Relationships Between a Deviated Septum and Sinus Headaches
The American Academy of Otolaryngology for Head and Neck Surgery estimates that 80 percent of all nasal septums are off-center, but this often is mild and goes unnoticed.
A deviated septum is when the septum is significantly shifted from the midline and most frequently associated with difficulty breathing through the nose. This condition is most common after a nasal injury, such as a broken nose, and often worse on one side than the other. However, it can also be the result of a birth defect that begins to show more symptoms over time.
Here is an explanation of the relationship between a deviated septum and sinus headaches to facilitate a better understanding of their connection and effective treatment options.
Frequency of Sinus Headaches Among Those with Deviated Septums
It has been determined that individuals who have a deviated septum are more likely to experience sinus headache symptoms. This is because one common symptom of a deviated septum is that it interferes with sinus draining. This type of drainage issue can lead to chronic sinus infections and sinus headaches. These are very common symptoms of a deviated septum, along with difficulty breathing, difficulty sleeping, cold symptoms, and frequent nosebleeds.
The septum is comprised of a membrane, bone, and cartilage that separates the nostrils. Septal deviations are often diagnosed when patients seek medical treatment for nasal congestion and chronic sinusitis. Mucus becomes blocked and leads to infections, which can cause stress and trigger sinus pressure headaches and migraines. In an environment with excess mucus, bacteria are more likely to grow and impact the body. In rarer cases, a deviated septum can cause headaches on one side of the head where the septum deviates and creates pressure.
People who suffer from sinus pressure headaches caused by a deviated septum describe feeling “clogged up” and pressure around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. It may be necessary to seek medical attention from an ear, nose, and throat specialist to determine the cause of sinus pain and pressure and whether the nasal septum is actually making contact with the outside wall of the nose to cause the pain.
Treatment Options for Septum-Related Sinus Headaches
Sinus surgery for a deviated septum, known as a septoplasty, is one treatment option available, but other treatments exist for individuals suffering from septum-related sinus pressure headaches. Septoplasty can be combined with sinus surgery in severe cases as well. If the only cause of one’s chronic sinusitis is a deviated nasal septum, then a patient may find relief from both disorders with the septoplasty procedure alone.
Although surgery is most often recommended to improve breathing and reduce the recurrence of sinus infections, many patients continue to live with a deviated septum and experience sinus pressure headaches, congestion, sinus infections, nosebleeds, and snoring. Researchers have also been working to devise alternatives to nasal septoplasty to provide patients with additional treatment options, including a minimally invasive device designed by Menlo Park, California-based startup Spirox.
Individuals with only a mildly deviated septum may be able to find relief from sinus medications and headache medications like Vanquish. Some people’s sinus headache symptoms are very mild and only occur in the onset of a cold. For mild symptoms and in addition to headache pain medication, patients can also try decongestants, antihistamines, and corticosteroid sprays to reduce mucous and swelling.
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