Many people suffer from a deviated septum which happens when the midline cartilage structure that divides the two halves of your nasal cavity becomes misaligned by a significant degree. A deviated septum can lead to a stuffy nose and many breathing difficulties or even lead to snoring at night.
A procedure known as a septoplasty can correct the deviated septum. Septoplasty is one of the most misunderstood surgical procedures among lay people and physicians alike. Many patients even equate septoplasty with a nose job, which is not true. Some people with a crooked septum and nasal bone require a septorhinoplasty; and, done correctly can help patients breathe and sleep better as well as improve a crooked nose.
In order to decide if septoplasty is right for you, an introductory lesson in anatomy might be helpful. First of all, no one has a perfectly straight septum. Other parts of the nasal anatomy contribute to your ability to breathe, including nasal turbinates. Turbinates are wing-like structures located just inside the nasal side walls. They normally warm, filter, smooth and humidify the air that you breathe. Inside the turbinate structure is bone and features an outside lined with a mucous membrane. The middle section is made of vascular tissues that swell when filled with blood and regulated by the involuntary nervous system. The nervous system normally swells and shrinks the turbinates, alternating from side to side, every few hours. This is called the nasal cycle.
Having a crooked septum does not necessarily mean that you will have a stuffy nose, or even that you’ll require a septoplasty. Normal breathing causes a vacuum effect leading to a mild collapse and constriction of the nostrils. Some people who have weakened nostrils (perhaps from a prior rhinoplasty), find that their nostrils collapse very easily. This is also known as internal valve collapse. If you are one of these people, you may benefit from nasal dilator strips (Breathe-rite is one brand). Sometimes these strips are not strong enough or can irritate the skin. A permanent correction may require surgical repair of the internal nasal valves using grafts. Spreader grafts are commonly placed during a corrective rhinoplasty (also known as a nasal reconstructive procedure) to improve breathing.