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How Sinus Pressure Headaches Happen (Plus What to Do)

You’ve probably experienced a headache before. Whether it’s a migraine, cluster headache, tension headache, or some other type of headache, none are pleasant. 

Sinus pressure headaches are a common type of headache occurring in the face that many people live with for years because they don’t know there are long-term solutions. What if you could prevent sinus pressure headaches and avoid all the pain and discomfort in the first place? 

Let’s look at what sinus pressure headaches are and explore five potential treatments to relieve their uncomfortable symptoms.

What Are Sinus Pressure Headaches?

Your sinuses are a series of connected air-filled cavities behind your cheeks, forehead, and nose. Sinus pressure headaches occur when the lining of your nose swells and obstructs your sinuses. 

Typically, sinus pressure headaches start behind your eyes, forehead, or cheeks and radiate out, creating a feeling of fullness, pressure, and pain in the front of your face. Sometimes the pain can even radiate down into your teeth. Sinus headaches can also trigger other types of headaches, like migraines, causing a throbbing or pulsing sensation in your head.

Anything that causes swelling in the nose might cause a sinus headache, such as:

  • Allergies
  • A cold or the flu
  • An upper respiratory tract infection
  • Weather (barometric changes)
  • Traveling by plane (due to changes in air pressure)

Some people may be more likely to experience sinus pressure headaches than others because of the natural anatomy of their sinuses. Each sinus cavity is like a room with a window. If the window gets shut, then the pressure or fluid in the room builds.

People with persistent sinus problems have naturally small windows. If the lining around their sinus openings swells, the window “shuts,” and they experience all the unpleasant symptoms associated with sinus pressure headaches.

If you have “small windows” and are more prone to getting sinus headaches, don’t worry! There are still ways to find relief.

5 Solutions for Sinus Pressure Headaches

1. Use a Decongestant

Oral decongestants can provide immediate relief from sinus headache symptoms. Some common options you might see in stores include:

  • Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)
  • Suphedrine PE, Wal-Phed PE, etc. (phenylephrine)

While these decongestants can be helpful, they have some side effects, like increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, dizziness, and insomnia. So it’s best to only use them every once in a while, and to consult your doctor before use if you have a history of heart disease. 

Topical decongestants like Afrin (oxymetazoline) nasal spray are also effective, but you shouldn’t use them for more than a few days. If you do, you can experience something called rebound congestion, making your original symptoms worse.

2. Use Steroid Medications

Decongestants work immediately, but only provide short-term relief from sinus headache symptoms. To keep those sinus “windows” open and get long-term relief, you might need to try a steroid like:

  • Flonase (fluticasone)
  • Nasonex (mometasone)
  • Rhinocort (budesonide)
  • Nasacort (triamcinolone)

These medications usually come as nasal sprays and belong to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids. They work by reducing swelling and inflammation in your nasal passages.

3. Try Nasal Irrigation

Nasal saline irrigation is another treatment method that uses salt water to bathe and cleanse your nasal passages gently.

So, how does it work?

Essentially, you pour a saltwater solution into one of your nostrils and let it flow through your nasal cavity into the other nostril. As it travels through your nasal passages, it washes out mucus and allergens to reduce your symptoms.

For effective nasal irrigation treatment, you’ll need saline solution and a container, like a syringe, squeeze bottle, or Neti pot. You can buy a pre-packaged set at most drugstores with everything you need to get started.

You’ll likely see results after rinsing your nasal passages once or twice. Research indicates that nasal irrigation can significantly relieve acute or chronic sinus symptoms and inflammation, clear nasal secretions, and reduce post-nasal drip.

4. Get Balloon Sinus Dilation

Balloon sinus dilation is a minimally invasive procedure performed under local anesthesia at an ENT’s office. It’s a treatment for chronic sinusitis (long-lasting sinus inflammation, swelling, and infection) and is quick and safe.

During the procedure, the ENT doctor inserts a small balloon into your nose using an endoscope, a small medical device with a light and camera. Then they gently inflate the balloon to permanently enlarge your sinus cavities.

Most people recover within one to two days and enjoy long-term relief afterward. We typically recommend balloon sinus dilation to people with chronic sinus symptoms that haven’t responded well to other treatments like decongestants or nasal steroid sprays. 

5. Consider Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

Unlike balloon sinus dilation, which follows the natural contours of your sinus cavities and expands the openings, endoscopic sinus surgery completely removes blockages from your sinuses.

This type of sinus surgery is an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. We complete the entire surgery through the nose with an endoscope, eliminating the need to make any incisions in the skin. 

During the procedure, the ENT doctor inserts the endoscope into your nose. Then, they carefully remove anything that they see keeping the sinuses from draining, including mucous membrane, polyps, tumors, or bone.

Balloon sinus dilation is a little like taking those “windows” in your sinus cavities and turning them into doors, while endoscopic sinus surgery is like completely remodeling the house.

It takes most people about a week to recover from endoscopic sinus surgery, and it’s not usually painful. You can expect to experience some nasal congestion. We recommend irrigating your nose once or twice daily to speed up your recovery time.

Not everyone with acute or chronic sinus pressure headaches needs endoscopic sinus surgery. But if you have ongoing congestion and infection that isn’t improving, it might be right for you.

Infographic: How Sinus Pressure Headaches Happen (Plus What to Do)

When to Call an ENT About Sinus Pressure Headaches

Sinus headaches are incredibly uncomfortable and can make it difficult to function at work, school, or home. If you experience persistent and bothersome sinus pressure headaches, it’s time to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor. An ENT doctor can help you determine the right treatment based on your situation.

The sooner you take steps to address the root of the problem, the faster you’ll start feeling better!

What Is a Nasal Endoscopy and Do You Need One?

“Nasal endoscopy.”

Just the words sound intimidating. Your doctor wants to put a tube… where?

Fortunately, a nasal endoscopy is one of those scary-sounding medical terms that sounds much worse than it actually is.

Read on to find out why, despite how it sounds, a nasal endoscopy really isn’t bad at all — we promise!

What Is a Nasal Endoscopy?

A nasal endoscopy is a simple way for your ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor to look deeper inside your nasal passages. The physician first sprays a local anesthetic into your nose to numb your nasal passages and the back of your throat. They then insert an endoscope, a very thin tube with a tiny light and camera on its tip, into your nostril and use it to see all around inside the back of your nose and throat.

Depending on the purpose of the nasal endoscopy, your physician will use one of two kinds of endoscopes.

Flexible Endoscope Tubing

Sometimes your ENT just needs to take a quick look around inside your nose or throat. An exploratory nasal endoscopy like this usually involves a very flexible endoscope tube, which the physician guides with handheld controls. This tiny tube can turn and bend to allow the doctor a good view of anything they need to see. The camera on the end of the endoscope sends detailed video from within the nose to an eyepiece the physician wears.

Rigid Endoscope Tubing

Sometimes a physician needs to use an endoscope for more than just looking around. If they’re also performing a procedure, such as a sinus surgery, an ENT surgeon will use a rigid endoscope so the tube remains steady and in place. They can hold the rigid endoscope with one hand while operating the surgical instruments with the other hand. In this case, the endoscope’s camera usually sends video to a large monitor that the doctor, and sometimes even the patient, can see.

Who Needs a Nasal Endoscopy?

Since we can’t see all the way into the nose just by shining a light up a patient’s nostril, we often use an endoscope to look deeper. When a patient comes in with a complaint that we can’t entirely explain simply by looking up the nose with the naked eye, we can use a flexible endoscope to look for an explanation right there in the office.

What Is a Nasal Endoscopy and Do You Need One? Infographic

Health concerns we might investigate using nasal endoscopy include:

  • Suspected deviated septum
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Loss of ability to smell (unrelated to COVID-19 virus)
  • Nasal blockage of unknown origin
  • Nasal or sinus infection
  • Nasal polyps
  • Spinal fluid leaking from the nose
  • Suspected tumor in the nose

Patients may also need a nasal endoscopy as part of a separate procedure, like endoscopic sinus surgery.

Risks and Side Effects of Nasal Endoscopy

A nasal endoscopy is incredibly low risk. Many times, the complications from medical procedures arise from the general anesthesia. Nasal endoscopy carries none of those risks since it only involves a topical numbing spray that wears off shortly afterward.

In essence, a nasal endoscopy is just looking around. You can think of it similarly to how you’d view a doctor looking into your ear or your mouth. You don’t have to worry about side effects or complications from a tongue depressor, and you don’t have to worry about them with a nasal endoscopy either.

If you’re nervous about feeling pain from a nasal endoscopy, you don’t have to worry. While you may feel a small amount of pressure, you shouldn’t feel any pain at all. As far as after-effects, the worst you might experience is a little nosebleed, and even that is rare.

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we’ve been performing nasal endoscopies five to ten times per day every day for many, many years. After tens of thousands of nasal endoscopies, we’ve never had a complication.

Before, During, and After Your Nasal Endoscopy

Because a simple nasal endoscopy isn’t surgery, there’s nothing you need to do to prepare. You don’t need to fast or take any special antibiotics. We’ll give you a quick spritz of lidocaine to make sure your nose is numb before inserting the endoscope. The whole process only takes a few minutes, and then you’re on your way!

4 Nasal Polyps Treatment Options and How They Work

If you know or suspect you have nasal polyps, you’re probably familiar with chronic nasal congestion and difficulty breathing. Add to that the facial pressure, difficulty smelling, and recurrent sinus infections, and many people are desperate for an effective nasal polyps treatment.

In this post, we’ll take a look at what nasal polyps are, why they happen, and four of the best nasal polyps treatment options available.

What Are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps can form in the nasal passages or the sinuses and block airflow through the nose. They most commonly form when an allergic response in the nose causes an overgrowth of the nasal mucosa, or nasal lining. The swollen lining then fills with fluid, and pressure from this fluid causes the polyp to herniate out into the nasal cavity like a tiny, drooping water balloon.

Thankfully, nasal polyps are almost never cancerous; they simply make life miserable.

Nasal Polyps infographic and comparison illustration.

Unfortunately, we don’t know why some people get nasal polyps and some don’t. Certain individuals just seem to be more prone to them than others.

Nasal polyps can develop from a number of different factors. A few of the more common associations include:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Sensitivity to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen and ibuprofen
  • Samter’s triad, a chronic condition that includes aspirin sensitivity, asthma, and nasal polyps
  • Cystic fibrosis

Nasal Polyps Treatment Options

For something so small, nasal polyps cause some significant symptoms. Because of how much they affect a person’s breathing and cause sinus infections, nasal polyps need treatment.

Fortunately, there are several helpful nasal polyps treatment options available.

4 Treatment Options to Remove Nasal Polyps Infographic

Nasal Polyps Treatment #1: Oral Steroids

Nasal polyps respond well to oral steroids, which can produce a substantial improvement in the polyps’ size and symptoms. The main problem with oral steroids is that extended use can cause some significant side effects, including mood changes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, cataracts, osteoporosis, weight gain, and diabetes.

So despite their effectiveness, steroids aren’t a long-term fix for chronic nasal polyps.

Nasal Polyps Treatment #2: Topical Steroids

Topical steroids can serve as an additional or alternative treatment to oral steroids. Topical steroid sprays like Nasacort and Flonase control inflammation in the nasal lining caused by asthma and allergies. Decreasing that inflammation also helps decrease the size of nasal polyps.

Your allergist or ENT doctor may even add a topical steroid to a saline sinus rinse so the steroids can wash through your nasal passages more thoroughly.

These medications may help shrink nasal polyps or slow their growth. They may not be as effective with larger polyps, however.

Nasal Polyps Treatment #3: Surgery

Surgery isn’t the first line of treatment for nasal polyps. As with other conditions, we always start with medical treatment first before proceeding to surgery. That said, almost everyone with significant nasal polyps will eventually end up needing endoscopic sinus surgery.

Most endoscopic sinus surgeries are performed in an outpatient surgical center under general anesthesia. The ENT surgeon uses an endoscope, a thin tube with a tiny camera and light, to see into your nose and sinuses and delicately remove any polyps from your nasal passages using small instruments. Often, the surgeon will also open up your sinuses to let air flow more freely in those spaces as well.

During surgery, some surgeons place small drug-eluting stents into the sinus cavities. As the stents dissolve over the next month or two, they release a small amount of steroids into the nasal passages to prevent nasal polyps from reforming.

Because endoscopic sinus surgery opens the nasal passages and sinuses, topical steroid sprays and steroid sinus rinses can reach much more of your nasal lining for a more thoroughly wash. This allows the medications to do a better job of preventing new nasal polyps from forming.

Nasal Polyps Treatment #4: Monoclonal Antibody Injections

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are familiar with the concept of monoclonal antibody treatment. Some monoclonal antibody treatments, such as Dupixent, specifically target the inflammatory markers that cause nasal polyp formation.

Monoclonal antibodies are remarkably effective for nasal polyps treatment, causing polyps to just disappear. These treatments come in the form of injections, which means you have to give yourself a shot every two weeks. The main drawback of monoclonal antibodies for nasal polyps is that the polyps can start to come back as soon as you stop treatment.

Conclusion

Nasal polyps can make breathing — and life — miserable. If you suspect you have nasal polyps, we suggest visiting an ENT office to find out for sure what’s causing your symptoms. If nasal polyps are the culprit, your ENT doctor will be able to recommend the treatment that best fits your situation.

Why Thick Mucus Has Blocked Your Nose (Plus What To Do)

Everyone experiences a stuffy or runny nose from time to time. We’ve all had the unpleasant sensation of being unable to breathe with bad allergies or a cold.

But sometimes these symptoms can become chronic. Frequent nasal congestion from thick mucus and other causes can make daily life miserable. So what do you do when you feel like there’s a huge mucus plug in your nose?

How Does Nasal Blockage Happen?

Even though it probably feels like thick mucus is what’s plugging your nose, this isn’t the only type of nasal blockage. Frequently, swollen nasal tissues are the culprit. Here, we’ll look at some well-known and not-so-well-known causes of both kinds of nasal blockage.

Overuse of Topical Decongestants

The most common reason for chronic nasal congestion we see in our office is rhinitis medicamentosa. This fancy term simply means that your medication is actually causing your symptoms.

Topical nasal decongestants, like oxymetazoline and phenylephrine, work extremely well to reduce nasal congestion — in the short term. These nasal sprays, drops, and gels are only designed to be used for about three days at a time. If used for longer than that, patients can experience something commonly called “rebound congestion,” meaning their symptoms actually become worse as a result of using the medication.

This kicks off a vicious cycle of further congestion, more topical decongestant use, followed by even worse congestion. This is rhinitis medicamentosa.

Because not everyone knows not to use these nasal decongestants for longer periods of time, we see patients with this condition often.

Allergic Rhinitis

Environmental allergies are a common cause of nasal congestion. When pollen, pet dander, or mold hit your nose, they can cause severe swelling in your nasal lining and turbinates (small structures that increase the surface area in your nose and humidify the air you breathe). This irritation also leads to excess mucus production as your nose tries to flush out the offending particles.

Combined, this nasal swelling and mucus production can plug up your nasal passageways quickly.

Structural Problems in the Nose

Problems with the structure of the nose can also lead to nasal congestion. A person experiencing nasal valve collapse, for example, will have trouble breathing in, especially during strenuous exercise.

A deviated septum can also lead to nasal congestion. You may not produce excess mucus, but your nose might feel plugged often, especially on one side. This happens because the wall of bone and cartilage in the middle of your nose has deviated to one side or the other.

How Can I Prevent Mucus From Plugging My Nose?

One thing is certain: Whether it’s structures, swollen tissues, or mucus plugging your nose, it’s unpleasant. So let’s take a look at some ways to avoid congestion in the first place.

Don’t Get Hooked on Nasal Decongestants

If you use topical decongestants frequently, make sure you don’t use them for more than a couple days in a row. This will help you avoid developing a dependence on them that results in constant congestion.

Saline Irrigation and Saline Spray

Irrigating your nasal passages and sinuses with saline can help clear your nasal passages of any lingering pollen or allergen residue. It can also wash out excess mucus buildup to maintain a clear nasal passageway.

Saline spray can also be helpful to hydrate the nose, especially if you have mucus that crusts over and causes blockage. Some pharmacies also sell a viscous, gelatinous form of saline you can spray into your nose to help the mucus move along while providing hydration as well.

Although most saline sprays are formulated with isotonic saline, you can also purchase hypotonic saline solution, which has a decreased concentration of salt. Because this solution contains less salt than your body, your tissues may absorb fluid from the solution, helping hydrate your nasal passages. Hypertonic saline solutions, which have a higher salt concentration than your body, may have the opposite effect, pulling fluid from swollen nasal tissues and decongesting the nose.

Treat Your Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal or environmental allergies, treating these proactively with oral antihistamines or topical steroids can go a long way to decreasing nasal swelling and mucus production before they plug your nose.

Hydrate!

Drinking more water may seem like an overly simple treatment, but staying well hydrated can help thin the mucus you produce. When you’re dehydrated, your mucus is thicker, stickier, and harder for your body to eliminate.

Consider Further Treatment

If your issue is more a constant excess production of mucus than swollen tissues or structural problems, and no other solutions have helped, you might consider a procedure like RhinAer or Clarifix. These procedures deactivate the overactive nerve at the back of the nose that stimulates excess mucus production.

How Can I Treat Mucus Buildup?

If you’ve been unable to prevent thick mucus from plugging up your nose, we suggest you start with saline nasal irrigation and staying well hydrated to thin and flush out the mucus buildup.

Additionally, if you’ve been using a topical decongestant, such as a nasal spray like Afrin, for more than three days, stop use immediately. The rebound congestion will go away; it may just take one to two weeks.

If you think your congestion results from allergies, an over-the-counter antihistamine is your next step. If this doesn’t work, it’s probably time to call in a professional!

When Should I Call a Doctor?

What if you’ve kicked the decongestant habit and tried all the over-the-counter antihistamines and saline irrigations with no success? At this point, it’s time to contact your ENT doctor or allergy specialist. They can evaluate your nasal congestion to determine its source and how best to approach treatment.

We always attempt medical treatment first, which could involve further over-the-counter remedies or prescription medication. If that doesn’t work, we also have the option of surgical procedures, such as VivAer for nasal valve collapse or septoplasty for a deviated septum.

Can Sleep Apnea Kill You? A Doctor’s Perspective

Can sleep apnea kill you?

That may sound dramatic, and we’re not trying to scare anyone, but we do want to take a serious look at this common disease to help increase awareness about its impact on health.

To that end, let’s start with some statistics:

These numbers may sound high, but they’re not so surprising when you consider sleep apnea’s effects. Losing sleep doesn’t just reduce productivity on the job. It significantly increases risk for long-term dangers like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. It also increases risk of dangerous mistakes and accidents caused by daytime sleepiness.

So can sleep apnea kill you? Without a doubt. But keep in mind, it’s untreated sleep apnea that’s the most dangerous. To find out why, let’s take a look at how sleep apnea affects the body, what makes it so dangerous, and how to spot symptoms so you can get treatment.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep apnea affects at least 25 million Americans. It’s hard to say what the true number is because so many cases go undiagnosed.

Sleep apnea occurs when you repeatedly stop breathing while you sleep. In response to each episode, you wake slightly, take a breath, fall back to sleep — and the cycle repeats.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which means something blocks your airway while you sleep. Muscle tone decreases with sleep, so the blockage often comes from your tongue, soft palate, or tonsils falling back into your airway, or fatty tissues in your neck applying pressure to your airway.

This obstruction affects your health in two major ways.

Lack of oxygen. Any cell in the body that can’t get enough oxygen sustains damage. Cells that need more constant oxygen flow, like those of the heart and brain, suffer most.

Lack of restorative sleep. Important processes occur in your body during deep, restorative sleep, such as consolidating and storing memories.

Besides keeping you feeling well-rested and alert, sleep helps your tissues heal. So when you experience constant disruptions to your sleep throughout the night — even if you don’t notice them — your body has a hard time repairing itself.

How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Health?

Sleep apnea and the lack of restful sleep that it causes create more problems than just leaving you feeling tired the next morning. Sleep apnea affects almost every system in the body.

Let’s take a look at how sleep apnea affects the body, what makes it so dangerous, and how to spot symptoms so you can get treatment.

Daytime Sleepiness

The most obvious, immediate effects of sleep apnea include reductions in:

  • Daytime alertness
  • Ability to concentrate
  • Cognitive function
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Reaction time

Problems in any of these areas can affect your productivity and increase your likelihood of being involved in an accident.

Mental Health Problems

Sleep apnea can contribute to mental illness of all types. Patients reporting sleep apnea are more than three times as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts as their well-rested counterparts.

Immune System Effects

Cytokines are small proteins formed in the body that control the growth and function of other cells in your immune system. Because you produce more cytokines during sleep, a good night’s sleep is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system and fighting infections.

Weight Gain

Weight loss or weight maintenance is a goal for many people, but a lack of sleep increases the production of ghrelin, a hormone that boosts your appetite. Inadequate sleep, therefore, can contribute to increased hunger and weight gain.

Cardiac Problems

Lack of sleep causes your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone responsible for your fight or flight response. Cortisol increases your heart rate and blood pressure, making your heart work harder to support your body.

Another major source of cardiac problems from sleep apnea actually starts with the lungs. When an area of the lungs gets low on oxygen, it constricts to divert blood flow to another part of the lungs where oxygen is more available. With sleep apnea, though, no part of the lungs has oxygen, so all areas constrict. The heart still valiantly tries to pump blood through for air, which leads to rising blood pressure and eventual heart failure.

Other Sobering Statistics

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea have a much higher risk for multiple health complications. Some of the most serious include:

What Are the Major Symptoms of Severe Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea doesn’t have any obvious, cut-and-dried symptoms you can point to an immediately conclude, “I have sleep apnea!” This means people often don’t know they have sleep apnea, which is one of the reasons its so dangerous.

The main symptom people experience with sleep apnea is fatigue. But fatigue can come from all kinds of things — stress, busyness, and illness, to name a few — so most people don’t immediately assume an underlying health condition is the cause.

Snoring is another common symptom, but not all snoring comes from sleep apnea. Again, snoring is so common that most people just dismiss it as an irritating inconvenience.

Besides these symptoms, you may also notice poor work or school performance, moodiness, and irritability. Some people wake up with headaches from the night’s reduced oxygen. High blood pressure could also be a clue.

The only way to know for sure if you have sleep apnea is to get a sleep study. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, or if someone else notices that you stop breathing while you sleep, ask your doctor about getting this simple sleep test done.

Bottom Line: Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

The bottom line is that, yes, sleep apnea can definitely kill you in a variety of ways, both direct and indirect. You’re at higher risk if you already have health issues like high blood pressure, blood circulation problems, and obesity, but sleep apnea can lead to these conditions and others even in healthy individuals.

The good news is that there are several treatments available for sleep apnea. CPAP machines (continuous positive airway pressure machines) are a common non-surgical treatment, and Inspire is a relatively simple and highly effective surgical treatment.

Looking for more information about sleep apnea or its treatments? Find out whether sleep apnea is hereditary and what other options can cure sleep apnea.

6 Common Nasal and Sinus Issues and How To Identify Them

Your nose is an infection-fighting machine.

It’s a self-cleaning organ with mucus and hair cells that trap and push out the bacteria and debris from your environment. It’s a filter between you and the outside world.

But sometimes, that filter gets into trouble.

When the nose and sinuses are functioning properly, you don’t really need to do much to care for them. Maybe you find an occasional saline sinus rinse helpful, but other than that, things work well on their own.

But the nose and sinuses don’t always function properly, and this can give rise to a number of nasal and sinus issues.

6 Common Nasal and Sinus Issues and How To Identify Them

The nose and sinuses are small parts of the body that can cause big problems. Let’s take a look at six of the most common nasal and sinus issues.

6 Common Nasal and Sinus Issues and How To Identify Them Infographic

1. Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is also sometimes referred to as hay fever or seasonal allergies.

Your immune system’s job is to fight off pathogens that try to enter your body from the environment to prevent them from causing an infection. But sometimes your immune system flares up at inappropriate times, misidentifying a piece of dust or pollen as a dangerous threat to your health.

Allergic rhinitis occurs when the mucosa that lines the inside of the nose becomes thick and swollen in response to this perceived threat. The nose tries to get rid of that pollen with mucus production, which produces the congestion and drainage so many of us are familiar with.

People in all different parts of the world suffer from allergic rhinitis. Here in the West Texas panhandle, we have our own unique allergens. The dust storms, cotton, ragweed, and tumbleweeds can send our immune systems into overdrive, wreaking havoc on our nasal mucosa.

Hallmark signs of allergic rhinitis include a runny nose, sneezing, headache, postnasal drip, and itchy, watery eyes.

2. Sinus Infections

Sometimes nasal swelling from allergies or a viral infection blocks off the opening to your sinuses. When this blockage lasts long enough, mucus and bacteria become trapped, continuing to build up in the sinus cavities.

Sinus infections cause thick drainage, headache, nasal congestion, and facial pain and pressure. You might also experience a fever or fatigue. Sometimes, if a sinus infection lingers long enough, it can even drain down into the lungs and lead to bronchitis.

Although some sinus infections resolve successfully with home remedies, others may require antibiotics.

3. Vasomotor Rhinitis

Vasomotor rhinitis is when the nose just drips and drains on its own.

In people experiencing vasomotor rhinitis, an overly excited posterior nasal nerve sends abnormal signals to the nose, causing excess mucus production. Sufferers then experience either postnasal drip or a runny nose with no apparent cause.

For unknown reasons, vasomotor rhinitis often happens at mealtimes and in the older population. We don’t fully understand the causes of vasomotor rhinitis, but it certainly can be frustrating!

4. Deviated Septum

The wall of cartilage and bone that divides your nose into two halves is called the nasal septum. The septum is usually straight, but it can sometimes deviate to one side, becoming a deviated septum.

We usually associate a deviated septum with a broken nose. While trauma can cause a deviated septum, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a broken nose.

A car crash, sports injury, or other hit to the face could all result in a deviated septum, and some people are even born with a deviated septum.

The main symptom of a deviated septum is congestion that’s more severe on one side of the nose. People with a deviated septum often find it easier to sleep on one side to keep their nasal passages open. Snoring is also a common result.

An ENT surgeon can treat a deviated septum surgically with septoplasty.

5. Nasal Valve Collapse

The nostrils have another, lesser-known name: the nasal valves.

When some people breathe in deeply, the external wall of one or both of their nasal valves caves in. The nose just collapses in on itself and hinders breathing. This is nasal valve collapse.

The primary symptom of nasal valve collapse is difficulty breathing in through the nose. Sometimes a nasal valve remains collapsed all the time, causing constant breathing trouble, and other times it only collapses during intense exercise or exertion.

We can treat nasal valve collapse with over-the-counter remedies like Breath Right Strips, but we’ve also seen great permanent results with the VivAer nasal remodeling procedure.

6. Allergic Fungal Sinusitis

A more difficult sinus issue we sometimes see is allergic fungal sinusitis.

Most often, bacteria and viruses cause sinus infections. But some sinus infections can be caused by a fungus in the air, such as mold.

While a healthy immune system can usually clear this problem, people with immune deficiencies can’t fight it off so easily. This obstruction can lead to production of extremely thick mucus, and the fungus stays trapped in the sinuses with the mucus.

It’s almost impossible to get rid of all the fungus and thickened mucus without surgery to clean out the sinuses.

If allergic fungal sinusitis, or any kind of chronic sinusitis, goes untreated long enough, it can lead to the formation of a mucocele. A mucocele occurs when the mucus is unable to drain for so long that it builds up and puts enough pressure on the sinuses to begin remodeling the bone structures. This can result in facial deformities, even eroding through the skull and eventually into the brain.

