Breathing Problems and Deviated Septums: Symptoms, Treatments, and Surgery

There are many reasons why an individual may experience breathing problems. Breathing difficulty might be a sign of a serious health issue, such as heart disease or lung disease. Trouble with lung functions could also be due to issues within the nasal structure, like a deviated septum. Many patients who undergo nasal surgeries to correct their breathing problems also use the opportunity to fix other concerns with the appearance of their nose.

Overview: Fixing Nasal Breathing Problems and Aesthetic Issues

Upon having difficulty breathing, it is important to first get medical advice to help develop an action plan to determine what your body needs. A physical exam can determine if nasal surgery will help you breathe easier. When rhinoplasty or septoplasty surgery is recommended to correct a deviated septum, plenty of individuals express desires to have their aesthetic concerns addressed along with the cosmetic surgery to correct their breathing issues.

For example, if surgical correction of a deviated septum requires breakage of the nasal bones, the patient many times offers input to their board-certified plastic surgeon about the style of nose that they may prefer, such as having a bump on the bridge of the nose shaved down or bridge depressions repaired.

Surgical rhinoplasty can also provide a properly sized nose when compared to facial structure balance issues, as surgeons adjust the nose's width or position of the nostrils. Nasal procedures can also improve problems with the tip of the nose, such as sagging, hooked, enlarged, or upturned tips.

Symmetrical nasal results are often a desire expressed by patients undergoing nose surgery, but great surgeons will focus on creating individual facial balance and proper proportion - along with providing optimal breathing through cleared nasal passages. However, before addressing any cosmetic nasal issues, it is first critical to rule out all other possible causes of major or mild breathing problems.

Common Causes of Breathing Difficulty

According to the American Lung Association, there are a variety of issues beyond nasal region deformities that might cause breathing problems. Some of those issues include the following medical conditions, which should be brought to the attention of a medical professional in the case of severely obstructed breathing:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Lung disease
  • Trouble breathing from lung conditions such as pulmonary embolism (a lung blood clot)
  • Problems with carbon dioxide or oxygen levels
  • Heart attack
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Heart failure from a viral infection
  • Asthma triggers such as smoke
  • Lung cancer
  • Chest pain
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pleural effusion or "water on the lungs"
  • Chest wall compression

A health care expert can help pinpoint the source of long-term breathing problems, such as struggling for air when climbing stairs, or even when resting. A sudden medical condition that prevents proper breathing warrants an emergency room visit, wherein blood gases can be examined via blood tests, or other exams such as chest x-rays, a CT scan, and pulmonary function tests that can reveal more information.

Nasal Structures

Once a person has been thoroughly examined and it has been determined that their difficulty breathing is related to their nasal structure, a board-certified surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasty can offer options regarding how to fix the problem. Often a deviated septum is to blame for problems with breathing.

A deviated septum happens when the nasal septum - which is the narrow wall that separates one nostril from the other - "deviates" to one side, instead of traveling evenly between each nasal passage. Such displacement might be only slight and cause only mild breathing problems. However, when a deviated septum is severe and wildly deviates to one side, it can cause major blockages on one side of the nasal passage and impact the airflow negatively, not only causing breathing issues, but at times prompting asthma symptoms, panic attacks, and anxiety.

Deviated Septums and Asthma

According to PubMed, it is common to discover that a person has a deviated septum, and determine that the deformity can cause nasal airway obstruction. One study with nearly 9,000 participants evaluated overall medical conditions and the mental health of the subjects, with a specific focus on those who had deviated septums that obstructed their nasal paths. The findings determined that while obstructive nasal deviated septums weren't related to most general health problems, there was a significant association between obstructive nasal septal deviation and asthma. Therefore, it can be concluded that fixing a deviated septum via nasal surgery isn't merely about aesthetic issues, but rhinoplasty may also improve other medical conditions that were not previously known as associated with deviated septums, such as asthma.

Deviated Septums and Anxiety

Not only do deviated septums affect conditions such as asthma, but they can also cause certain sufferers to experience anxiety and panic attacks, according to PubMed. When study participants with nasal septal deviations were evaluated based upon psychological factors, it was discovered that problems like depression and anxiety were higher in the group that experienced deviations within the nasal septum.

Fixing a Deviated Septum: Rhinoplasty and Septoplasty Surgery

Rhinoplasty Rhinoplasty is nasal surgery that focuses on improving the look of the nose, but can also involve improving the airways as well. The surgical procedure might involve straightening the nose, making it bigger or small, adjusting the nasal angle, or enhancing the nasal bridge. Although the focus of rhinoplasty may involve aesthetic improvements, there are also often plenty of accompanying benefits that result in improved breathing.

Septoplasty According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, septoplasty is similar to rhinoplasty surgery, but septoplasty corrects deviated septums, which cause difficulty breathing and disrupted sleep for those who possess the issue. During the procedure, the nasal surgeon works to clear obstructed airways by evaluating the blocked nasal structure and improving airflow and breathing by getting rid of any impediments while also straightening the septum. As a result of the nasal surgery, the common cause of breathing problems can be alleviated when the nasal septum is placed in better alignment.

Conclusion: The Many Benefits of Nasal Surgery

Overall, there exist a plethora of benefits related to nasal surgery, which reach well beyond the psychological advantages of improved aesthetics and the potential reduction of depression and anxiety that can happen when a person can breathe and sleep better.

According to new findings from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), nasal surgery can also lessen or get rid of chronic headaches.

Therefore, not only can nasal surgery represent a functional means of improving blocked airways due to misaligned nose structure or deviated septums, but it can also provide a snowball effect of improving other chronic associated problems, such as headaches, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

After ruling out any other medical conditions that might be the cause of breathing difficulty, it is vital to select an experienced and board-certified rhinoplasty surgeon to receive the best results possible for your cosmetic surgery. Both rhinoplasty and septoplasty procedures can help to improve the lives of patients - not only in terms of eliminating or reducing breathing problems but also in getting the nasal appearance you've always wanted.

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