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Deviated Nasal Septum

(Deviated Septum)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention


The nasal septum is the wall that separates the left and right nostrils. A centered septum allows air to flow equally through each nostril. In a deviated nasal septum, the wall is not centered.

A deviated septum may cause no symptoms at all. In severe cases, airflow through one or both nostrils may be blocked. A blocked nostril may cause chronic stuffiness and a tendency to get sinus infections.

Deviated Septum

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Causes include:

  • Present at birth—arose during fetal development (5% of cases)
  • Birth injury to the nose
  • A blow to the nose, often during an accident or while playing sports

Risk Factors

Risk factors include:

  • Contact sports, especially karate or football without appropriate protective headgear
  • Trauma is the most common risk factor


Symptoms include:

  • Stuffy nose (one or both sides)
  • Sinus infections
  • Nosebleeds
  • Breathing noisily during sleep
  • Facial pain or headache


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will examine the nasal passages. A nasal speculum will hold the nose open. A thin telescope is passed into the nose.


Most people will not require treatment. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. Surgery on the septum alone is called septoplasty. It relieves nasal blockage by centering the septum between the two nostrils.

Sometimes surgery to reshape the nose ( rhinoplasty) is performed at the same time. The two procedures together are called septorhinoplasty. Children who need surgery usually wait until they have stopped growing, around age 16.


To help prevent a deviated septum:

  • Wear seat belts in automobiles and airplanes
  • Wear appropriate protective headgear when playing sports

American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery


HealthFinder, US Department of Health and Human Services



Canadian Society of Otolaryngology


The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons



Beers MH, Berkow R, et al. Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 17 th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck and Company;1999.

Fact sheet: deviated septum. American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/deviatedSeptum.cfm. Accessed July 24, 2008.

Last reviewed March 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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