This is a rare complication of untreated chronically blocked sinuses.

More Resources for Sinus Issues

Nasal and sinus issues can be a real pain and significantly impact the quality of your life. For more information about dealing with various nasal and sinus issues, take a look at our other articles on the subjects!

How To Prevent Hearing Loss: 5 Tips From an ENT Doctor

Hearing. It’s one of the senses we rely heavily upon to understand our world. And like most of our five senses, we never seem to fully appreciate it until it’s gone.

Though not all hearing loss is preventable, much of it is. And the good news is that taking a few simple measures will minimize your chances of hearing impairment.

Below, we’ll look at how to prevent hearing loss and five steps you can take to protect your hearing.

Why Is Preventing Hearing Loss So Important?

As an ENT doctor, I typically see two main contributing factors of hearing loss in my practice: genetics and noise.

We inherit genetic hearing loss from our families, and unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to prevent that. People with genetic hearing loss can be careful to protect their hearing their whole lives and still wind up unable to hear in their later years.

But noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented.

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs because we’re exposed to sounds that are just too loud for us. Deep in our inner ears, sound waves activate tiny hair-like cells that then send signals our brain interpret as sound. Too much sound, though, damages these little hairs, and they never heal or recover.

This is noise-induced hearing loss.

We often see noise-induced hearing loss in farmers and oil field workers who spend their days working around heavy machinery. Anyone who spends much time in front of blasting speakers or shooting guns without ear protection will likely develop hearing loss as well.

The trouble is, we don’t think about hearing loss when we’re young; we think we’re invincible. By the time we realize the need for hearing protection, sometimes the damage is already done. And because those little hair cells never heal, the only course of action at this point is hearing aids.

Perhaps because of these risk factors, men between the ages of 20 and 69 are almost twice as likely to develop hearing loss as their female counterparts. And more than a billion young adults are at risk of permanent, yet preventable, hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.

The good news is that once you know what causes the damage, you’re well on your way to understanding how to prevent hearing loss.

How To Prevent Hearing Loss

Here are five of the most important steps you can take to prevent hearing loss. By following these, you will significantly decrease your risk of noise-induced hearing damage.

Tip #1: Always Wear Hearing Protection Around Loud Noises

You may not think you need hearing protection, but you might be surprised what levels of sound can harm your ears.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) note that prolonged exposure to noise over 70 decibels (dB) or hour-long exposure to noise at 85 dB can cause hearing loss. Noise at 110 dB can cause permanent hearing loss in less than two minutes, and 120 dB and above can cause immediate damage.

For some context, normal speaking volume is around 60 dB, and a loud vacuum cleaner or hair dryer is about 70–75 dB. A hand saw, blender, or noisy restaurant produces around 85 dB, and thunderclaps, ambulance sirens, and pneumatic drills reach 120 dB.

Jet engines, gunshots, and stock car races all well exceed 120 dB.

So whether you attend a concert or work with heavy machinery, power tools, or construction equipment, if the sound might exceed a safe decibel level, you should wear hearing protection.

Even if you’re attending an acoustic or classical music concert, bringing hearing protection along with you is a good idea in case you find yourself sitting in front of a speaker.

Both ear plugs and over-the-ear muffs can provide effective hearing protection.

Ear plugs generally block more noise because they fill up the ear canal to block sound waves from entering. Plugs are also more effective for preventing damage from low-frequency noises; think diesel engines, compressors, wind turbines, and thunder.

Ear plugs are also less conspicuous than ear muffs, which many people find appealing.

Over-the-ear muffs, on the other hand, are more effective at protecting your hearing from high-frequency noises; think whistles, motorcycles, turbochargers, and crashing cymbals.

Ear plugs alone can cut noise levels by 30 dB, but wearing both in-the-ear and over-the-ear protection together can provide the best protection if you’re in a particularly loud environment, like a gun range or machinery-heavy workplace.

How To Prevent Hearing Loss: 5 Tips From an ENT Doctor Infographic

Tip #2: Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Properly

Wearing ear protection in noisy environments is a great start. But hearing protection can’t help if it doesn’t fit properly!

Ear plugs should fit snugly inside the ear with no gaps or movement. You may need to try out a few brands and sizes to find the ear plugs that fit you best.

Hearing protection ear muffs should fit snugly over the entire outside of the ear. And if you’re going to be exposed to noise levels over 105 dB for a prolonged period, it’s best to wear both ear plugs and ear muffs together.

Tip #3: Understand How Decibels Are Measured

Even if we know that decibels measure sound intensity, the decibel scale can be confusing.

It’s important to remember that decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, not a linear one. This means each decibel increase indicates an exponentially louder sound.

Normal breathing, for example, is about 10 dB, and a ticking watch registers around 20 dB. This doesn’t mean that a watch is twice as loud as breathing, but that it’s 10 times louder than breathing.

So a few more decibels in sound aren’t quite as harmless as you might think.

Tip #4: Take a Break During Prolonged Exposure to Loud Noises

If you need to be around loud noises for a long period of time, try to take some breaks. Even if the noise doesn’t seem that loud, prolonged exposure to excess noise causes damage to hearing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets permissible exposure limits, or PELs, for the noise exposure allowed in workplaces. They permit a full eight-hour workday at 90 dB, for example, but for every 5 dB increase, they cut the time in half.

Tip #5: Keep Noises at Reasonable Levels

Many of us like to have constant noise with us as we go about our day. We crank up the radio and belt out a tune during our commute. We listen to podcasts while we go for a walk or cook dinner for the family. The noise of the television keeps us company in the evenings.

But in our zeal to listen to our favorite tunes and catch up on our favorite podcasts, it’s easy to get carried away. Most smartphones have apps that can measure decibels, and the iPhone even warns you if your volume is approaching dangerous levels.

You don’t need to strain to hear your favorite song, but try to keep the volume at a reasonable level. Your future self will thank you!

Protect Your Hearing and Get Tested if You’re Concerned

Maybe you work in a noisy car wash, frequent Nascar races, or enjoyed a stint as a punk rock groupie. Or maybe you hit the shooting range to unwind on the weekends. Whatever your pastimes, we hope you’ll employ these tips to prevent hearing loss.

If you have any concerns about your hearing — like ringing in your ears or not being able to understand people’s words — you can always schedule a hearing test with an ENT doctor or board-certified audiologist.

They can assess your current level of hearing and keep you listening to the world around you as long as possible!

RhinAer vs. ClariFix: Which Procedure Is Best? (Or Should You Do Both?)

Is your nose constantly running, even though the rest of your body feels fine? Are you the friend everyone knows always has a tissue available?

If you’re experiencing a constant runny nose or mucus running down the back of your throat, you’ve probably tried all the sprays, pills, and home remedies available. Perhaps you’re considering a more permanent solution: a procedure like RhinAer or ClariFix.

But which procedure is best? How do RhinAer and ClariFix stack up against each other? Or should you have both for good measure?

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these procedures and which might be right for you.

Postnasal Drip and Runny Nose

Mucus is the wet, slimy stuff produced by the various mucous membranes in your body. Mucus helps lubricate your mucous membranes for optimal function, keeps your body moist, and prevents microbes in your environment from causing infections.

The nose and throat are lined with mucous membranes, and the nose constantly produces some mucus. Because the back of the nose drains down the throat, most of this mucus normally slips down your throat unnoticed.

Postnasal drip happens when you do notice this sensation. It usually occurs because your nose is producing excess mucus, or you’re having trouble clearing a normal amount of mucus from your throat.

A constant runny nose can happen for the same reason — too much mucus production. But instead of the mucus falling down the back of your throat, it flows out of your nose instead.

Common Causes of Excess Mucus Production

Sometimes, your nose produces excess mucus because of legitimate reasons like a bacterial or viral infection, allergens, or weather changes. Less frequently, however, the nose can produce excess mucus for no apparent reason.

The posterior nasal nerve sits behind the nose and sends signals to the nose to produce mucus. But this nerve can become overactive, signaling the nose to constantly produce excess mucus even when no external trigger is present. The medical term for this type of overactive mucus production is intractable vasomotor rhinitis.

Treating Chronic Postnasal Drip or Runny Nose the Old Way

Before simple procedures like RhinAer and ClariFix existed, ENT surgeons relied on a much more invasive, time-consuming procedure known as a vidian neurectomy. This procedure required general anesthesia and involved drilling at the skull base in order to sever the offending nerve. It solved the issue, but also resulted in some side effects, such as chronic dry eyes.

RhinAer vs. ClariFix

The RhinAer and ClariFix procedures both adapt the thought process behind the old vidian neurectomy procedure: to knock the overactive nerve out of function.

But these newer procedures work on a more targeted area of the nerve branches right behind the nose, so they tend to not cause eye dryness. They’re also much less invasive and much safer; they don’t involve cutting, drilling, or general anesthesia.

All About RhinAer

For the RhinAer procedure, an ENT doctor numbs your nose with a local anesthetic. They then insert a small stylus-type instrument and a camera through the nose.

Your posterior nasal nerve isn’t visible on the surface, but an experienced ENT surgeon will know the areas where the nerve usually runs. They use the stylus to apply heat to those areas at the back of the nose using low-temperature, non-ablative radiofrequency energy. This heat deactivates the nerve through the tissue without any cutting.

All About ClariFix

Similar to RhinAer, ClariFix is a short in-office procedure performed by an ENT doctor. It begins exactly the same way — with your doctor providing a local anesthetic prior to the procedure for your comfort.

Instead of using an instrument that heats up, ClariFix uses cold to deactivate the target nerve. An ENT doctor inserts a tiny camera into the nose along with the ClariFix device. The device then uses nitrous oxide to become cold and apply cryotherapy to the areas behind the nose where the nerve usually runs.

Should You Get RhinAer and ClariFix at the Same Time?

Because RhinAer and ClariFix use opposite methods to achieve results in the same area, the procedures should not be performed at the same time. However, if you undergo one of these procedures and find it didn’t work as well as you hoped, you could try the other procedure after some time.

RhinAer vs. ClariFix: Similarities

In our ENT practice, we see similar outcomes with both RhinAer and ClariFix. The procedures themselves are extremely similar, except that one uses heat and the other uses cold to accomplish the same purpose.

Both are minimally invasive, low-risk, in-office procedures. They require no time off work, but you may face some increased nasal congestion for a few weeks due to post-procedure swelling. Most patients see results within two to six weeks.

RhinAer vs. ClariFix: Differences

While neither procedure causes much in the way of discomfort or side effects, some patients do complain of a “brain freeze” type headache during the ClariFix procedure because of the cold in the nose. However, this typically only lasts for a few minutes.

RhinAer vs. ClariFix: Which Procedure Is Best? (Or Should You Do Both?) Infographic

Final Thoughts

The choice between RhinAer vs. ClariFix really boils down to personal preference and what your doctor has available. And keep in mind that if one procedure isn’t effective for you, you still have the option to try the other.

Regardless of whether you choose RhinAer or ClariFix, it’s important to find an experienced ENT surgeon to perform these procedures. Because the posterior nasal nerve isn’t visible during the procedure, a knowledgeable physician familiar with the nerve placement is crucial.

Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary? How To Identify if You’re at Risk

Incidents of sleep apnea are on the rise. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine now estimates that 26% of Americans between the ages of 30 and 70 suffer from some form of sleep apnea.

Chances are good, then, that you or someone you know deals with this frustrating condition. And if the person you know with sleep apnea is a parent or sibling, you may find yourself wondering if you’re at risk too.

So, is sleep apnea genetic/hereditary? Let’s look at what the scientific evidence has to say, as well as how to know if you’re at risk for developing sleep apnea.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea falls along a spectrum of issues known as sleep disordered breathing (SDB). SDB includes everything from very mild snoring to mild, moderate, or severe sleep apnea to obesity hypoventilation syndrome (sometimes referred to as Pickwickian Syndrome, a nod to Charles Dickens’ famous character).

The word “apnea” means slowed or stopped breathing. Although apnea can happen during the day, sleep apnea refers specifically to slowed or stopped breathing while sleeping.

There are two kinds of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Central sleep apnea.

Sometimes people can develop a combination of both kinds of sleep apnea, which is called complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the lungs are trying to breathe, but something is blocking the airway. This blockage is usually located somewhere in the throat.

When you’re sleeping, your muscle tone is naturally much lower than when you’re awake. The muscles in your airway relax, and the tongue and tonsils can fall backward and block the airway. Excess fat tissue in the neck can also result in pressure that blocks the airway during sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea results from a dysfunction in the nervous system. While obstructive sleep apnea is more of a mechanical problem, central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to correctly signal the lungs to take a breath.

Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary?

So is sleep apnea hereditary? As with so much in medicine, the answer is a little more complex than a simple yes or no.

Researchers suspect that there may be specific genetic factors that make a person more likely to develop sleep apnea. But while this possibility is still being explored, it’s clear that some risk factors could be inherited.

But which factors of sleep apnea are hereditary? And if you’re at risk, is there anything you can do to lower your risk?

First, if one of your parents or siblings has sleep apnea, then it’s important you ask which kind they suffer from: central or obstructive sleep apnea. This will give you somewhere to start. Then you can consider the signs and risk factors for the two types of sleep apnea.

Which Risk Factors of Obstructive Sleep Apnea Are Hereditary?

Most incidences of obstructive sleep apnea are due to excess body weight. More fatty tissue in the neck puts more pressure on the throat during sleep, leading to an obstruction of breathing.

As genetics impact your body weight, you may be more prone to developing obstructive sleep apnea. If you inherited a larger body type from your family, for example, you may have more difficulty with weight around your neck.

The best way to mitigate weight-related risk for sleep apnea is through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Other potentially hereditary risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include anatomical differences in the face and neck, such as:

  • Large tongue (compared to the rest of your mouth).
  • Narrow airway.
  • Short cheekbones.
  • Small lower jaw.
  • The shape of your throat.
  • Shorter, thicker-than-average neck.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).

