On the popular television sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, a recent episode dealt with a physiological issue that affects millions of people around the world, but not most of them are barely aware of it. One very interesting aspect of The Big Bang Theory is the way it cleverly makes fun of scientific topics, particularly those dealing with physics, but a recent episode actually dealt with an anatomic condition that is known to be a trigger of migraine attacks.
The episode in question is called The Septum Deviation, and it naturally centers on the deviated septum of one of its main characters. The septum is the membrane that separates our nostrils; it is a piece of bone and cartilage that is often misaligned. A perfectly straight septum is an exception rather than the norm, but a deeply deviated septum can create some health issues.
In The Big Bang Theory, a physicist learns of his deviated septum in the same fashion most patients do: after a routine visit to the doctor. A surgical procedure could bring higher quality of life to this physicist as it would minimize his snoring and sinus infections while at the same time improving his breathing. When this physicist opts to get this corrective surgery, his roommate objects with a litany of statistics and probabilities of a surgery going wrong and killing the patient.
Living with a Deviated SeptumA deviated septum is an anatomical imperfection that millions of people are born with and never think about. Statistics suggest that 70 percent of the global population have a deviated septum. An easy way to perform a self-check for a deviated septum is to pinch one nostril while taking a deep breath before repeating this step on the opposite nostril. Only very few people will notice that the air flowing into their nostrils and down their airways is equally uniform.
For most patients, a deviated septum is something they are born with or that they developed as they were growing up. In some cases, a septum can become crooked as time passes or as a result of traumatic injury. Aside from irregular air flow, the following symptoms may arise from a deviated septum:
- Sinus infections
- Runny nose
Absent the symptoms above, many people with a deviated septum find about their condition when a physician detects it.
When a Deviated Septum Causes a Headache
The association between a deviated septum and the migraine condition can be found in sinus infections. When mucus becomes blocked, it can lead to infections, discomfort and headache, which may in turn cause stress and trigger a migraine episode in some patients. It is important to note that the sinus infection is acting as a trigger of stress rather than a direct trigger of migraines.
A deviated septum can be cured with a surgical procedure known as a septoplasty, which can be performed on an outpatient basis. For patients who suffer from major sinus infections, headaches and snoring, a septoplasty can bring about a major improvement in terms of quality of life. This may also be the case for patients who live with chronic migraine conditions, but only if the majority of their episodes were actually triggered by stress emanating from sinus infections or lack of sleep.
Since the nasal septum is a very fragile part of our anatomy, it is important to protect it against injury. Athletes are very susceptible, particularly boxers, skateboarders and football players, but even drivers who get into fender benders and other minor traffic accidents are at risk of deviated septum; for this reason, they should always fasten their seatbelts.