasal congestion or postnasal drip – this happens when mucus cannot flow out of your nose causing it to drip or remain at the back of your throat.
  • Facial pain and frequent headaches caused by sinus infections. Such infections can be the result of blocked mucus caused by deviated septum.
  • Frequent nose bleeds.

When Should I See a Doctor for Deviated Septum?

If you have blocked nostrils that do not respond to regular deviated septum treatment within 2 to 3 weeks, you need to see a doctor.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Deviated Septum?

So let’s assume that conditions like chronic sinusitis, snoring, or any of the symptoms mentioned above bring you to your primary care physician. The first question that you would be asked is if you have had a severe trauma to your nose or if you have had a nasal surgery in the past.

After this the doctor would examine the structure of your nose, including the position of the septum. This will involve the use of bright light and a nose speculum, an instrument that gently dilates your nostril. It is used to examine the internal surface of each nostril. In case deviated septum is diagnosed by your primary doctor, you may be referred to a specialist dealing with ear, nose and throat for further treatment.


  1. Bhavna says


    Myself, Bhavna Beedasy. Counselling psychologist as profession, i have a query to ask. I have a tendency to breath loud in my daily life. Unconsciously it happens and in order to avid that embarassement i breath through my mouth, so as not to make noise and make myself noticable.
    i am still thinking whether to visit a ENT doctor or not? Is my problem a disorder? Can it be diagnosed ? and also what is the remedy?

    Your advise will be of great help to me.

    awaiting for your response .


    • Marc says

      Hi Bhavna – thanks for your questions. The symptoms you’ve described could indicate one of a number of nasal problems. As you suggest, your best bet is to visit a ENT doctor, to get a diagnosis.


  2. Amanda says


    My three year old son has never had a runny nose. Never. If he gets a cold, the mucus goes straight to his lungs, and he develops a phlegmy cough almost instantly. He doesn’t have difficulty breathing, and doesn’t snore at night. Could he have a deviated septum? What else might be going on in his nose that won’t let the mucus flow?


  3. Marko says


    I am sixteen. A while ago, I broke my nose. I’ve had a minor surgery in order to reposition it, but when the doctors finished surgery, they found out about a small deviation that is preventing me from breathing normally. They said it was a birth defect, and I didn’t notice it because I got accustomed to it. They recommended me have a surgery in September. The only symptoms I’ve noticed are frequent nosebleeds(I thought that my sinuses were just weak). So, my question is how much will I feel the difference when they do the surgery? Also, will there be any changes to my nose appearance?


  4. says

    I have always suffered recurrent sinus infections, blood on my kleenex after blowing my nose, and sinus allergies accompanied by severe sinus pain and migraine-type pain headaches. Sometimes I have atacks of shortness of breath .I have since developed post nasal drip when sleeping, a runny nose when eating, and my right eye tears constantly. I have also had my nose broken twice, both in the same place, which my problems to worsen. I now suffer chronic fatigue and snoring. Tiring of the complaints about my snoring, I saw a pulmonologist, who conducted a sleep study. It was then discovered that I also have sleep apnea. I then saw an ENT who diagnosed a deviated septum. I will be having surgery for the deviated septum. My questions are: How many of my problems will be cured or significantly improved? Also, how many days will I be in pain and how severe is the pain? I have a low tolerance for hydrocodone (it gives me severe headaches) and hate to take it. Is there another pain killer that works just as well? Thank you for such a comprehensive web site and also for the answers to my questions.

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