Which Risk Factors of Central Sleep Apnea Are Hereditary?

We don’t have many answers right now about the root cause of central sleep apnea. It’s a largely idiopathic condition, which is the medical way of saying we don’t know what causes it. However, we do know several risk factors, such as:

  • Narcotic pain relievers (such as opioids) that affect breathing.
  • High altitude.
  • End-stage kidney disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Congestive heart failure.

The tendency toward some of these risk factors could be heritable. If you have any of these risk factors in your family history and suspect sleep apnea, speak with your healthcare provider.

Is Sleep Apnea Hereditary? How To Identify if You're at Risk Infographic

Worried You’re at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

If you’re worried that you may be at risk for sleep apnea, contact your healthcare provider. They can order a sleep study for you, which is an easy way to determine whether you have sleep apnea.

Excess weight is the top risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, so speaking to a doctor about help for weight management could help. If weight doesn’t seem to be the problem, certain surgeries can help address anatomical issues that block the airway.

For example, in children who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy often resolve the condition. Some adults even benefit from a tonsillectomy. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is a common, non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea. And Inspire is a popular procedure that helps relieve obstructive sleep apnea for many people.

If you have central sleep apnea, though doctors may not know its cause, they can still provide treatment. Certain medications, a CPAP machine, and even a new surgery may all help alleviate central sleep apnea. Reducing the use of opioid medications may also help.

Regardless of your hereditary risk factors, if you suspect you have any form of sleep apnea, the most important thing is to see a doctor right away. Left untreated, sleep apnea can be dangerous and have a significant impact on your health and quality of life.

Yes, Sleep Apnea Can Be Cured Permanently — Here’s How

Sleep apnea causes a variety of short- and long-term health problems for an estimated 22 million Americans, and it can be difficult to cure.

Many long-term diseases — like asthma and rosacea — can be treated and well controlled, but not cured. The difference between these conditions and sleep apnea is that these conditions have medical causes, whereas sleep apnea has an anatomical cause.

So while you can’t take a pill to fix an anatomical issue, a variety of treatment options do exist to address the underlying anatomical causes of sleep apnea.

So can sleep apnea be cured? In many cases, the answer is yes!

What Is Sleep Apnea?

The word apnea is a medical term for slowed or stopped breathing. A person with sleep apnea slows or stops their breathing repeatedly while they sleep.

The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something blocks your airway while you sleep.

During sleep, your muscle tone is much lower than when you’re awake. Even the muscles in your airway relax. This can cause the tongue and tonsils to droop backwards and block off your airway. In other cases, some people’s jaws or throats are simply shaped in such a way that their airway collapses when they sleep.

Weight can also have a direct effect on sleep apnea. Fatty tissue in the neck can put pressure on the airways of larger-bodied individuals during sleep.

An obstructed airway prevents your lungs from getting the air they need to function properly, and they can no longer provide adequate oxygen to the rest of the body. This can lead to devastating consequences, especially over the long term.

Can Sleep Apnea Be Cured?

A cure is relief from the symptoms of disease. In most cases, when treatments are able to address the underlying anatomical issue causing the problem, sleep apnea can actually be cured!

Challenges in Curing Sleep Apnea in Adults

In children dealing with sleep apnea, removing the tonsils and adenoids almost always cures the sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea can be a bit more challenging to cure in adults because there can be more complicating factors. Weight gain, for instance, has a variety of causes that aren’t always easy to address. Aging causes a natural decrease in muscle tone that’s also difficult to remedy. And anatomical issues require more involved treatments, such as surgeries, to correct.

The Most Effective Ways To Cure Sleep Apnea

Tonsillectomy

We already mentioned that tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy typically cure children who struggle with sleep apnea. But this same surgery can be helpful for adults who still have their tonsils as well.

Tonsillectomy recovery is more difficult for adults. If you decide to go this route, you should plan to take at least two weeks off work after the procedure.

If this is the only issue, then the tonsillectomy should cure the sleep apnea!

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machine

For people who are able to tolerate wearing a mask while they sleep, a CPAP machine is an effective way to cure the symptoms of sleep apnea. CPAP machines have been around for years and are still the most common treatment for sleep apnea.

The machine works by continuously blowing air into your airway while you sleep, keeping your airway open and your body oxygenated.

Hyoid Suspension Surgery

A hyoid suspension surgery pulls the hyoid bone — a small, u-shaped bone in the front of your neck — forward, helping to stabilize the airway and prevent it from collapsing during sleep. A surgeon performs the procedure on patients under general anesthesia, and a short hospital stay is usually involved.

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) Surgery

UPPP surgery modifies the back of the throat and reshapes the roof of the mouth. A surgeon removes the tonsils if they are still in place, and then makes several small incisions in the soft palate. When suturing these incisions, the surgeon tightens the palate, making it less likely to interfere with airflow.

A UPPP can be extremely helpful for a patient who experiences snoring due to loose tissue in the soft palate. Unfortunately, recovery from this procedure is fairly difficult. An overnight hospital stay for pain management is generally required.

Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery (MMA)

Maxillomandibular advancement surgery is the most intense treatment we’ll mention in this post. While it is highly effective at curing sleep apnea, it is also quite invasive.

MMA involves a surgeon cutting and moving the patient’s jaw bones forward and securing them in position with titanium screws and plates. Because of its more extensive nature, this procedure comes with more risks and a longer recovery time than the others we’ve mentioned.

Inspire Procedure

In our ENT practice, we’ve found the Inspire procedure for sleep apnea to be as or more effective than any of the surgeries listed above. And it’s much less invasive and less painful as well!

Inspire offers a maskless alternative for people who aren’t able to sleep with their CPAP machine. It works like a pacemaker for your tongue. Instead of connecting to your heart, however, Inspire connects to the nerve that controls your tongue movement.

A surgeon implants the Inspire device in your chest, and a sensor detects when you’re trying to take a breath. When it detects this, Inspire gently encourages your tongue to move slightly forward, clearing your airway for each breath. This effectively cures the symptoms of sleep apnea by using your own nerves and muscles!

Can sleep apnea be cured? Several treatments exist today to address the underlying anatomical causes of sleep apnea.

Yes, Sleep Apnea Can Be Cured!

The good news is that in many cases, sleep apnea can be cured successfully! The treatment you choose is ultimately up to you, the patient. A good ENT doctor can discuss your treatment options and help you decide which is best for you. Then you’ll be on your way to a better night’s sleep!

Is There a “Best” Antibiotic for Sinus Infections?

We all know the frustration of a run-of-the-mill cold virus that turns into a raging sinus infection. The sinus headaches, facial pressure, and facial pain are no joke!

So what is the single best antibiotic for a sinus infection? As it turns out, the answer isn’t quite that simple.

What Is a Sinus Infection?

Your sinuses are simply air-filled pockets in your head. They lighten the skull and allow your voice to reverberate. The membranes that line the sinuses also produce mucus to lubricate the inside of the nose.

Your sinuses are connected to your nose by small drainage tubes called ostia. Ostia allow mucus to flow from the sinuses into the nose and air to flow up through the nose into the sinuses.

Ostia can become blocked by inflammation due to a cold, the flu, or allergies, preventing mucus from flowing out of the sinuses into the nose. Instead, the mucus backs up and accumulates in the sinuses, causing the pressure and pain sufferers know so well.

Many sinus infections start off as cold or flu viruses, which means antibiotics — which only fight bacteria — can’t do anything to help them. These sinus infections can get better on their own or with alternative treatments, especially once the source of the sinus blockage clears up.

That said, sinus infections provide a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, so if the blockage lingers, the infection can become bacterial. This may involve yellow or green mucus, further pain and pressure, and even an unpleasant odor. A bacterial sinus infection can require antibiotics to resolve.

Other Options To Consider Before Antibiotics

Antibiotics are one of the most important advances in modern medicine, but it’s best not to use them if you don’t need to. For sinus infections, whether viral or bacterial, there are several effective over-the-counter remedies you can try at home before turning to antibiotics.

Sinus Rinses and Irrigation

In many cases, sinus irrigation is a very effective treatment for sinus infections. One method is to simply rinse out your nose and sinuses with a neti pot or other irrigation system using a saline solution. You can buy saline solution over the counter or mix your own at home with distilled water.

Alternatively, you can buy bottles of saline solution made to spray directly into your nose from most pharmacies and grocery stores.

Sinus rinses work by flushing mucus out of the nose and sinuses to help things flow freely. Saline also has a natural decongestant effect, shrinking swollen nasal tissues and opening up nasal passages.

We recommend using sinus irrigation once or twice per day as tolerated.

Topical Steroid Sprays

Topical steroid sprays work to reduce inflammation in the nasal lining. These over-the-counter medications are a great complement to saline nasal sprays and irrigations. Side effects are minimal, especially when used short term.

Flonase, Nasacort, and Rhinocort are the most common over-the-counter name brands. But their generic counterparts — fluticasone, triamcinolone, and budesonide — are just as effective and usually much less expensive.

The main problem with topical steroid sprays is that they can take time to become effective. So while they can be helpful when treating a lingering sinus infection, they’re not as effective at relieving more severe acute sinus infection symptoms.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines block receptor cells for histamine, a chemical that the body produces in response to allergens and that causes inflammation. If your sinus infection originated because of a nasal blockage due to allergy inflammation, treating this underlying cause may help open the sinuses and lead to healing.

We recommend only taking antihistamines on a short-term or as-needed basis because they tend to cause severe drying. Long-term use can lead to bloody noses and can even make you more susceptible to future sinus infections.

We prefer non-drowsy antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Xyzal so you can stay alert. Be sure to look for their generic counterparts — loratadine, cetirizine, and levocetirizine — for effective, cheaper options.

The best antibiotic for a sinus infection differs depending on the situation. This infographic shows several antibiotic alternatives.

The Best Antibiotic for a Sinus Infection

If you’ve tried the home remedies mentioned above and are still fighting a sinus infection, it’s time to see your doctor. You may have a bacterial infection, and only a doctor can prescribe you the best antibiotic for your specific sinus infection.

Why There Is No Single “Best” Antibiotic for a Sinus Infection

Different antibiotics target different types of bacteria in the body. The specific type of bacteria causing your sinus infection will react to a specific antibiotic, but you may need to try several of them before your doctor finds one that’s effective.

Most doctors will start by prescribing a first-line antibiotic for 10–14 days. This antibiotic broadly targets the most common types of bacteria in the nose and throat that cause sinus infections.

If you have a true chronic sinus infection, you may require 4–6 straight weeks of antibiotic use.

Sometimes bacteria can form a film to protect themselves, in which case doctors can wash the sinuses with an antibiotic rinse. Other times, your physician may want to culture the bacteria causing your infection to determine exactly what you’re dealing with. Then they can prescribe an antibiotic specific to the bacteria causing your sinus infection.

There are hundreds of possible antibiotics to use for a sinus infection. Only a doctor can determine the best antibiotic to use for your sinus infection based on your specific case.

How Many Sinus Infections Is Too Many?

It’s difficult to say exactly how many sinus infections per year is “too many.” Of course, you should consult with your healthcare provider, but it’s best to consult an ENT specialist if you’re dealing with more than two sinus infections per year. An ENT specialist can discover what’s causing your ongoing sinus struggles and help you figure out what to do about them.

What Are Tympanostomy Tubes and Do You Need Them?

You’ve probably heard other parents mention their child getting tubes in their ears. It sounds simple enough when it’s someone else’s child.

But when it’s your baby’s turn, anxiety can rear its head.

We know that any medical procedure on your child can seem scary, regardless of their age, and we want to set your mind at ease. In this post, we’ll talk about who needs tympanostomy tubes, what exactly tympanostomy tubes are, and how they’re inserted.

Who Needs Tympanostomy Tubes?

Most tympanostomy tubes are placed in children, but adults sometimes need them as well. In children, the primary reason for tympanostomy tubes is chronic fluid and infection in the middle ear (otitis media) that doesn’t resolve with antibiotics.

Normally, the eustachian tube ventilates the middle ear, opening and closing to equalize air pressure and allow fluid to drain from our ear to the back of our nose and down our throat. But this channel can become blocked by inflammation, allergies, and infection, causing eustachian tube dysfunction. Air and fluid then build up in the middle ear, leading to pain, pressure, and ear infection.

Eustachian tubes in young children tend to be smaller and more horizontal, so they become blocked more easily than adult eustachian tubes. This is why children often get more ear infections than adults.

An occasional ear infection is easily treated with antibiotics. But chronic otitis media with effusion (fluid) lasts for three months or longer, and recurrent acute otitis media involves multiple isolated ear infections over a period of time —three in six months or four in 12 months. In these cases, tympanostomy tubes replace the function of the blocked eustachian tubes, allowing air and fluid to drain from the middle ear through the outer ear instead.

In adults, fluid buildup in the ear usually just causes discomfort. In young children, however, the fluid can cause hearing loss that leads to delays in speech development.

If repeated ear infections aren’t addressed (or are simply prescribed oral antibiotics over and over again), they can cause:

  • Hearing loss.
  • Damage to the middle ear and eardrum.
  • Gastrointestinal issues or oral thrush from repeated systemic antibiotics.

As tympanostomy tubes ventilate the middle ear, the ear becomes less susceptible to infection. Fluid and pressure no longer impede the eardrum’s function, and hearing returns to normal. By using tympanostomy tubes in children, we hope to ventilate the middle ear until a child grows out of their repeated ear infections.

All About Tympanostomy Tubes

If you’re considering tympanostomy tubes, you likely have questions about the placement procedure. We believe the more you know about the tympanostomy procedure, the more at ease you’ll be.

What Are Tympanostomy Tubes?

Tympanostomy tubes (or ear tubes) are tiny tubes about 2–3 mm long. We find that using flexible rubber tubes causes less trauma to the ear than other tubes on the market, such as thicker plastic or metal tubes.

