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Cartilage is a type of tissue that is softer and more flexible than bone but harder than muscle tissue. The cartilage of the septum divides the lower part of the nose into two sections, or nostrils. A human's septal cartilage is an important element in both appearance and normal breathing.
The cartilage of the septum reaches from the tip of the nose to the middle of the nose. Above this cartilage are the nasal bones, which are most easily felt at the bridge of the nose where eyeglasses typically rest. The nasal bones connect to the cartilage of the septum near the nose's middle. Near the top of the nasal cavities, the perpendicular plate of ethmoid bone attaches to the cartilage. Together, these bones and cartilage help define the shape of the nose.
Two quadrangular cartilages lie on either side of the cartilage of the septum, near the middle part of the nose. These are known as the upper lateral cartilages, and they attach to the nasal bones near the top and are fused with the septal cartilage around the midpoint of the nose. If an injury results in the separation of these cartilages from the bones, breathing might be obstructed.
The shape of the nose's lower portion is largely determined by the lower lateral cartilages. These lie beneath the cartilage of the septum and are loosely connected on each side of the nose. The lower lateral cartilages vary in thickness, size and shape to create a variety of nasal tips, virtually guaranteeing that no two people will have noses that are identical.
When the cartilage of the septum grows crooked or does not mend properly after an injury, a condition known as a deviated septum might occur. The deviation might not noticeably affect appearance, but it might affect air flow through the nasal passages. Snoring is one possible consequence of a deviated septum. Surgery typically is the preferred method of treatment to achieve a permanent solution for a deviated or crooked septal cartilage.
The cartilage of the septum also can be damaged by tumors, ulcers or trauma that causes a hole, or perforation, in the septum. People who are exposed to welding fumes over a long period and those who abuse certain illegal drugs are also at risk for the condition. A perforated septum typically causes a whistling sound when the patient breathes, and pain or bleeding might occur. If the perforation does not heal on its own, surgery might be necessary to repair the damaged septum.
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