Dr. Andrew Ordon from the hit TV show The Doctors explains deviated septums and how to treat them.

What is a deviated septum, and how can it be treated?

A septum is the partition that separates the nasal cavity into two halves. It’s made up of bone and cartilage, and its function is to increase surface area inside the nose, making the things the nose is supposed to do — filter, humidify, warm the air and maintain proper air flow — easier to accomplish. When the septum is crooked, or deviated, all of those functions are disrupted, altering the normal function of the nose.

Symptoms of a deviated septum include the inability to breathe on one or both sides of the nose, snoring, sleep apnea and, depending on the deviation, sinus problems. If the septum has a spur, or outgrowth of bone, then there may actually be pain in the area as well.

A deviated septum is typically caused by trauma to the nose, which can occur at birth. Newborns have soft, pliable noses, and the strain of a vaginal birth may bend the septum. Other causes may include genetics or trauma to the nose throughout the normal course of a life, sports injuries, or any type of blunt force trauma.

If a patient has sinus problems or nasal obstruction, an examination is done because there are many possible reasons for these types of symptoms besides nasal obstruction. Similar symptoms can be the result of allergies or vasomotor rhinitis, which is the engorgement of the nasal lining due to pollutant stimuli. Another cause can be enlarged turbinates, which are filters on the sides of the nasal cavity. We first look to rule these things out; many times, a patient may have a combination of things going on.

If a deviated septum is found, then we would consider doing a septoplasty, or reshaping and reforming of the septum. A septoplasty procedure is not the same as a rhinoplasty — a rhinoplasty makes changes to the outside of the nose in a cosmetic sense. Oftentimes the two are combined in a rhinoseptoplasty, depending on what the patient needs or wants.

A patient with underlying allergy problems may respond to a course of decongestants, steroids, nasal sprays or allergy testing — in many cases, a deviated septum can be repaired via surgery, which results in the patient responding better to allergy treatments after the procedure.

Side effects of a septoplasty are extremely minimal, with a typical patient having no bruising or swelling of the area. Discomfort is also minute — if there was a spur on the bone, many people feel immediately relieved of its pain after surgery. As always, if you sense a problem or are experiencing pain or discomfort, consult a physician.

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Dr. Andrew Ordon is a board certified surgeon in the areas of aesthetic, plastic and reconstructive surgery and co-host of the Emmy®-nominated syndicated series, The Doctors. He is a proud, founding member of the Surgical Friends Foundation that offers complimentary reconstructive surgery around the world for those who cannot afford medical treatment. Many of these patients suffer from birth defects, physical abuse and burns, among other adverse conditions.