What Is a Tympanostomy?

A tympanostomy is a procedure in which an ENT surgeon uses a sharp tool to create a very small hole in the tympanic membrane (the eardrum). The surgeon then inserts the tiny tympanostomy tube into the hole to keep it open. Otherwise, the eardrum would heal the hole within a fairly short time, as it does after a myringotomy.

An adult tympanostomy is a simple, five-minute office procedure performed with topical numbing medication. Children are unable to lie still enough for a tympanostomy, however, so their procedures occur in an outpatient surgery center where they can receive anesthesia via a mask. No IVs are necessary, and the procedure is still short and simple.

Tympanostomy tubes are a simple, easy, low-risk way to relieve discomfort and prevent infection when nothing else seems to help.

After Tympanostomy Tube Placement

After receiving the anesthesia for their tympanostomy, it’s not unusual for kids to be a little cranky for the remainder of the day. But by the day after surgery, they should be able to resume normal activities and attend school or daycare. There are no limitations on diet or exercise, and it’s not necessary to try to keep water out of the ears.

We check the patient’s hearing in our office a few weeks after the tubes are placed to ensure improvement. We also schedule follow-up visits to check the tympanostomy tubes every six months until they fall out.

Tympanostomy Tubes Provide Big Benefits

Like any medical procedure, getting tympanostomy tubes in your own or your child’s ears may be intimidating. But tympanostomy tube placement is a simple, easy, low-risk procedure that can relieve discomfort and prevent infection when nothing else seems to help.

We hope you find this information helpful and can look forward to the benefits of tympanostomy tubes without worry!

Patient Instructions for Ear Tube Drainage: A Complete Guide

Ear tube placement is a very simple, routine office procedure. But many patients have questions after they get home.

Is ear tube drainage normal? How much is normal? Is it okay if my ears were draining but then stopped?

Let’s talk about what to expect after ear tube placement and what might warrant a call to the office.

What Does Ear Tube Placement Do?

The vast majority of ear tube (tympanostomy tube) patients are under the age of two. The unfortunate truth is that the eustachian tube (the small tunnel that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose) doesn’t always work very well, especially in little kids.

A healthy eustachian tube opens when we swallow, yawn, and talk, allowing air to vent and fluid to drain through it. This keeps ear pressure normal and prevents an accumulation of fluid in the middle ear.

But with eustachian tube dysfunction, this passageway becomes blocked because of inflammation or infection. Air and fluid build up in the middle ear, leading to pressure, pain, and infection.

In young children, the eustachian tube is more horizontal than in adults, which means fluid and infection can flow back into the ear more easily. This is why children tend to have more ear infections than adults.

Occasional ear infections are usually easy to treat with antibiotics alone. But chronic ear infections — infections that last more than three months — or recurrent ear infections may need the help of ear tubes to heal.

When the eustachian tube isn’t doing its job to drain the ear, tubes allow built-up fluid in the middle ear to drain through the outer ear. This helps to resolve existing infection and prevent new infection.

So while we understand why it would seem alarming, ear tube drainage is an expected result of ear tube placement.

The Ear Tube Placement Procedure

An ear tube placement procedure is also called a tympanostomy. It’s a simple office procedure in which an ENT surgeon makes a small hole in the tympanic membrane (the eardrum). The doctor then inserts a tiny tube — about a millimeter in diameter — into the hole to prevent the eardrum from closing back up. This little tube creates a channel for fluid to drain from the middle ear through the outer ear.

What Are Ear Tubes?

There are a variety of ear tubes made out of different types of materials, such as metal or rubber. The tubes we use in our practice are made from a soft, elastic rubber and are 2–3 mm long. We find this type of tube causes the least amount of trauma to the ear and is least likely to leave a hole after removal.

After Ear Tube Placement

We prescribe antibiotic ear drops after ear tube placements to heal infection. If these drops don’t work, we can prescribe stronger antibiotic drops that also contain a steroid. One of the major advantages of ear tubes is that we almost never have to prescribe oral antibiotics. The topical antibiotics usually clear up the infection.

What Should I Do if My Child Has Ear Tube Drainage?

Keep in mind that ear tubes are designed to help drain fluid and air from behind the eardrum. Ear tube drainage means that the ear tube is open and functioning properly. Instead of accumulating behind the eardrum, the fluid buildup has a way to escape, helping to prevent infection.

Some children will have more drainage than others. The amount of drainage or color of drainage is not a cause for concern, even if it contains a small amount of blood (especially right after the procedure).

When To Worry About Ear Tube Drainage

Because ear tube drainage is normal and expected — in fact, it’s the goal of ear tube placement — drainage is almost never a cause for concern. However, there are a few scenarios that warrant a call to the office.

Ear Tube Drainage Stops Suddenly

If the ear was draining and the drainage suddenly stops, this could indicate that the ear tube has become blocked. Sometimes a scab can grow over the ear tube’s opening, preventing the ear tube from facilitating drainage. Thicker drainage may also clog the ear tube.

Other times, a patient may wake up with their ear tube on their pillow, or it may come out unnoticed. This can happen if thicker drainage pushes the ear tube out. If this happens, drainage may stop as well.

Eventually, most ear tubes fall out on their own after 6–12 months, though the time can be longer or shorter depending on the patient. This is expected and not a cause for concern. The ear drum then heals itself normally.

If ear tube drainage stops suddenly, consider your child’s symptoms. If they appear healthy and free from symptoms, the ear tube drainage may have stopped because the infection has healed. If they still appear sick, however, it’s possible that the ear tube has become blocked or fallen out, and a call to the office can help you determine next steps.

Is ear tube drainage normal? We talk about what to expect after ear tube placement and what might warrant a call to the office.

Ear Tube Drainage — Scary but Normal

When you or your child have dealt with chronic or recurrent ear infections, any amount of drainage can seem scary. We hope that the information we’ve provided here sets your mind at ease!

How To Manage Chronic Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

We all experience eustachian tube dysfunction at some point in our lives, usually during a respiratory virus. Ear pressure, a sense of fullness in the ears, or muffled hearing can last for a week or so and then vanish when the illness clears up on its own.

But for people with chronic eustachian tube dysfunction, these symptoms don’t clear up. They persist for a month or more, even when everything else in the body seems to be working well.

So what is chronic eustachian tube dysfunction? How do you know if you have it? And if you do have it, what can you do to treat it?

What Is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

The eustachian tubes are tiny tubes made of bone and cartilage that run from the middle ear to the back of the nose. The eustachian tubes stay closed at rest, and they open when you swallow, chew, or yawn.

The eustachian tubes’ opening and closing action helps to equalize the air pressure in your middle ear with the air pressure around you. This is why yawning or chewing gum helps to relieve that feeling of ear pressure on an airplane. Eustachian tubes also drain fluid from the middle ear to the back of the nose and down the throat.

When the eustachian tubes are functioning normally, you won’t notice anything about them. But if a eustachian tube becomes blocked, fluid and pressure build up in the middle ear. This is called eustachian tube dysfunction and can lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms.

Causes of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Eustachian tube dysfunction most often arises from swelling in the nose and excess mucus production caused by allergies, sinus infection, or a respiratory virus. This blocks off the entrance of the eustachian tube, leading to dysfunction.

Altitude and pressure changes from flying on an airplane, SCUBA diving, or driving on mountain roads can also cause eustachian tube dysfunction, though this is usually temporary and resolves within minutes or hours.

Smoking can irritate the eustachian tube and lead to dysfunction.

In children under the age of three or four, the eustachian tubes are much shorter and more horizontal than they will be later in life. This makes it incredibly easy for fluid from the nose to drain into the ear and become trapped, causing frequent ear infections. The adenoids, a patch of lymphatic tissue in the back of the nose, can also swell and block the eustachian tubes in young children.

Symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction vary, but can include:

  • Feeling of fullness in the ears.
  • Muffled sound, as if hearing underwater.
  • Painful pressure.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Popping or fluttering sensation in the ears.

What Makes Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Chronic?

Everyone experiences eustachian tube dysfunction from time to time on a cross-country flight or during a cold or flu. But if you’re experiencing symptoms constantly for no obvious reason, this is chronic eustachian tube dysfunction, and it needs treatment.

Treatment Options for Chronic Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Symptoms of acute (not chronic) eustachian tube dysfunction usually resolve on their own, but if you’re experiencing long-term symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction, talk with your ENT doctor about medical intervention.

At-Home Treatment

In our office, we start by trying the least invasive treatment option first: medications to decrease the inflammation in your nose.

Antihistamines (like Claritin, Zyrtec, Xyzal, or Allegra) can help decrease the swelling in the nose, which may help to unplug your eustachian tubes. Decongestants and topical steroid sprays may also provide relief from your symptoms. These medications are available over the counter at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

For relief during this stage, a technique called autoinsufflation may help to clear the eustachian tube and release some of that pressure in the middle ear. To try this technique, pinch your nose and exhale gently through your mouth while the mouth is closed.

Myringotomy and Tympanostomy

If the symptoms don’t resolve after about a month, you likely have chronic eustachian tube dysfunction. At this point, your ENT doctor may suggest a myringotomy or tympanostomy.

A myringotomy is a simple in-office procedure. Your ENT surgeon uses a sharp tool to make a small hole in the eardrum. This allows the middle ear to drain and ventilate through the outer ear. The eardrum will repair itself within about two weeks, so this is only a short-term solution to the problem.

If the myringotomy is helpful, a tympanostomy tube can be placed in the eardrum hole that the ENT doctor created. This tube is about a millimeter in diameter and prevents the eardrum from closing up. This “release valve” bypasses the eustachian tube altogether, continually allowing fluid to drain through the outer ear and keeping air pressure equalized.

Eustachian Tube Balloon Dilation

Eustachian tube balloon dilation is another simple office procedure. Balloon dilation involves very little pain or risk, and has a very high success rate. Because the balloon is inserted through the nostrils, there isn’t any scarring to worry about.

In eustachian tube balloon dilation, an ENT surgeon thoroughly numbs the back of your nose where the eustachian tube empties. The surgeon then inserts a small balloon into the eustachian tube and simply inflates it.

This inflation opens up the part of the eustachian tube that tends to collapse. Once the balloon is properly pressurized, it remains inflated for about two minutes. Then the balloon is deflated and removed.

The effects of a balloon dilation aren’t permanent, but research continues to show consistent improvement in eustachian tube function for one year or longer.

Dealing With Chronic Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we see patients with eustachian tube dysfunction every day. Our team has extensive experience with this problem and knows how to help alleviate its irritating symptoms. Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

The VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling Procedure Explained

Difficulty sleeping. Snoring. Congestion that never seems to end. Trouble breathing through your nose while working out.

If you know these symptoms well, you may have a nasal airway obstruction. Maybe you’ve had it so long, you didn’t even realize breathing could be different!

If this is your situation, you may benefit from the VivAer nasal airway remodeling procedure. Let’s take a deeper look at the VivAer procedure, its benefits, who the procedure is right for, and what to expect with VivAer recovery.

What Is Nasal Airway Obstruction?

Nasal airway obstruction is any blockage in the nose or nasal passages that prevents air from flowing freely.

Your body is designed to take in air through the nose, which warms and humidifies air as you breathe it in. Obstructed nasal passages force you to instead breathe through your mouth, which can lead to a dry mouth, sore throat, dental problems, and difficulty sleeping.

To see if you have nasal airway obstruction, an ENT doctor will look at four main components in your nose and evaluate whether they are contributing to an obstruction.

Nasal Septum

The nasal septum is the central wall that divides the nose into two distinct halves. When the septum is deviated, or pushed to one side, it can restrict airflow on one (or sometimes both) sides of the nose.

Some people are born with a deviated septum. Other times it results from trauma to the nose, such as a car accident or sports injury.

Inferior Turbinates

The inferior turbinates are structures on the interior sidewalls of the nose. The inferior turbinates increase the nose’s surface area to help humidify and warm air before it enters the lungs. If these turbinates become enlarged from allergies, infection, or another cause of inflammation, they can cause an obstruction.

Mucosa

The nasal mucosa is the lining that covers the entire interior surface of the nose. When this lining becomes inflamed from allergies or a sinus infection, it narrows the nasal passages and obstructs nasal breathing.

Nasal Valve

Also known as nostrils, the nasal valves maintain their shape to help funnel air into the body as you breathe in.

Some people’s nasal valves collapse when they inhale deeply or breathe vigorously, as with exercise. In some people, the nasal valves remain collapsed all the time. Collapsed valves restrict airflow and force a person to breathe through their mouth. This is where VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling comes in.

What Is the VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling Procedure?

The VivAer procedure specifically addresses nasal airway obstruction caused by nasal valve collapse. It quickly, gently, and permanently widens and reshapes the nasal valve to remove the obstruction for good. VivAer can also sometimes help when the patient has a widened septal body (when the nasal septum is a little too wide toward the top of the nose).

The VivAer procedure is performed in a physician’s office with local anesthetic to keep you comfortable throughout the process. The doctor inserts a very small wand through your nostril to target your nasal valve area.

The wand uses low-temperature radiofrequency energy to heat the nasal tissues and make them more malleable. The physician applies a bit of pressure and gently reshapes the area. The entire VivAer procedure, including numbing, takes about half an hour.

The VivAer procedure usually expands the nasal airway by 1 to 2 millimeters. This may not sound very impressive, but think about how small the nasal airways are. That extra 1 to 2 millimeters can make an enormous difference in airflow!

What Are the Benefits of the VivAer Procedure?

VivAer offers significant advantages over previous treatments.

In the past, the standard treatment for nasal valve collapse was a cartilage graft. A surgeon took cartilage from a patient’s septum and implanted it in the sidewalls of the nose to help maintain an open airway. Cartilage grafts are invasive procedures that require general anesthesia in a hospital or surgery center and several weeks’ recovery time.

VivAer is a noninvasive procedure performed right in your ENT doctor’s office. It is incredibly well tolerated by most patients, causes little to no discomfort, and requires almost no recovery time.

While other procedures like septoplasty and turbinate reduction address certain causes of nasal airway obstruction, they don’t address collapsed nasal valves. Sometimes patients who’ve undergone other surgeries in the past find relief with a simple VivAer procedure.

VivAer Recovery

VivAer is often performed along with other nasal procedures, which can increase recovery time. But if VivAer is the only procedure being performed, patients can resume their normal activities right away. They will have no pain and little to no bleeding.

VivAer recovery mainly involves only two things. First, patients experience some crusting in the nostrils for two to three weeks after the procedure. We send them home with an ointment to put on the inside of their nostrils to keep them comfortable. Second, they also experience some congestion for a week or so, but after that time, airflow significantly improves.

Interested in VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling?

The physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock are experts in helping you breathe better. Our team would love to help you evaluate whether VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling is right for you. Give us a call today.

How To Know if a Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Is Right for You

If you’re interested in increasing your ability to hear after experiencing hearing loss, you may find yourself considering hearing aids. Bone conduction hearing aids are only one type of assistive hearing device. They can help many people, but not everyone with hearing loss is a good candidate for them.

Today we’re looking at what a bone conduction hearing aid is, who it can help, and what’s involved in the surgical procedure and recovery.

Types of Hearing Loss

Because a bone conduction hearing aid doesn’t help with all types of hearing loss, let’s first take a look at the three basic types of hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing loss and results from a problem in the inner ear. This can involve issues with the nerve pathways between the inner ear and brain or problems with inner ear structures such as the cochlea — a snail-shaped, fluid-filled bone.

SNHL may be present from birth due to a malformation of the inner ear. It can also be caused by repeated exposure to loud noises, head trauma, aging, genetic hearing loss, and certain medications that damage hearing (like certain cancer drugs and a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides).

People with SNHL find it especially difficult to hear soft sounds, but louder sounds can also seem muffled.

Conductive Hearing Loss

In conductive hearing loss, the nerves and cochlea are still in good working order. The problem is with the transmission (or conduction) of sound to the auditory nerve. The sound waves never reach the nerve, so the brain can never interpret them as sound.

You can think of conductive hearing loss as more of a mechanical issue. Something prevents sound waves from passing all the way through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear.

Anything that interferes with your ear’s system of conducting sound vibrations to the inner ear can cause conductive hearing loss. As long as they receive prompt and proper treatment, some of these problems will likely resolve without causing permanent hearing loss, such as:

Other problems are more likely to cause long-term conductive hearing loss, such as:

  • Congenital malformations of ear structures.
  • Severe trauma to ear structures.
  • Scarring from repeated ear infections.
  • Scarring from multiple ear surgeries.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss, like its name suggests, is when someone has a mixture of both SNHL and conductive hearing loss. For example, sometimes an accident can damage the middle ear and the inner ear simultaneously. Or someone born with SNHL can experience a severe fluid buildup that causes conductive hearing loss.

Bone Conduction Hearing Aids

Who Can Benefit From a Bone Conduction Hearing Aid?

Bone conduction hearing aids are specifically useful to conductive hearing loss patients. People with only sensorineural hearing loss don’t benefit from a bone conduction hearing aid. People with mixed hearing loss may find a bone conduction hearing aid helpful, depending on their individual case.

How Does a Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Work?

In young children or people with only mild hearing loss, a nonsurgical bone conduction hearing aid may be a possibility. If this isn’t a good fit, there are two surgical options available, each including an internal and external component:

  • Percutaneous — a titanium abutment protrudes through the skin to provide an attachment site for the external component.
  • Transcutaneous — the internal component uses magnets to attract the external component through the skin.

A surgeon implants a tiny titanium screw into the mastoid bone, directly behind the ear. This screw may have an abutment outside the skin where the hearing aid can “snap” on.

The bone conduction hearing aid acts as a receptor for sound waves from the air, turns those sound waves into vibrations, and uses the skull itself to conduct the sound waves to the auditory nerve. The sound waves bypass the problematic outer ear, eardrum, and ossicles (middle ear bones) entirely.

The Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Placement Procedure

The bone conduction hearing aid placement procedure probably sounds scarier than it actually is. In a simple, outpatient procedure, the area behind the ear is numbed. The surgeon makes a small incision behind the ear and inserts the titanium screw and abutment (if applicable).

If an abutment is involved, it remains protruding from the skin, and the rest of the incision is stitched closed around it to heal. Sometimes a small dressing may be placed over the incision. If no abutment is involved, the incision is allowed to close completely.

Recovery After Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Placement

After your placement procedure, you’ll be instructed to take it easy for a few days and avoid any heavy lifting for about a week. The main challenge of recovery from a bone conduction hearing aid placement is ensuring that skin doesn’t grow over an abutment.

Full recovery generally takes two to four weeks. After this time passes and your surgeon declares that your implant is fully healed, you can be fitted for your hearing aid system.

Are You Interested in Bone Conduction Hearing Aids?

If you have conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss and are interested in a bone conduction hearing aid, the first step is getting an ENT exam with hearing tests. Your ENT doctor may also order a CT scan to evaluate your inner ear structures.

After receiving your hearing test and CT scan results, talk with your ENT surgeon and an audiologist to see if bone conduction hearing aids could be the best solution for your ear and type of hearing loss.

Worried Your Allergy Symptoms Are COVID? You’re Not Alone

Everyone knows what it’s like to wake up feeling a little run down or with a runny nose, congestion, or cough.

A few years ago, you’d just assume you had a cold and move on with your life. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you’d pop a Zyrtec and head to the office. A fever would cause a little more trouble; you might take it easy for a bit and then everything would return to normal.

Today, things are a little different.

COVID is on everyone’s mind. Symptoms that wouldn’t have caused a second thought before are now cause for anxiety. What’s that tickle in your throat? Why are you coughing? Is this runny nose really from your ragweed allergy, or is it COVID?

Unfortunately, during surges in COVID case numbers, you’re not being paranoid — a high level of suspicion is necessary.

In this post, we want to help you understand the likelihood of your symptoms being COVID versus something else like allergies, the flu, or a cold.

covid-19 symptoms table

Allergies or COVID?

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to a relatively harmless environmental stimulus. Histamine, one of the body’s chemical messengers, works to fight off these perceived threats as quickly as possible. The histamine reaction causes swelling, sneezing, tearing of the eyes, and itching.

Allergies and COVID share a few similar symptoms, like a headache and runny nose. But COVID often comes with whole-body symptoms like a fever, chills, body aches, cough, and exhaustion.

Allergy symptoms, caused by histamine reactions, tend to be concentrated in the upper respiratory system. Sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes are all hallmark signs of allergies. And while allergies occasionally cause a cough, it’s not generally the nagging, persistent cough that can accompany COVID.

Taking an over-the-counter antihistamine is one of the best ways to determine whether you’re dealing with COVID or allergies. An antihistamine (such as Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, or Xyzal) won’t help with COVID, but it should help improve allergy symptoms.

A Common Cold or COVID?

A variety of viruses can cause the common cold: rhinoviruses, RSV, parainfluenza, and coronaviruses. COVID, however, is caused by a specific coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.

Early in the pandemic, symptoms of the common cold were somewhat easier to distinguish from COVID. But COVID has changed over time and now has several variants. Omicron, for example, has a somewhat milder presentation, making it difficult to distinguish from a cold based on symptoms alone. Both illnesses can present with nasal congestion, runny nose, and sore throat, but in our office we’ve noticed that some patients with Omicron don’t have the fever or cough that people have had with other COVID variants.

“Better safe than sorry” is the motto here. If you find yourself with symptoms of the common cold, go ahead and get tested — especially if you know you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID. During a surge in COVID cases, it’s reasonable to assume you’re dealing with COVID until you’re shown otherwise.

Influenza or COVID?

Mild cases of COVID closely mimicked influenza (“the flu”) during the beginning of the pandemic. And it can still be difficult to tell the difference between the symptoms.

The flu typically involves a fever, body aches, chills, cough, congestion, and a headache. But COVID, especially the earlier variants, usually involves most of these symptoms too! A loss of taste and smell is the hallmark symptom that often differentiates between these two infections.

Again, the safest course of action if you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms is to get tested. Many doctors’ offices and other facilities offer rapid flu tests along with COVID tests, so you can know for sure whether you have one or the other. Several effective antiviral medications exist for the flu — good news if you receive a positive flu test!

A Note About the Loss of Taste and Smell

One final note about all of these conditions: You probably know that loss of taste and smell is a classic sign of COVID. But occasionally during allergies, a cold, or the flu, the sinuses become blocked by mucus or swelling, leading to a sinus infection. This swelling can block the airflow through your nose, preventing it from reaching the olfactory nerve that’s responsible for your sense of smell.

Since odor particles are carried in the air, you won’t be able to smell anything when air can’t reach your olfactory nerve. And because your ability to taste relies so heavily upon your sense of smell, a sinus infection can lead to a loss of sense of taste as well. Because of this, a COVID test really is the best way to tell the difference.

Do I Have COVID-19?

In the end, you should err on the side of caution (particularly during COVID surges). Unfortunately, the only way to completely rule out a case of COVID is to get tested and wait for the results.

We’ve included a chart with the common symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, a common cold, and allergies in this post for your reference. But keep in mind that as new COVID variants develop, symptoms can change, and COVID symptoms vary widely from person to person.

If you have questions about whether your symptoms are COVID, allergies, or something else, we recommend consulting with your doctor and scheduling a COVID test. You can also always refer to the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID guidelines.

Ask a Doctor: 8 Answers to Your Post-Tonsillectomy FAQs

There’s no way around it. Recovering from a tonsillectomy, especially as an adult, is just plain miserable. Children fare slightly better, but the process is hard.

Your surgeon will do everything they can to help you stay as comfortable as possible during your recovery. But regardless of how prepared you are, recovery from a tonsillectomy is usually unpleasant and painful. Because of this, most patients (and the parents of our tiniest patients!) have a lot of questions and concerns about the recovery process.

My child won’t drink after her tonsillectomy. Why does my ear hurt? Why am I coughing? Is it normal to a have a fever after a tonsillectomy?

These are all incredibly common questions. Below, we’ll answer eight of the most frequently asked questions we hear about tonsillectomy recovery.

common patient questions about tonsillectomy recovery

Question #1: Why Won’t My Child Drink After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: Children often refuse to drink after a tonsillectomy. Although they may feel okay in the immediate postoperative period, their pain increases as their anesthesia wears off. Eventually, they don’t want to eat, drink or swallow. They might even hold their saliva in their mouths to avoid the pain that comes with swallowing.

Because hydration is important for tonsillectomy recovery, you may have to get creative to find ways for your child to take in enough fluids. Good hydration aids in healing, decreases overall pain, and reduces the risk of bleeding. The good news is, popsicles count as hydration.

Popsicles, slushies, ice cream and any other kind of cold, sugary drink you can imagine can all be good to get your child to “drink” enough fluids for a few days. The cold soothes their sore throat, and the sugar makes them want more.

If your child prefers warm fluids like tea, hot chocolate or broth, that’s fine too, although it’s good to make sure the liquid isn’t scalding. For now, we recommend setting aside worries about a nutritious diet; the most important thing for a few days is to keep your child hydrated so they can heal.

If you or your child absolutely cannot swallow, IV hydration is an option, but requires a trip to the ER or an urgent care center. We like to avoid this if possible as it’s always better to keep the throat moist and hydrate naturally.

Question #2: Why Am I Experiencing Voice Changes After My Tonsillectomy?

Answer: If your voice changes after your tonsillectomy, it could be for a couple of reasons. Because of the pain in your throat, you could be moving your tongue and throat less than usual, guarding the area. In this case, your voice will return to normal when the pain and swelling recede.

If your tonsils were really enlarged before your tonsillectomy, they may have muffled your voice. In that case, removing the tonsils changes the way your voice sounds by giving it more space to resonate and project.

Question #3: What Can I Do About Bad Breath After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: There’s good news and bad news here.

The bad news is that there’s not much you can do to make your breath smell better in the days right after your tonsillectomy.

The good news? That unpleasant smell is actually an integral part of the healing process. As your throat heals, your body produces its own biological “dressings” for the wounds. As the healing process progresses, tissues slough off and can sometimes cause an unpleasant odor.

This smell will eventually go away. But in the meantime, we don’t recommend you use products like alcohol-based mouthwash to try to improve your breath. These can be incredibly painful on a healing throat!

Question #4: What Should I Eat After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: We recommend you eat soft foods after your tonsillectomy surgery. Yogurt, pudding, Jell-O, soups, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, smoothies, macaroni and cheese: these are all good options that can slide down your throat with ease.

It’s best to avoid any foods that could scratch or irritate your throat, like chips, pizza or crusty breads. These could even scrape off your scabs before they’re fully ready. It’s a good idea to avoid carbonated drinks in the beginning phases of healing because the bubbles can cause pain in your throat. Spicy foods can also have the same effect.

Avoiding red drinks or foods like strawberry Jell-O is also a good idea. It’s important to keep an eye out for blood after a tonsillectomy. If you wind up vomiting or spitting and you see red from the food or drink, it might look like blood and cause an unnecessary panic. On the other hand, you’ll want to be able to tell if you do develop a bleed, which the red food coloring could conceal!

We also advise against using straws or sippy cups that require strong suction in the days after a tonsillectomy. This is because, theoretically, the suction from drinking through these could pull the scabs off your throat prematurely. (This is similar to the advice to avoid drinking through straws after a tooth extraction.)

Question #5: Do I Have To Stop Smoking After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: While we don’t ever recommend smoking, it can be especially dangerous after a tonsillectomy. Smoking can dry out the tonsillar beds where your tonsils used to sit while they’re trying to heal. This drying can increase your risk of bleeding.

Smoking also decreases the supply of oxygen to your tissues. Since your tissues are in the midst of a difficult healing process, smoking can prolong that already difficult process.

