November 6, 2019/Primary Care

Is Your Nose Working Against You? 5 Signs of a Deviated Septum

Many people don't know they have the problem

Breathing easily through the nose

When you close your mouth and take a deep breath does the air flow easily through both sides of your nose? Or is your nose making it harder for you to breathe freely?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

A surprising number of people — more than one-third of the population — are unknowingly living with a deviated septum. That means the cartilage that divides the nasal passage is crooked or uneven, making one side narrower than the other.

But not everyone who has a deviated septum requires intervention for it. Many people have no symptoms.

However, for some people, this condition can make illnesses more severe and cause other problems as well, says head and neck specialist Kyra Osborne, MD.

You can have a deviated septum for a number of reasons, she says.

“If you’ve broken your nose or had any sort of trauma to the face, you can develop a deviated septum,” she says. “In many cases, people don’t even know they’ve broken their nose or had a serious enough injury. But it can also happen from birth — just from the pressure of the birth canal. The cartilage may grow in a crooked manner.”

5 signs you have a deviated septum

There are several problems you can experience if you have a deviated septum. It can cause other conditions or make certain illnesses worse. Here are the five most common issues:

  1. Difficulty breathing — Nasal misalignment makes it harder for air to pass through one half of your nose, so it’s more difficult for you to breathe. This problem often comes to light when you have a cold or allergies, Dr. Osborne says.
  2. Nasal congestion/headaches — Because air doesn’t always flow freely through your nasal passages, your head can sometimes feel stuffy. That built-up pressure can lead to occasional headaches. The extra pressure in your sinuses can also make your face feel sore and painful.
  3. Nosebleeds — When you have a curved septum, air has a harder time passing through your nose. This makes it more likely to dry out the membranes in your nose. This lack of moisture makes you more susceptible to nosebleeds.
  4. Sinus infections — The more clogged your airway is, the more likely you are to develop frequent sinus infections.
  5. Snoring/disrupted sleep — When you sleep, nasal congestion from a deviated septum can lead to loud breathing and snoring. If you’re having trouble breathing, you may have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep. In some cases, a deviated septum can contribute to sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition where breathing stops during sleep.

Getting it fixed

Whether you’ve had your deviated septum from birth or developed one after a face or nose injury, your doctor likely can diagnose the problem with a physical exam.


A nasal steroid spray can sometimes correct the issue, Dr. Osborne says. If not, you may need surgery to straighten the septum. (It’s typically an outpatient procedure.)

If snoring is your main issue, there may be an even simpler fix. “In some cases, sleeping with the head of the bed elevated can help alleviate some snoring,” she says.

It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor if you suspect you have a deviated septum. Even if you end up needing surgery to correct the problem, it’s worth it. Once your nose heals, it will no longer work against you when you take a deep breath. And you may leave a whole host of other problems behind as well.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Child snoring during his nap while sleeping on his front.
February 7, 2023/Children's Health
Does Your Child Snore? These Could Be the Reasons Why

Six possible reasons (and solutions) for that nighttime noise

Lifeguard looking at water with binoculars while two kids fly kites on the beach
May 23, 2024/Primary Care
12 Summer Health Risks To Watch Out For

From bug bites and blisters to sunstroke and swimming safety, here’s how to stay well this season

Jellyfish sting on wrist and thigh
May 20, 2024/Primary Care
Should You Pee on a Jellyfish Sting?

This persistent myth isn’t true and can actually cause more pain than relief

Split screen: poisonous plant/venomous insect
April 24, 2024/Primary Care
What It Means To Be Poisonous vs. Venomous

Poisons are inhaled, ingested or absorbed by your skin, while venoms are delivered by bites and stings

Male holding pill and glass of water, with assorted alcohol behind him crossed out
April 22, 2024/Primary Care
Why You Should Avoid Alcohol on Antibiotics

Even a little alcohol can slow your recovery, so it’s best to wait until after you finish your antibiotics before imbibing

Man sitting down at beach workout area with head in hand, eye closed
April 8, 2024/Primary Care
Why Does the Sun Make You Tired? Here Are 7 Reasons

Your body works overtime to keep you cool on hot summer days, bringing on sun fatigue

anticoagulant pills
March 19, 2024/Primary Care
What To Avoid When Taking a Blood Thinner

Bleeding is a risk and warrants taking care, but the reward of this lifesaving medication is great

Applying aloe vera to irritated skin
February 27, 2024/Primary Care
Do Home Remedies for Ringworm Actually Work?

Some natural home remedies may offer relief, but they lack scientific evidence and won’t typically cure the condition

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey