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7 Signs You Might Have a Deviated Septum

7 Signs You Might Have a Deviated Septum

An occasional nosebleed or sinus infection isn’t usually a cause for concern, but experiencing them regularly can be a sign of an underlying problem. One possible cause of recurring nose and breathing problems is a deviated septum. In this article, we discuss the signs you might have a deviated septum.

What is a deviated septum?

Your nasal septum is the thin wall between your nostrils. When the thin wall is off-center, then it is likely a deviated septum. This is a very common condition, though more than one-third of people do not know that they have it.

Some people may be born with a deviated septum. However, it is also very possible to develop one when you are older due to injuries, irritations, and swelling of the nasal or sinus cavities. You may not realize that you have a deviated septum until it is severe. In these cases, the condition often blocks a side of your nose, reducing the airflow and making it difficult to breathe.

Types of Nose Injuries in Adults and Children

Signs you might have a deviated septum

The signs you might have a deviated septum can be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. It is also possible for people with mild cases to not experience any symptoms. If you suspect that you have a deviated septum, consult your doctor.

Obstructed nostrils

One major symptom of a deviated septum is an obstruction of either one or both nostrils. This can manifest itself as difficulty breathing without a cold or an allergy. Likewise, a person with a deviated septum who is experiencing an allergy attack or a cold may find it more difficult to breathe than usual.

Needing to sleep on your side

Which side you sleep on could be one of the signs you might have a deviated septum. We often prefer to sleep in a particular position, but you may notice that you regularly sleep on your side because it is easier to breathe. This can be linked to an obstructed nostril as the obstruction can make it difficult to sleep on the side where the obstruction is on.

Recurring nosebleeds

The nasal septum’s surface can get dry. Drier nasal passages can make the membranes in your nose more prone to rupturing, increasing the risk of recurring nosebleeds (about 2 to 3 times a month).

Noticeable nasal cycle

Almost everyone has a “nasal cycle,” where the nose alternates between being obstructed on a single nostril then switching to the opposite one. However, it is very uncommon for people with a normal septum to notice this cycle. It is often easier for those with a deviated septum to be aware of it because it is harder for them to breathe.

Noisy breathing while sleeping

Another example of the signs you might have a deviated septum is breathing noisily. The deviated septum is a common cause of why people breathe noisily when they sleep. It can also cause snoring and/or sleep apnea in some patients.

Your face hurts

One possible reason for recurring facial pain is a severely deviated septum that causes the inner nose surfaces to touch each other. This contact can lead to feelings of pressure and pain.

Sinus Infections

Your airways will likely be very clogged if you have a deviated septum. Clogged airways are much more susceptible to infections.


Those with a deviated septum may notice a “stuffy” feeling in the head. A deviated septum does not allow air to freely flow into the nostrils. This can result in built-up pressure and headaches.

Determining Headache Causes Based on the Location of Pain

Complications of a deviated septum

Firstly, the main issue of ignoring a deviated septum is that it can worsen over time. A deviated septum cannot heal by itself, so it will very likely get worse with time.

The normal aging process can also worsen a deviated septum. This is because the changes that the body experiences can affect the nasal structures.

The symptoms and signs of a deviated septum can interfere with one’s daily tasks or quality of life. For instance, people with a deviated septum may often have to breathe through their mouths, leading to a dry mouth. Breathing issues from a deviated septum can also lead to sleeping problems and an inability to perform physically demanding activities like exercise.

In more severe cases, a deviated septum can cause permanent damage to the sinus and nasal mucosa. This is due to the nasal cavity’s altered ventilation.

When to contact a doctor

If you exhibit a few or all symptoms of a deviated septum that don’t go away with regular treatment (such as medicines and nasal sprays), contact your doctor. Prompt treatment can be greatly beneficial, especially if you have a severe case.

Key Takeaway

A deviated septum may not be obvious at first, but recognizing the signs and treating it immediately can greatly improve your health and quality of life. The common signs of a deviated septum include recurring nosebleeds, headaches, sinus infections, a noticeable nasal cycle, and the need to sleep on a specific side.

Learn more about Nose Conditions here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Deviated nasal septum. Incidence and etiology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/99070/, December 7, 2020

Deviated Septum, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/deviated-septum-a-to-z, December 7, 2020

Deviated septum – Symptoms and causes, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/deviated-septum/symptoms-causes/syc-20351710, December 7, 2020

Surgery to straighten a deviated septum improves quality of life, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/rumc-sts061719.php, December 7, 2020

Clinical Study on Deviated Nasal Septum and its Associated Pathology, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276291714_Clinical_Study_on_Deviated_Nasal_Septum_and_Its_Associated_Pathology, December 7, 2020

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Written by Kip Soliva Updated May 05
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.