Question #6: Why Do I Have a Cough After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: Intermittent coughing after a tonsillectomy isn’t necessarily something to worry about, and it can happen for a variety of reasons.

When you’re intubated for surgery, a tube passes down your throat and between your vocal cords. This can cause quite a bit of irritation in your throat and can lead to a cough.

You may also have extra drainage in your throat. You would normally swallow it, but now your throat is tender and you can’t swallow easily. Consequently, the drainage hangs around, irritating your throat and causing a cough.

Or, your cough may just be a natural reaction from your throat in response to the insult it received during surgery.

Coughing can put pressure on your healing scabs, though. If your cough becomes frequent or powerful, you’ll need help to suppress it. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you take any cough medicines. It’s important to make sure anything you take won’t interact with your pain medications.

Question #7: Why Do I Have Ear Pain After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: The ears connect to the throat by the nervous system, so it’s extremely common to have ear pain after a throat surgery. We call this type of pain referred pain. The pain actually originates where your tonsils were, but the nerves refer it to your ears.

(As an educational side note, because of this phenomenon, ear pain is one of the most common presenting symptoms for throat cancer.) 

Question #8: Why Do I Have a Fever After a Tonsillectomy?

Answer: We most often associate a fever with an infection. But a fever is just part of the body’s general immune response, and it’s closely linked to inflammation. After a surgery, as your body rushes to heal your surgical wounds, inflammation accompanies that healing process and can sometimes result in a low-grade fever.

A low-grade fever is fairly common after a tonsillectomy, especially in children. If the fever persists or becomes a high fever, contact your doctor to make sure it’s not a sign of infection.

Be sure to talk with your surgeon before you or your child take any medication to reduce a fever. The pain medications you’re already taking for the surgery may contain drugs like Tylenol, and it’s very important to make sure you’re not taking too much.

Still Have Unanswered Questions About Tonsillectomy Recovery?

ENT Associates of Lubbock is here to help answer your tonsillectomy questions. We perform tonsillectomies on patients of all ages, and we’ve walked beside all of them in the healing process.

Tonsillectomy recovery is never fun, but we try to make you as comfortable as possible so you can rest well, heal and be back to your normal routine before you know it.

Can a Balloon Sinuplasty Fix a Deviated Septum?

If you have a deviated septum, or if you suspect you do, you might be wondering what the best way to correct it is. Can a balloon sinuplasty fix a deviated septum?

Let’s take a look at exactly what a deviated septum is, how to treat it, and whether balloon sinuplasty can help.

What Is a Deviated Septum?

The nasal septum is the wall that divides your nose into two separate halves. The septum is part bone and part cartilage. When the septum gets off center, or deviates to one side, we call this a deviated septum.

Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

Nasal congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose are the most common symptoms of a deviated septum. If the deviation is bad enough, the patient may notice that one side of their nose is always blocked.

Typically, the more dramatic the deviation, the more dramatic the symptoms. Sometimes, if a deviated septum is severe enough, it can have a “spur,” or a sharp edge that protrudes at an angle and touches the side of the nose. In these cases, any swelling caused by allergies or illness results in more and more pressure on that sharp edge, which can produce headaches.

Nosebleeds, facial pain and snoring or noisy breathing at night can all be symptoms of a deviated septum. Some patients with a deviated septum even sleep on one side to help improve their breathing at night.

Causes of a Deviated Septum

Many people associate a deviated septum with a broken nose. While this is one (unpleasant) way to get a deviated septum, it’s not the only way.

You don’t necessarily have to get your nose broken to wind up with a deviated septum. Sometimes the nose gets hit hard enough that the cartilage dislodges from the bony attachments in the nose, with no breaking involved.

Some people have a naturally deviated septum from birth. They may never know they have it, or they may only start to notice a problem as they get older.

Cartilage never stops growing, and the cartilage in the septum is no exception. As people age, a slight deviation in the septum can become more pronounced as their cartilage grows.

2 key facts you need to know about deviated septums graphic

What Is Balloon Sinuplasty?

Balloon sinuplasty is a minimally invasive office procedure that can help treat chronic sinusitis (sinus infections).

Patients can suffer from chronic sinusitis when the openings of their sinuses are too small. The narrow sinus openings swell shut easily, leading to the buildup of mucus and bacteria responsible for chronic sinus infections.

During balloon sinuplasty, the physician inserts a small balloon into the nose using a tiny tube with a camera and light attached. The doctor then inflates the balloon to open the sinus passageway and allow the sinus to drain more freely.

Cardiologists have used this technology for many years to dilate constricted coronary arteries. Today, ENT doctors have borrowed the technique and applied it along the same lines. Instead of temporarily inflating a balloon to dilate a constricted artery, they use it to widen a constricted nasal passageway.

Balloon sinuplasty is much less invasive than even endoscopic sinus surgery, and it can be done in an office visit with local anesthesia. Balloon sinuplasty also requires significantly less healing time than traditional surgery — usually one to two days.

Who Is a Candidate for Balloon Sinuplasty?

People who experience sinus infections three or more times per year that persist despite medical management can be good candidates for balloon sinuplasty. Other strong candidates include people with chronic sinusitis that never seems to fully resolve or respond to over-the-counter or prescription medications.

For patients who still have severe congestion after medical management, we perform a CT scan to better see what’s going on internally. This helps us determine whether or not balloon sinuplasty will be effective.

Are the Results From Balloon Sinuplasty Permanent?

Yes, balloon sinuplasty is a one-time procedure. The results from balloon sinuplasty provide long-lasting relief from the effects of constricted sinus passages.

Can Balloon Sinuplasty Fix a Deviated Septum?

The simple answer is no, balloon sinuplasty does not correct a deviated septum. The sinuplasty balloon only works on the sinus openings, not the septum; a septoplasty only deals with the septum.

However, though the two procedures are different, they can easily be performed at the same time.

If you have a deviated septum giving you trouble, and you also need balloon sinuplasty, scheduling the procedures together can be a good option. There’s no reason to undergo two separate procedures when it’s easy to fix both problems at the same time.

Do You Have a Deviated Septum?

If symptoms of a deviated septum are interfering with your life and your ability to breathe, give us a call. The entire team at ENT Associates of Lubbock loves helping our patients breathe easier.

The surgeons at ENT Associates of Lubbock are experienced in treating patients who have a deviated septum, those who need balloon sinuplasty, and everyone in between!

Your Ultimate Thyroidectomy Guide (Written by a Surgeon)

If you’re searching for information about a thyroidectomy, you’re probably dealing with thyroid cancer, thyroid nodules, goiter or compression of your trachea. Or you might be experiencing the unpleasant symptoms that come along with an overactive thyroid.

Whatever your reason for researching a thyroidectomy, we want to provide you with all the facts you need.

What exactly is a thyroidectomy? What can you expect before, during and after the procedure? And what if you’re nervous about having a thyroidectomy?

You’ve come to the right place.

What Is a Thyroidectomy?

A thyroidectomy is a surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland in the base of your neck.

The thyroid gland sits in front of your voice box and is shaped like a butterfly, with two lobes connected in the middle. It makes and releases thyroid hormones into your bloodstream, playing a huge role in many major body functions like heart rate, metabolism and energy level.

The thyroid gland can develop certain problems. The most common problems that lead to a thyroidectomy include:

  • Thyroid cancer.
  • Suspicious nodules.
  • Noncancerous gland enlargement (goiter).
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

There are two types of thyroidectomies. A total thyroidectomy removes the entire thyroid, while a thyroid lobectomy or partial thyroidectomy only removes part of the thyroid. Which procedure you have depends on what the reason for the surgery is.

common problems graphic

What To Expect Before, During and After Your Thyroidectomy

Preparing for Your Thyroidectomy

We always encourage our patients to research potential surgeries or treatments ahead of time. But as far as physical preparation for a thyroidectomy, there isn’t much you need to do beyond what’s typically recommended for any surgery involving general anesthesia.

You’ll be instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure. This is to prevent any food or liquid from coming up and getting into your lungs while you’re under anesthesia, a problem called aspiration. While aspiration is rare, refraining from eating and drinking before surgery can eliminate the risk almost entirely.

You should take a shower and wash your body with antibacterial soap before your surgery. Pay special attention to washing your neck, although your surgeon will make sure your skin is thoroughly disinfected before beginning your thyroidectomy.

Also make sure your surgeon has a thorough picture of your medical history, especially any previous cardiac procedures or history of blood clots. If you’re on a blood thinner, you’ll need to get clearance from your prescribing doctor to stop your medication before surgery.

The Day of Your Thyroidectomy

After you arrive at the surgery center, you’ll be brought back to the preoperative area. A nurse will start an IV in your hand or arm. You’ll have a conversation with your surgeon, anesthesiologist and nurse. Then you’ll receive anesthesia.

After that, you probably won’t remember anything at all!

The length of a thyroidectomy procedure depends on the size of the thyroid and how much is being removed. Experienced, high-volume thyroid surgeons usually take between one and two hours, but family members shouldn’t worry if it takes slightly longer. 

Recovering From Your Thyroidectomy

Most thyroid surgeries take place in an outpatient surgery center. Patients have the procedure in the morning, stay several hours for monitoring after the procedure, and then return home in the afternoon. We typically see patients the next morning in our office to make sure there are no complications.

When you wake up from the procedure, you’ll have Steri-Strips over your surgical scar, which will be small and sutured beneath the skin. You may also have a drain at the surgical site depending on the extent and type of surgery. If so, the drain will be removed the following day.

You’ll be able to take a shower 24 hours after your procedure. When showering, avoid direct pressure from your showerhead on the incision site. You may gently wash the area with soap, but don’t scrub at the incision or any remaining glue. This will fall off naturally over the following week.

You might find that your throat is sore after surgery, not from the thyroidectomy itself but from being intubated. If that’s the case, you can stick to soft food for a day or two to avoid discomfort.

After a total thyroidectomy, your body will need a new source of thyroid hormone. Fortunately, thyroid hormone replacements are widely available and inexpensive. You’ll leave the surgery center with a prescription for a thyroid replacement like Synthroid, generic levothyroxine or Armour Thyroid. Then you simply take your prescribed dose every day.

After a partial thyroidectomy, about one in four patients need thyroid hormone supplementation. Your doctor will work with you to determine whether you need this or not.

You’ll need blood work about six weeks after your surgery to ensure you’re getting the right amount of thyroid hormone. Finding the right dose can take a bit of time and finagling, so don’t worry if your physician adjusts your dose a few times before finding the right level for you.

Sometimes after a thyroidectomy, your parathyroid glands don’t function properly for a few days. The most common result of this is transient hypocalcemia, a short-lived reduction in the calcium in your blood. We recommend that our patients take Tums for a few weeks to make sure their calcium levels stay within normal range.

Nervous About Having a Thyroidectomy?

One of the most important decisions you can make before scheduling a thyroidectomy is to choose an experienced surgeon you trust. Ask them plenty of questions about the procedure. Discuss the risks and benefits of surgery, and ask whether they would suggest any alternatives.

Being nervous before having surgery is very normal. The surgeons at ENT Associates of Lubbock have a great deal of experience performing thyroidectomies. We won’t suggest you have surgery unless it’s absolutely medically necessary. And we’ll do everything we can to set your mind at ease!

Are Your Symptoms Just Allergies, or Do You Need a Doctor?

When you suffer with chronic allergies, you get used to many of the symptoms.

Itchy, watery eyes? You know the drill. Sneezing through every West Texas dirt storm? It’s old hat to you.

But every once in a while, a new symptom makes an appearance, and you’re left scratching your head (and not just your nose).

Can allergies give you a fever? Can allergies cause shortness of breath? Can allergies cause headaches? Do these symptoms mean you need to call a doctor, or is it just another part of the fun of fighting seasonal allergies?

We’ll explore all of this and more.

common questions about allergy symptoms graphic

What Symptoms Can Allergies Cause?

Can Allergies Cause a Fever?

Despite the commonly used term “hay fever,” allergies in and of themselves don’t cause a fever.

Respiratory allergies are really just an overreaction of your immune system to particles in the air. Your immune system’s job is to fight off viruses and bacteria in your environment and keep them from causing an infection. But sometimes your immune system perceives a piece of pollen or dust in the air as a harmful invader, a pathogen that needs to be fought.

Your immune system produces antibodies to destroy the invaders, leading to the runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes we all know so well. But since there’s no actual infection, there’s also no fever.

Allergies could indirectly lead to a fever if the swelling and drainage in your nose end up blocking your sinus openings and causing a sinus infection. If this happens, you should definitely call a doctor to address the infection.

Can Allergies Cause Shortness of Breath?

Yes, allergies can cause shortness of breath in people with allergy-induced asthma.

Allergies produce a different reaction in your lungs than they do in your nose. While your nose can swell, itch and produce extra mucus, your lungs can tighten up and have trouble getting enough oxygen.

Some people have asthma year round, with allergies worsening at certain times of year, and some people only have asthma during allergy season.

If you experience allergy-induced asthma, then in addition to dealing with your nasal allergy symptoms you’ll also need a prescription inhaler for your lungs.

Signs of asthma include a persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. If you’re experiencing any of these, then you should check in with your doctor about your symptoms. 

Can Allergies Cause a Headache?

While allergies don’t directly cause headaches, headaches do accompany allergies fairly often. The swelling in your nose can block off your nasal cavities, causing a difference in air pressure between the air around you and the air in your sinuses. This pressure differential causes that aching pain behind your forehead, cheeks, nose and eyes.

Some people with very narrow sinus passageways can even tell when a cold front is coming in, just like people with a weather-wise ache in a knee or hip!

An occasional headache that resolves quickly probably doesn’t warrant a call to your doctor. But if your headaches become debilitating or persists long enough to interfere with your life, know that an ENT physician can help.

Allergy Treatments for Symptom Control

Allergy symptoms are uncomfortable and can really begin to interfere with your daily activities. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments you can try at home before you reach out to a doctor.

