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Does My Deviated Septum Make Me More Vulnerable to Sleep Apnea?

Dealing with congestion, breathing difficulties, and dry mouth is challenging enough, but if you have a deviated septum, you might also wonder about your risk of developing sleep apnea. While a deviated septum doesn’t directly cause sleep apnea, it can contribute to factors that make you more susceptible to it.

Board-certified otolaryngologist and skilled surgeon Matthew W. Shawl, MD, and our dedicated team located in the Union Square neighborhood of New York City, understand the concerns surrounding sleep apnea. We are well-versed in managing this complex condition and are ready to evaluate your symptoms to provide the personalized treatment you deserve.

In the meantime, we’ll dive into the relationship between a deviated septum and sleep apnea to better understand how they may be connected. 

Understanding a deviated septum

Before we dive into how a deviated septum and sleep apnea are connected, let’s start with the basics — what is a deviated septum? Your septum is the thin wall of cartilage and bone that divides your nasal cavity into two nostrils. A deviated septum occurs when the wall is crooked or displaced, leading to uneven airflow through your nose. Keep an eye out for common symptoms of a deviated septum, including difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils, nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, and recurrent sinus infections.

How a deviated septum can contribute to sleep apnea 

While a deviated septum doesn’t directly cause sleep apnea, it can contribute to certain factors that increase your risk of developing this sleep disorder. Here’s what you need to know: 

Nasal obstruction 

One of the main ways a deviated septum can lead to sleep apnea symptoms is by causing nasal congestion. This causes difficulty breathing through your nose, especially when lying down. This nasal obstruction can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms by making it harder to maintain clear airways during sleep. 

Forced mouth breathing 

If your deviated septum is restricting your nasal breathing, you might compensate for this by breathing through your mouth while sleeping. Unfortunately, mouth breathing can contribute to snoring and increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep apnea episodes. 

Chronic inflammation

Another symptom to look out for is that nasal congestion and irritation caused by a deviated septum can lead to chronic inflammation of your nasal passages. This inflammation may further narrow your airway, making it easier for tissues to collapse and obstruct airflow during sleep. 

What you can do about a deviated septum and sleep apnea  

If you have a deviated septum and suspect you may have sleep apnea, you have options. The first step is to be evaluated by our team. While surgery to correct a deviated septum can improve nasal airflow and alleviate symptoms, it may not necessarily resolve sleep apnea on its own. Here are just a few options you can consider: 

Comprehensive evaluation

When you book an appointment with us, Dr. Shawl conducts a thorough evaluation to assess your nose and throat health to see if they may be contributing to your breathing difficulties. He’ll also evaluate your symptoms, medical history, and sleep patterns to diagnose sleep apnea and determine its severity. 

Treatment options 

Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea and other contributing factors, treatment options may include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliances, lifestyle modifications, and surgical interventions. 

While a deviated septum may not directly cause sleep apnea, it can contribute to factors that increase your vulnerability to this sleep disorder. If you suspect you have sleep apnea or are experiencing symptoms, don’t wait to get relief — contact the office of Matthew W. Shawl, MD to book a consultation today or schedule your appointment online.

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