Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder affecting the sleep quality and health of millions of people around the world. Many times, people with sleep apnea also have a deviated septum. However, while the two conditions do often co-exist, a deviated septum does not directly cause sleep apnea- but may contribute to the condition.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. Unfortunately, a deviated septum often impacts the effectiveness of this treatment since one nasal passage is smaller than the other. This often increases the risk of unpleasant side effects such as gas and bloating.
The septum is the wall that sits between the two nostrils and is made of bone and cartilage. It should be straight and directly in the center of the nose. A deviated septum is off-center or leans to one side.
This blocks airflow through the nose, which makes it especially difficult to breathe while sleeping. Most of the time, a minor deviation will cause little to no symptoms. However, a drastic deviation can cause chronic sinus infections and headaches. Regardless of the severity, a deviated septum can cause difficulties in breathing and have an impact on sleep apnea treatment.
Research has proven that a deviated septum does not cause sleep apnea- but it could worsen the condition. When you have a deviated septum, one side your nose is partially blocked, which makes it harder to get sufficient oxygen when breathing through your nose. This leads to a decrease in sleep quality and an increase in sleep apnea episodes.
In addition, a deviated septum can increase irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages, which can also worsen your symptoms. Finally, a deviated septum makes it harder to treat sleep apnea. Nasal and pillow masks will send most of the air into your stomach, which increases your risk of side effects such as gas and bloating.
While the two conditions often co-exist, the treatments are different. CPAP is often recommended for sleep apnea- but this may not be effective with a severe deviation in the septum.
In some cases, resolving a deviated septum may reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea, it will not cure the condition. However, it may help to increase the effectiveness of CPAP therapy.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a deviated septum and/or sleep apnea, you may have lots of questions for your medical provider. Feel free to make a list and address those when you are ready. Below are a few of the most common questions that we’ve gotten about deviated septum.
After ruling out other deviated septum treatments, your medical provider may recommend septoplasty to repair the deviation. When deciding if the surgery is worth it, you need to consult with your medical provider.
There are a few risks of this procedure including bleeding, infection, tooth and nose numbness, along with a few others. However, the benefits include an improved sense of smell and taste, improved breathing, fewer sinus infections, and increased sleep quality. Therefore, the benefits far outweigh the risks, making the surgery worth it.
A deviated septum makes it harder to breathe through your nose. If you have a minor deviation, this should not have an impact on the flow of oxygen to the brain. However, if the deviation is severe, it needs to be addressed. If left untreated, this condition can lead to a variety of complications including lack of oxygen to the brain.