We look at our noses every day in the mirror. Apart from the imposing presence that they have in our face, they are part of a very complex system responsible for pushing air from outside to the inside of your body. Apart from the visible portion, the nose continues inside your head through the sinuses and turbinates.
Two components of this system that we will be covering in this article are your septum (the structure in the center of your nose that separates both your nostrils) and the sinuses.
Sinus is a word in anatomy that refers to hollow cavities. It is most commonly used when discussing the nasal sinuses (nasal cavities). There are different kinds of sinuses, depending on their location:
There are two of each of the aforementioned sinuses inside your head.
These cavities are composed of soft tissue and coated with mucus. When you breathe in through your nose, the air passes through the sinuses. Here, the air is warmed, moisturized and some bacteria are filtered before the air continues its journey towards your lugs. From time to time, the sinuses will drain, renewing the mucus and clearing the bacteria. This drainage is done through the back of your throat, and you won't feel it happening.
Along with this very important task, the sinuses are a place where our voice resonates. The sound created by your vocal cords fills many different parts of your body, such as your chest, throat and the inside of your head.
When you speak or sing, the sinuses have an acoustic effect of providing some extra amplification to the sound. This is the reason why when your sinuses are blocked with mucus your voice changes drastically, as that empty space is now filled and can't properly amplify the sound.
Sinusitis is a condition in which your sinuses become infected. They start swelling, shrinking the available space, they will cause a feeling of pressure inside your head and the accumulated mucus might start coming out of your nose (when usually the correct way it should go is through the back of your throat).
If you have a deviated septum, which 80% of the people in the United States have, there might be some additional complications to the correct functioning of your sinuses. Read on to discover how they affect each other.
Can a Deviated Septum Cause Sinus Infections/Sinusitis?
Having a deviated septum means that the central division between each nostril is crooked, changing the morphology of the nose on the inside, usually reducing the available space for air to flow. The difference in the flow of air in each nostril might lead to changes in the sinuses as your respiratory system adapts to its unique shape. Some sinuses can even be completely blocked from receiving air.
This adaptation can change the shape of your sinuses, reducing their capacity to properly drain, sometimes leading to accumulated mucus. As the drainage process is failing, the sinuses will start to swell, the mucus will start spreading and you'll start feeling that familiar stuffy feeling very quickly.
What are the typical symptoms of sinus problems caused by a deviated septum?
A deviated septum enables a range of problems, increasing the symptoms of allergies, colds, the flu and also contributes to recurrent sinus infections, also known as sinusitis.
The typical symptoms you'll feel include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, frequent nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, and noisy breathing throughout the day. In extreme cases, it might also lead to snoring at night.
What is Involved in Deviated Septum Sinus Surgery?
When you decide to correct your nasal septum, your doctor will examine the internal shape of your nose to determine what needs to be done. The number one objective is to open up your airways to allow air to freely and evenly flow through your nostrils.
As such, straightening the septum might not be the only thing that needs to be done - sometimes, changes need to be made to the turbinates (the thin air channels made of bone), to your sinuses and to some benign polyps that might have formed in the mucus lining.
There are two types of surgery to correct your deviated septum and nurse your sinuses back to health. One of them involves cutting the bone and cartilage in and around the septum, including your turbinates, to open up the airways. The second one involves laser technology, where the tissues are heated to the point they can be shaped freely.
These procedures last up to one hour and thirty minutes, and after it's done you will be able to leave the hospital on the same day.
Tips for Recovering from Deviated Septum Sinus Surgery
Patients report mild to moderate pain when recovering from a deviated septum surgery, with complete recovery taking from one to two months. Here are some tips to quickly recover:
If you have multiple episodes of sinusitis every year then your deviated septum might be responsible for all the discomfort. Now that you know the relationship between these two factors. you can try to tackle the symptoms by using medication for the effects; or, if you don't experience major improvements over time, getting surgery will be the best option, as it is a more permanent way of opening up your airways, allowing your sinuses to work freely.
References and further reading: