Having a deviated septum is more common than you might think. 80% of the population in the United States does not have a straight septum. The less serious cases don't represent a big impact on your health, or even in aesthetical terms; however, the greater the deviation, the more complicated the situation becomes.
A deviated septum is responsible for enabling and amplifying symptoms of other conditions such as sinusitis, allergies, colds, the flu or other respiratory problems. Since these conditions usually interfere with the tissues in and around your nose, increasing inflammation and swelling, the air that was already having difficulty getting inside your body might find some extra obstacles impeding the free flow.
Since this affects all your breathing, a deviated septum could also be responsible for lower sleep quality, in a condition called "sleep apnea": the relaxation of tissues when you sleep, the effect of gravity over them and the disadvantageous shape of your septum contribute to further blockage, and you will sometimes stop breathing during the night and resume a little while later.
Multiple techniques and tools have been developed over the years to ease the adverse effects of having a deviated septum. Decongestants, antihistamines, nasal sprays, and corticosteroid sprays help reduce the symptoms of illnesses that affect your nose; oral appliances, bed-side air pumps, and ranges of pillows and mattresses have been created to help you position yourself beneficially at night to breathe easily; in the extreme case that these don't work, there is also the option of undergoing surgery to correct the shape of your septum, which has more permanent benefits.
But how did your septum get the deviation in the first place?
What are the major causes of a deviated septum?
Direct Trauma and Injury to the Nose
The human nose is supported at the bridge and base by bones, but the part that protrudes from your face is a combination of small bones and cartilage. Even though this combination is very strong, it cannot withstand direct blows or impact to it, resulting in a broken nose or a serious deviation.
As your nose settles in after you're recovering from the injury, it might try to get back to the original position (due to what is called "shape memory"), but if the damage was extensive, the septum might become crooked and deviated. This will, in time, cause a series of problems in breathing, and empower conditions such as allergies, sinusitis, and such, as we described earlier in this article.
Car accidents and contact sports incidents are two of the major situations where noses commonly get broken and septums lose their favorable shape. The position, size, and features of your nose make it one of the first points of contact when you are falling to running into something at speed. To avoid nasty results, it's important to remember to keep yourself safe at all times. Your nose will thank you!
Deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA, is hereditary material passed from parents to their children, forming genes. These genes determine many traits that the child will display. Genetics studies these traits, how they are passed and even how, sometimes, their transmission is corrupted, leading to deformities, some of which might target your septum along with other body parts.
Being born with a deviated septum could be associated with having genetic connective tissue disorders. The connective tissue is responsible for connecting and holding together the other tissues present in the human body, namely epithelial tissue (found covering internal organs), muscle tissue and nervous tissue. There are three different disorders related to this issue:
As these conditions affect how the bones and cartilage connect in and around your nose, the way the connections were done may have led to the present deviation. Usually, since these conditions are serious, there is a doctor overseeing treatments and he will be able to tell what can be done to correct (or reduce the impact of having) a deviated septum.
Defects During Pregnancy
Apart from genetic causes, problems during pregnancy can lead to a deviated septum, among other conditions. Also called congenital disorders, this can happen due to exposure to certain medications or chemicals or infections present during pregnancy. These conditions can cause structural disorders (which change the shape of body parts) and/or functional disorders (which are related to how different body parts work).
As a result, the circumstances surrounding the development of a child inside her mother's womb can contribute to having a deviated septum. While there is nothing you can do retroactively to change this problem, it is a good thing to keep in mind if you're pregnant or are a soon-to-be father.
Deviation As a Result of Growing Up (and Growing Old)
As we age a lot of changes happen in our bodies. The nasal septum and many tissues around it are also susceptible to these changes, and they may or may not change its shape as the years go by. If you now have a deviation you suspect wasn't as serious before, find some pictures of yourself in the past, as major changes to the septum could also change the external shape of your nose, and give you a clue of when the transformations started happening.
There isn't much to be done regarding this particular reason, as the ways in which our bodies change are quite unique to each individual, the way you use your body is also singular and the external factors at play are particular to your experience.
The four possibilities we described above should give a good idea of how your septum became deviated. It could be the result of only one of the options we outlined above, but frequently it is the different combination and interplay if multiple causes that got your septum to where it is now. Whichever the cause, there are lots of ways to fix the problem, and it is usually very beneficial to do so.
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