Your nose is a delicate structure made of bone and cartilage that promotes facial harmony, ensures you are breathing properly, and protects your sinuses. The septum is one of the biggest parts of that structure. It provides stability to your nose as a whole, and separates your nasal passages to keep the air flow regulated. When your septum is broken, bent, twisted, or mangled, it can cause significant problems with your breathing and your overall health. This condition, known as a deviated septum, is estimated to affect about 80 percent of the population to some degree. Rhinoplasty is a surgical procedure that can correct the septum and make cosmetic changes you’ve always wanted.
The Causes of a Deviated Septum
A deviated septum is essentially a broken nose, which most people get through some sort of trauma. Playing sports, a fall, an accident, or abuse can cause the septum to bend or break. If it isn’t set properly, the septum heals in a crooked way, causing the flow of air through the nose to be disrupted.
Some people get their deviated septum naturally, thanks to genetics, or have naturally weak cartilage that is prone to breaking easily. Another small group of people get this condition from a previous rhinoplasty surgery, either because the surgeon did not do a proper job, or because the patient didn’t follow recovery instructions.
The Health Effects of a Deviated Septum
The severity of a deviated septum varies from patient to patient, but the most common issue that patients notice is a limited ability to breathe. This can range from a funny breathing noise to a total blockage of one side of the nose. Other symptoms patients experience are frequent nosebleeds and sinus infections, congestion, and nasal sensitivity. Any of these can lead to serious health problems caused by difficulty breathing.
For example, if you have difficulty breathing in your sleep, you could develop sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that causes you to stop breathing while you’re sleeping. Trouble breathing could make it difficult for you to exercise, which might keep you from exercising, leading to obesity. Frequent sinus infections could spread throughout your body.
The point is, while the severity and impact of a deviated septum can vary, there is always a potential risk, especially if you don’t ever have your septum corrected.
The Help Rhinoplasty Can Provide
Rhinoplasty means “reshaping the nose,” which applies on the inside and outside. Even if you are happy with how your nose looks, rhinoplasty can still help you repair your septum in the form of a septoplasty. It’s very common for rhinoplasty patients to have septoplasties performed with other functional corrections or even with a cosmetic rhinoplasty. Whichever way you choose, you’ll come out the other side with a nose that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
The septoplasty itself can be done internally or externally, depending on how much straightening it requires. Internal septoplasty is usually done by making incisions in the nostrils, allowing the surgeon access to the cartilage. External septoplasty involves incisions outside the nostrils, right where your nose meets the rest of your face. This is usually the preferred method of performing a septoplasty, as it allows the surgeon the greatest access and the best view of your septum.
Once the surgeon accesses the septum, they can straighten out the existing cartilage, reinforce it, or replace it. People with weaker cartilage usually require at least some sort of reinforcement, but it really depends on your nasal anatomy. The reinforcement or replacement of your septum cartilage can be accomplished by harvesting cartilage from your ear or your ribs, or by using an implant. Your surgeon will discuss your options and the best course of action for you during your consultation.
Recovery Following a Septoplasty
The amount of time necessary to recover from a septoplasty depends on several factors, including the extent of surgery needed. People with minor adjustments will recover faster than those who needed their septum completely corrected. Septoplasties performed internally require less recovery than septoplasties performed externally. But patients who have additional work done on their nose at the same time as the septoplasty will require a longer time to recover.
Generally speaking, splints and sutures can be removed by your doctor after seven to 14 days, and your normal routine can resume after about two weeks. Your nose is going to be swollen and bruised, and you’ll probably be in pain for several days. Your doctor will give a full list of recovery dos and don’ts.
Schedule a Rhinoplasty Consultation to Fix Your Deviated Septum
Dr. Shervin Naderi, MD, FACS of the Naderi Center Rhinoplasty & Cosmetic Surgery is a facial plastic surgeon located in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Dr. Naderi has dedicated himself and his practice to the specialty of rhinoplasty, treating the area of the nose both cosmetically and functionally. Because of his dedication to each patient, he always seeks the best approach to improve both form and function. His goal is a nose that complements the face, looking both attractive and natural. His specialties include not just basic rhinoplasty and septoplasty, but also the decidedly more difficult procedures revision rhinoplasty and reconstruction. The results of just some of his work can be seen here in the Naderi Center Photo Gallery.
Dr. Naderi is certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. If you are considering a cosmetic procedure, and want to consult with an experienced Washington, D.C.-area facial plastic surgeon, call the Naderi Center Rhinoplasty & Cosmetic Surgery. For the convenience of his patients, he has two office locations: one in Herndon, VA (703 481-0002) and the other in Chevy Chase, MD (301 222-2020). Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The doctor can also be reached by email.