A deviated septum is a condition in which the cartilage and bone that separates your nasal cavity is not centered, making breathing difficult. Even if your nose appears to be straight on the outside, you may have a deviated septum if you have constant congestion, snoring, sinusitis, or nose bleeds, to name a few symptoms. While a deviated septum is not a direct cause of sleep apnea, it can exacerbate the condition if you already have it. Because of the breathing difficulties that can arise as a result of obstructions in your nostrils, a deviated septum is linked to sleep apnea.
The Mayo Clinic estimates that 70% to 80% of the population has a deviated septum, which is more common than you might think. In many cases, however, a deviated septum is minor and causes no symptoms. However, septal deviations can cause nasal obstruction in moderate to severe cases and may necessitate treatment.
What are the symptoms of a deviated septum? The good news is that a deviated septum self-test can be done from the comfort of your own home.
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There are two simple methods you can do at home that can help determine whether or not you may have a deviated septum.
The first is to perform a visual exam. A simple way to determine whether you have a deviated septum is to tilt your head back and look in the mirror. If you notice that the center divider of your nose—called the columella—is bent to one side or is heavily obstructing one nostril, then this could be an indication of a deviated septum.
If you’re unable to visually inspect with a mirror and have a smartphone or camera, taking a picture or recording a video of your nostrils can also be helpful as well as asking a friend of partner.
While this is an easy way to determine if something may be structurally abnormal, not all septal deviations are low enough in the columella to be visible from the underside of the nose.
The second way to test for a deviated septum at home is to perform a physical test.
. Use a finger to completely cover one nostril.
. Take a deep breath, and focus on how the air moves in and out of the nostril that is not covered.
. How easy is it for you to breathe in through that nostril?
. How much resistance do you feel to the airflow?
. Make a mental note or write down your experience to discuss with your doctor.
. Repeat steps one and two for the other nostril. Use a finger to completely cover the nostril that was previously open. Take a deep breath, and focus on how the air moves in and out of the uncovered nostril.
. After testing both nostrils individually, evaluate your experience. Was it harder to breathe through one nostril than the other?
It if was noticeably harder for air to pass through one nostril compared to the other, this may be an indication of a deviated septum.
It should be noted that this test may not be accurate if you are experiencing sinus congestion or allergies. These could serve as confounding variables that contribute to a positive test even if you don’t have a deviated septum.
The best way to tell if your nasal obstruction is from a deviated septum would be to do this test when your sinus passages are clear. Individuals with chronic sinusitis or congestion may have difficulty determining whether they have a deviated septum from a home test alone. Regardless of your home test results, if you are experiencing trouble breathing either while you are awake or asleep, you should pay a visit to your healthcare provider.
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Symptoms of an untreated moderate to severe deviated septum include:
. Blockage of One or Both Nostrils
. Snoring or Noisy Breathing During Sleep
. Nasal or Facial Pain
If you are experiencing one or more of those symptoms, and you feel as though you may have a deviated septum after performing the self-test, the next step would be to get tested for septal deviation by a medical professional.
Also take into account that your septum could have deviated if you’ve been injured, broken your nose in the past, or if your nose appears visibly crooked. Talk to your doctor regarding past injuries to confirm your diagnosis.
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