Blocked nasal passages causes
The nasal septum is the wall dividing the nasal cavity into halves; it is composed of a central supporting skeleton covered on each side by mucous membrane. The front portion of this natural partition is a firm but bendable structure made mostly of cartilage and is covered by skin that has a substantial supply of blood vessels. The ideal nasal septum is exactly midline, separating the left and right sides of the nose into passageways of equal size.
Estimates are that 80 percent of all nasal septums are off-center, a condition that is generally not noticed. A “deviated septum” occurs when the septum is severely shifted away from the midline – commonly occurring due to trauma. The most common symptom from a badly deviated or crooked septum is difficulty breathing through the nose.
The symptoms are usually worse on one side, and sometimes actually occur on the side opposite the bend – in some cases the crooked septum can interfere with the drainage of the sinuses, resulting in repeated sinus infections. Nasal septoplasty is the preferred surgical treatment to correct a deviated septum. This procedure is not generally performed on minors, because the cartilaginous septum grows until around age 18.
Nose and sinus symptoms
A deviated septum may cause one or more of the following:
- Blockage of one or both nostrils
- Nasal congestion, sometimes one-sided
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Frequent sinus infections
- At times, facial pain, headaches, postnasal drip
- Noisy breathing during sleep (in infants and young children)
Cold – blocked nose
In some cases, a person with a mildly deviated septum has symptoms only when he or she also has a “cold” (an upper respiratory tract infection). In these individuals, the respiratory infection triggers nasal inflammation that temporarily amplifies any mild airflow problems related to the deviated septum. Once the “cold” resolves, and the nasal inflammation subsides, symptoms of a deviated septum often resolve as well.
Diagnosis of a deviated septum
Patients with chronic sinusitis often have nasal congestion, and many have nasal septal deviation. However, for those with this debilitating condition, there may be additional reasons for the nasal airway obstruction. The problem may result from a septal deviation, reactive swelling from the infected areas, allergic problems, mucosal hypertrophy (increase in size), or other anatomic abnormalities.
A qualified ENT specialist – experienced in diagnosing and treating ear, nose, and throat disorders, can determine the cause of your chronic sinusitis and nasal obstruction.
Surgery may be the recommended treatment if the deviated septum is causing a blocked nose, troublesome nosebleeds or recurrent sinus infections.