What causes a deviated septum (and how to fix it)

A deviated septum is when the nasal septum is in an abnormal or curved position. This wall of cartilage and bone divides your nose into left and right cavities.

There are many possible causes of a deviated nasal septum. This problem may appear at birth. It can also occur due to trauma, certain diseases, or aging.

When your nasal septum shifts to one side, it can cause nasal discharge, nasal congestion, or problems with normal breathing. You may feel like you can’t breathe through your nose or can only breathe through one nostril. Treatment can relieve severe symptoms and return the diaphragm to its normal position.

This article explains the causes of a deviated nasal septum and how to treat it.

Deviated nasal septum

genetic or hereditary causes

Genetic or hereditary causes may cause a deviated septum at birth. Neonatal (neonatal) deviated nasal septum may occur during fetal development or due to intrauterine nasal injury.

Less commonly, a deviated septum is associated with a variety of autoimmune diseases. This condition may be caused by destruction of nasal cartilage due to autoimmune diseases such as:

Because the nose is the most prominent part of the face, it is susceptible to trauma during intrauterine life and childbirth. Compressive and rotational forces can move the diaphragm into an S or C shape or a position that does not always show external deformity.

The incidence of deviated nasal septum in newborns increases with:

  • More birth injuries
  • as the eldest son
  • a long and difficult labor
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion (a condition in which the baby’s head does not fit within the opening of the mother’s pelvis)

In adults, nasal fractures account for more than 50% of all facial fractures in adults. A deviated septum that occurs after the neonatal period is usually caused by a sudden blow to one side of the nose, causing the septum to shift. This often occurs during contact sports, rough play, playground games, or traffic accidents.

Causes related to aging

You may have a deviated septum and not realize it until you are older. It is estimated that up to 100% of the population suffers from some degree of deviated septum, but not every case is visible or results in deviated septum symptoms that require treatment.

As a result of the natural aging process, the cartilage in the nose weakens and changes shape, bending and deforming as we age. This can cause the diaphragm to deviate. If you already have a deviated septum, the aging process may make the existing deviated septum worse, causing symptoms for the first time or making existing symptoms worse.

Infection related causes

You may have a deviated septum due to infection-related reasons, such as:

syphilis: Late syphilis is a systemic disease (meaning it spreads throughout the body). It can manifest in severe symptoms in your nose, causing superficial and deep ulcers and gums (a soft, tumor-like tissue growth, or granuloma) that occur in people with syphilis. These structures can attack the cartilage in the nasal septum, causing a deviated septum or other nose deformities.

leprosy: Advanced cases of leprosy may cause permanent damage to the cartilage or tissue of the nasal septum, weakening the bridge of the nose and the surrounding area. This can cause the diaphragm to deviate.

Inflammatory diseases: Certain inflammatory conditions, such as allergies or chronic sinusitis (long-term swelling or infection of the sinuses), may cause swelling of the nasal passages. If left untreated for a long time, these diseases may cause septal deviation.

Can a deviated nasal septum heal on its own?

No, a deviated septum cannot heal on its own over time. Although a deviated septum may remain asymptomatic, the condition may worsen over time. If your deviated septum worsens, it may increase your risk of the following conditions, all of which can affect your quality of life:

  • Frequent sinus infections: An untreated deviated septum can lead to frequent sinus infections. Ongoing sinus infections can lead to chronic inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages. As the infection worsens, the problem may spread to the brain or infection in the tissue surrounding the brain. Fortunately, this situation is very rare. If the infection spreads to these areas, your risk of seizures and brain damage increases.
  • sleep apnea: Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing regularly during sleep. This can happen multiple times during sleep, depriving the brain and other parts of the body of the oxygen they need to function properly. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
  • Frequent nosebleeds: Although most have nosebleeds (epistaxis) resolves on its own, and chronic severe episodes can lead to severe anemia or cardiac dysfunction.
  • Difficulty breathing: A deviated septum can block one or both nostrils, making it difficult to breathe.

Deviated nasal septum treatment

Several types of deviated septum treatment can improve your quality of life by relieving symptoms that may interfere with normal breathing, causing pain and poor sleep quality. The type of treatment your health care provider prescribes depends on your symptoms and other factors, including your age and other medical conditions.

You may find temporary relief with one or more of the following deviated septum treatments:

Deviated nasal septum surgery

If your symptoms are severe enough to require treatment, you may be eligible for deviated septum surgery. This surgery can permanently correct a deviated septum, relieving symptoms and improving your quality of life.

arrive septoplasty It is the preferred surgery to correct a deviated nasal septum. For most people, this surgery is performed through the nostrils to avoid bruising or external signs of the surgery. In children and adolescents, septoplasty is usually performed after facial growth and development is complete.

If the patient prefers, septoplasty can be combined with Rhinoplasty (Also called a “nose job”). This surgery changes the external shape of the nose.

When to see a health care provider

A deviated nasal septum is a fairly common condition that is usually asymptomatic. When symptoms occur, any of the following may indicate that your condition is worsening or that another health condition may be present.

If you have any of the following symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider:

  • Trouble breathing due to blockage in one or both nostrils
  • Clogged nostril (or both nostrils) that does not respond to treatment
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • recurrent sinus infections
  • Difficulty sleeping, including loud breathing and snoring at night


A deviated septum is a relatively common problem that may or may not cause symptoms. Many people don’t know they have this problem until they discover it by accident. When symptoms occur, they can prevent normal breathing and cause other problems that affect your quality of life.

This problem will not improve over time. For some people, the condition worsens with age. Non-surgical treatments can improve symptoms during use. For some cases, this treatment may be enough. Long-term relief can sometimes be achieved through surgery to correct a deviated septum back to its original shape.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed research, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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Anna George

Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer specializing in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes more than 25 years of writing about health and wellness-related topics for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to roles in healthcare communications.

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