Why does my deviated nasal septum need surgery whereas my friend’s doesn’t?

A deviated septum is when the cartilage or bone that makes up the nasal septum is off to one side or even to both sides. The severity of deviation may vary in different people. There may be accompanying problems such as enlargement of the turbinates (turbinate hypertrophy). In some people the symptoms are aggravated by physical trauma to the turbinates from inhaled irritants or from internal swelling from allergies. Conditions like these will restrict breathing, stimulate snoring, and may lead to sleep apnoea or sinus infections requiring surgery to provide you relief.

Was I born with a deviated septum?

There are many theories on why the nasal septum is deviated. Trauma from travelling in the birthing canal may cause micro-fractures in the nose that can become larger as we grow. Any nasal or septal fractures can cause deviation to the outside and the inside of the nose. As the nose ages, the septal shape may change as cartilage matures and twists. We receive genetic traits from our families and a deviated septum or twisted nose may be a gift from your parents. Aging weakens the nasal sidewalls and causes the tip of the nose to sag. These changes can obstruct airflow inside the nose.

When do I need surgery for a deviated septum?

Corrective procedures may be required when medication and other conservative treatments have not improved breathing. Functional nasal surgery provides improved breathing, decreased snoring, and better sinus function. These procedures are performed with no external incisions, going through the nostrils to straighten the septum and reduce turbinate size. The surgery takes about an hour at an ambulatory surgery centre and can be done with local or general anaesthesia. Patients can go home about an hour after surgery. There is generally a noticeable improvement in breathing within one week of the procedure.

Why do I need surgery if my symptoms improve with nasal drops?

Self administered over the counter nasal drops are habit forming and can prove damaging to the delicate skin of your nose if used for a long period of time without consulting an ENT specialist.

I have long standing sinus infection. Why do I need sinus surgery just for discharge dripping in my throat?

Allergies, a deviated septum or common cold can prevent the sinuses from draining normally. When this happens, a sinus infection (sinusitis) can occur. If the sinus infection lasts greater than three months, you have a chronic sinus infection. The infecting bacteria will be more complex and resistant to medical treatment. If left untreated, a sinus infection can bring about severe complications. Do not hesitate to speak with an ENT specialist if you are suffering from such problems.
Recurrent acute or chronic infections can negatively affect your quality of life. After medical treatment has failed, sinus surgery can dramatically improve nasal function and your sense of well-being. Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) removes blockages, allowing the sinuses to ventilate and drain through its natural opening.

Will I be left with a scar from sinus surgery?

Sinus surgery is done with special nasal telescopes which help us work on your sinuses through your nostrils. No scar is seen on the face. The surgery is not very debilitating. You can begin to move about and do light work on the 2nd or 3rd day.

What causes nasal polyps?

Nasal polyps occur when tissue within the nose swells and grows outward, creating mucus-filled sacs. They are thought to be caused by allergy or sinus irritation, and can be associated with asthma in adults and cystic fibrosis in children. More recently, an allergy to fungal spores in the air has been identified as a major risk factor for nasal polyps.

What are the potential complications of nasal polyps?

Patients may have recurrent sinus infections from obstructive nasal polyps. Large polyps can eventually compress the eyes or push on the brain. Nasal obstruction can cause sleep apnea, a condition that stops your breathing during sleep and can cause serious heart and lung damage.

Can I prevent nasal polyps from coming back?

Unfortunately, nasal polyps are known to recur but not in all cases. The patient must maintain constant vigilance after nasal polyp removal. Saline rinses may decrease irritation in some patients. Air purification is always a good idea. Shifting residence/workplace to cleaner locales is not feasible for all but quite beneficial. Avoiding dust, pollution, and irritating chemicals can decrease nasal swelling. Humidifiers can keep the inside lining of the nose moist in the winter or in dry environments. Medical treatment of allergies and asthma (to be continued after surgery) will also decrease inflammation inside the nose.

My ears keep itching. Why can’t I use ear buds for it?

There are few things more irritating than an itch in your ear. Anyone who has ever suffered from this common ailment knows how frustrating it is. It seems as though the only feeling of relief comes from scratching or probing with q-tips/ needles/ pens/ hairpins!!!!!! While this may bring temporary comfort, it is actually a very harmful way to tackle the problem. Scratching will only serve to inflame the delicate skin inside the ear which will actually increase the itching sensation even more—it’s a vicious cycle. The problem with using q-tips is that you risk damaging the soft skin inside the ear. Furthermore you could seriously damage your eardrum, either by rupturing it or by inadvertently packing earwax tightly against it. Using q-tips or cotton buds is a big no-no. The ear is well equipped to clean itself, but if you find that wax or other debris is persistently present in your ears, there are safer ways to clean them for which you should see your ENT specialist.