Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aishani. Aishani Wonders, “What is a deviated septum?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aishani!

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and noticed the two sides of your face? For many people, the sides of the face are almost identical. Your nose divides the two sides down the center. Did you know that the inside of your nose also divides in two? It does! There is a piece of cartilage and bone, called a septum, that equally divides the left and right parts of your nose. What happens when the septum isn’t straight?

The septum is there to help control breathing. It directs the air you breathe into your sinuses and down into your lungs. There is a mucous membrane covering. It should divide your nose into matching halves. In many people, that is not the case. Over three-quarters of people in the world have a deviated septum. This means that the septum is off center or crooked. An out-of-place septum causes one side of the nose to work worse than the other.

Having one side of the nose more blocked than the other can cause trouble with breathing. It can also lead to nosebleeds. Nose and mouth dryness, face pain, and loud breathing are other signs to watch for. Some of these problems can become worse as a person gets older. Some people live with a deviated septum and suffer no bad effects.

There can be different reasons someone has a deviated septum. A child’s nose may form that way before birth. Sometimes, a child’s birth can knock a septum crooked. Other times, trauma to the face can be the cause. Many people do not know how they got a deviated septum. Doctors recommend things like helmets for contact sports and seat belts to prevent facial trauma.

Deviated septa (plural of septum) can lead to big health problems. If someone has headaches, sinus infections, or sleep interrupted by the issue, they may benefit from health care. Doctors can offer medicines to stop swelling inside the nose. Sometimes, surgery called septoplasty (SEP-toe-plas-tee) is the best bet. The surgery straightens the septum and, in a few cases, changes the shape and size of the nose.

How can you tell if you have a deviated septum? Sometimes, you can look in the mirror and see that you have a crooked nose. Another test is to push on one side of your nose. Breathe. Now block the other side and try breathing again. Is there a difference between nostrils and how easy it is to take in air?

Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors are the best for spotting issues. These doctors have special tools to examine the inside of the nose. If they think the problem is serious enough, they might order x-rays of the bones in your face. This kind of test will tell for sure if you have a deviated septum. They can also give information on kinds of treatment.

Have you or anyone you know had a hard time breathing? Was there ever a hard trauma to the person’s nose? Just for fun, see if you can tell from looking or a breathing test if you think someone has a deviated septum.

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.R.8, NCAS.PR.4, CCRA.W.6, LS4-1

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