What Allergy Medications Should You Use?

You can find a host of over-the-counter allergy medications available at your local drugstore.

The most common class of allergy medication is the antihistamine. First-generation antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) typically cause drowsiness. Second-generation formulations are non-drowsy and interact with fewer drugs. These include medications like Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine) and Xyzal (levocetirizine).

Another class of drugs that can help deal with allergy symptoms is the mucolytic, which breaks up mucus and allows the body to clear congestion more easily. Mucinex (guaifenesin) is a good example of a mucolytic.

Topical steroids for allergies include nasal sprays such as Flonase (fluticasone), Rhinocort (budesonide) and Nasonex (mometasone). They are generally well tolerated and work to reduce allergy symptoms like runny nose, swelling and inflammation. However, they do have some fairly common side effects like headaches and nosebleeds.

Finally, you can try using a neti pot or other saline irrigation system to rinse out the nose and sinuses.

What Allergy Medications Should You Avoid Long Term?

Oral decongestants like Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and topical decongestants like Afrin (oxymetazoline) are great for treating the stuffy nose and sinus pressure of allergies in the short term. However, decongestants should not be used on a long-term basis.

If used for more than a few days, decongestant sprays can cause rebound congestion, actually resulting in worse stuffiness than before! And decongestants in general can be dangerous for people with a history of cardiac problems, increasing blood pressure and interfering with blood pressure medications.

Some allergy medications have a “D” on the end of their names, meaning they include a decongestant along with the primary drug (think Claritin D, Mucinex D or Allegra D). These shouldn’t be used long term either.

Are Your Allergies Causing New or Worsening Symptoms?

If after trying the treatments mentioned above, your allergy symptoms don’t improve after a month or two, it’s helpful to know you don’t have to continue to suffer on your own. Whether your allergies cause shortness of breath, headache, runny nose or sinus infections that lead to fever, there’s help and relief available to you.

ENT doctors have the training and resources to address your allergy symptoms. Reach out to ENT Associates of Lubbock today. We’re experts in helping you get your life back from seasonal allergies!

How To Get Your Taste Back After a Sinus Infection

You’ve been dealing with a nasty sinus infection for a few days. It’s a little annoying, but you’re pushing through.

Then it happens. You’ve been looking forward to your favorite lasagna all week. You sit down to the special meal ready to relish it. But that first bite… Oh no! It’s flavorless mush! You’ve completely lost your taste!

What’s happening? Can a sinus infection cause that? Do you have COVID-19?

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how to get your taste back after a sinus infection, look no further.

What Happens During a Sinus Infection?

The sinuses are just air-filled spaces in your skull. Scientists aren’t completely sure why they exist, but they do lighten the skull, allow the voice to reverberate, and produce mucus that lubricates the inside of the nose.

Your sinuses connect to your nose by small drainage openings called ostia. Ostia are how air flows through the nose into the sinuses.

Though your sinuses are usually filled with air, they can become blocked and fill with fluid and mucus. When the fluid and mucus stick around long enough, bacteria can begin to flourish.

Now, this normally air-filled cavity becomes a fluid-filled pocket of infection.

If you experience persistent nasal allergies, for example, the frequent inflammation may lead to blocked passages and stopped up sinuses — the perfect environment for a sinus infection.

how to get taste back after sinus infection

Why Do I Lose My Taste During a Sinus Infection?

Unlike a novel coronavirus infection, a sinus infection doesn’t usually cause a direct loss of taste. Instead, the sense of smell is the first to go.

Sinus infections cause inflammation within the nasal cavities and passageways. This swelling blocks the flow of air through your nose and prevents it from reaching the olfactory nerve that’s responsible for your sense of smell.

Since air carries odor particles, when it can’t reach your olfactory nerve, you’re not going to be able to smell anything.

Because your sense of taste relies so heavily upon your ability to smell, the inflammation caused by a sinus infection can lead to a dulled sense of taste.

How Can I Get My Sense of Taste Back After a Sinus Infection?

The best place to start is focusing on reducing the inflammation in your nasal passages. If you can open up your sinuses and facilitate drainage, your smell (and therefore your taste) will return faster.

Saline irrigations are helpful to wash out signs of infection and clear inflammation. You can purchase over-the-counter options like NeilMed Sinus Rinse at any pharmacy.

Topical steroid sprays like Flonase can also help to reduce inflammation.

If necessary, an ENT doctor can prescribe a compounded irrigation treatment. This is much like a saline rinse, but the solution also contains antibiotics or steroids to treat the sinus infection more aggressively.

How Long Will It Take To Regain My Sense of Taste?

Because everyone heals at different rates, there’s unfortunately no set amount of time in which you can expect to regain your senses of taste and smell. But we do know that the faster you open your sinuses and clear the infection, the faster your healing will occur. With the proper treatment, you could be enjoying that lasagna again within a few days, or it may take up to a few weeks.

Rarely, it can take several months to regain your sense of taste, but this usually results from chronic sinus infections that are harder to treat.

How Can I Prevent Loss of Taste in the Future?

Preventing sinus infections from developing in the first place is the best way to ensure you keep enjoying your meals.

If you’re prone to seasonal allergies, make regular sinus irrigation a habit during the seasons that affect you the most.

You may also want to talk to an ENT doctor about treating your allergies more aggressively with prescription allergy medications to prevent the swelling that blocks the sinuses.

Have You Lost Your Sense of Taste?

Today, if you’ve lost your sense of taste, it’s likely that your first thought is that you might have COVID-19. While COVID-19 certainly can cause a loss of taste and smell, a sinus infection could also be the culprit. The quickest way to tell the difference and make sure you’re not spreading the coronavirus to those around you is to get tested.

If a cold or allergy has caused a nasal blockage and loss of taste, then reducing inflammation is key in the fight against a sinus infection. If you’ve tried all the home remedies and you’re still not finding relief, it’s time to get help.

Our team will work with you to find a treatment plan that’s right for your circumstances. Don’t let a sinus infection keep you from enjoying your favorite foods. Give ENT Associates of Lubbock a call today.

7 Reasons Your Throat Is Burning (Plus When To Call a Doctor)

Maybe the burn in your throat came on gradually, or maybe it appeared out of nowhere.

Regardless of how it began, feeling like your throat is on fire is no fun for anyone.

But what could cause a burning sensation in your nose or throat? And once you have this unpleasant symptom, what should you do to treat it?

Let’s unpack some of the main causes of a burning throat and see what you should do in each case.

why does my throat burn

Why Does My Throat Burn? 7 Possible Causes

Cause #1: Postnasal Drainage

Postnasal drainage happens when the body produces more mucus than usual. Rhinitis, which is inflammation in the nose that causes increased mucus production, commonly causes postnasal drainage.

Postnasal drainage occurs because the excess mucus in your nose has to go somewhere. It either comes out the front in a classic runny nose, or it can drip down your throat. This drainage irritates your throat and causes a burning sensation.

To ease the burning, you need to treat the rhinitis that’s causing the drainage. Since allergies often cause rhinitis, an over-the-counter antihistamine like Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra could help. Topical nasal sprays like Flonase, Nasacort and Rhinocort are also good options.

Cause #2: Laryngopharyngeal Reflux

Another common cause of burning pain in your throat is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).

When most of us think of reflux, we think of gastroesophageal reflux, like indigestion or heartburn. In these cases, the burning pain is more in the chest.

LPR occurs when acid reflux comes all the way up into the throat, where it can cause irritation to the voice box and the back of the throat.

In addition to throat burning, LPR can cause a dry throat, a feeling of needing to clear the throat, or a feeling like something is lodged in the throat. Patients frequently complain about a lump in their throat that won’t go away.

Dietary modifications are the first change to explore for relief from reflux. Spicy and greasy foods, tomato products, and caffeine are some of the worst offenders. Eliminating these foods is a great place to start!

It’s a good idea to avoid eating for two hours before bed. You can also try elevating the head of your bed, since lying in a reclined position tends to make reflux worse.

If these measures don’t improve your reflux, you can also try medications like Nexium, Prilosec or other over-the-counter treatments.

Cause #3: Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is an inflammation of the throat tissues. Pharyngitis can be caused by an allergic reaction to something you ate or an environmental allergen like pollen. Throat inflammation can also come from a viral or bacterial infection like strep throat.

Treatment for this burning depends on the cause. For allergies, taking antihistamines and avoiding the allergen can help. A viral infection requires general self-care: chicken soup, plenty of fluids and lots of rest.

For a bacterial infection like strep throat, see a physician to get a prescription for antibiotics.

Cause #4: Thrush

Thrush, a fungal infection in the mouth or throat, can cause a painful burning sensation. Though thrush is more common in babies, adults using antibiotics or steroid sprays are also vulnerable.

People who use steroid inhalers have a higher risk of developing oral thrush. Rinsing your mouth with water after using your inhaler can help prevent a thrush-friendly environment from developing.

Additionally, if you’re prescribed an antibiotic, talk to your doctor about adding a probiotic to help restore some of your body’s healthy bacteria to prevent the growth of thrush.

Cause #5: Vitamin Deficiencies

Although rare, lower than average levels of certain vitamins can cause a burning sensation as well, though usually in the mouth. One study found a correlation between abnormally low levels of iron and vitamin B12 and a burning mouth.

This one will take a bit more investigation. If you think your mouth burning might be due to vitamin deficiencies, talk to your doctor about getting blood work done. If your lab work reveals any vitamin deficiencies, your care provider can counsel you on necessary dietary changes and supplements to add to your daily routine.

Cause #6: Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is just that: a condition where patients have an inexplicable sensation of burning in their mouth. There’s no injury, no infection, no obvious cause present, but the mouth still burns.

While relatively rare, burning mouth syndrome mostly affects women over the age of 40. Other symptoms include burning of the tongue, lips and roof of the mouth.

Burning mouth syndrome may be a form of neuralgia — nerve pain with no discernable cause. In other words, the nerves send pain signals to the brain even though nothing is hurting them.

If you haven’t been able to find the cause of your burning mouth, talk to your ENT doctor or dentist. They can help you investigate the source and identify whether it could be burning mouth syndrome.

Cause #7: Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis is a chronic inflammation of the esophagus caused by an allergic reaction or immune response. A large number of white blood cells called eosinophils infiltrate the esophageal lining. This can cause swelling and burning in the esophagus and up into the throat.

A gastrointestinal specialist performs the tests necessary to diagnose this condition and can recommend the best course of treatment for your case.

How Can I Prevent My Throat From Burning?

Preventing throat burning depends on addressing the root causes of the symptoms. Good oral hygiene is key in preventing some of these conditions. Make a habit of brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue, and using mouthwash twice a day.

If you get sick, take care of yourself and treat the source of your illness. And if you have allergies, talk with your doctor about the best ways to manage them to prevent a burning throat.

Throat Burning? Reach Out for Help!

If you’re dealing with a burning throat, you don’t have to suffer. Our physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock know how to address mouth, nose, and throat burning, and can help you find the best course of treatment for your pain.

Reach out to schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options today.

Inverted Papilloma: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Some health conditions are so rare that most people have never even heard of them. But when you’re diagnosed with one of these conditions, you find yourself wanting as much information as possible!

It’s likely you’d never heard of an inverted papilloma until an ENT doctor told you they suspected you have one.

So let’s look at some basics: what is an inverted papilloma? What causes it? What are its symptoms? How is it treated? And after treatment, what’s the outlook?

What Is an Inverted Papilloma?

First things first! An inverted papilloma is a rare, usually benign (noncancerous) growth inside the nasal cavity or paranasal sinuses. Inverted papillomas are responsible for as little as 0.5% of all tumors that begin in the nose.

Inverted papillomas are the most common type of the three kinds of Schneiderian papillomas. Other Schneiderian papillomas grow out into the nasal cavity and sinuses in “fingerlike” projections. The inverted type, however, grows inward toward the bone and surrounding tissue.

The majority of inverted papillomas are noncancerous, but a small percentage (between 5% and 15%) contain squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.

If left untreated, some inverted papillomas can become cancerous after several years.

inverted papilloma

Risk Factors and Symptoms for Inverted Papillomas

Inverted papillomas are fairly uncommon, and more study is needed to determine the exact causes and risk factors for this condition. Here’s some of what we do know.

Risk Factors for Inverted Papillomas

The exact cause for an inverted papilloma is currently unknown. Some suggest a possible connection to allergies, chronic sinusitis and viral infections. White men between the ages of 40 and 70 seem to be the most susceptible to developing inverted papillomas.

Other potential risk factors may include nicotine usage, chronic inflammatory illnesses, and an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Symptoms of Inverted Papillomas

Inverted papillomas can be mistaken for recurring sinus infections because of the similarities in their symptoms.

Inverted papillomas can cause nasal congestion, nasal draining or postnasal drip, and a small amount of bleeding from the nose. Other symptoms may include facial pressure and pain, headache and a decreased sense of smell.

Nasal symptoms are usually unilateral, meaning they only occur on the side of the nose with the papilloma.

Many people with inverted papillomas, however, don’t report any symptoms out of the ordinary. In these cases, a doctor usually discovers the papilloma while examining the inside of their nose.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Inverted Papillomas

If your ENT doctor suspects you have an inverted papilloma, they will likely use an endoscope to examine the suspicious structure. They may also take a biopsy so that a lab can differentiate the papilloma from a nasal polyp, and also to determine whether any cancer cells are present. Examination under a microscope is the only definitive way to confirm the diagnosis of inverted papilloma.

The doctor might also schedule you for a CT scan or an MRI to determine the extent of the papilloma and to better visualize what’s going on.

Treatment of inverted papillomas usually involves endoscopic surgery, which is surgery performed through the nostril with the help of a tiny camera. This surgery is noninvasive and leaves no scar since the papilloma is removed through the nostril.

The papilloma must be removed in its entirety to prevent it from continuing to grow. The camera helps to confirm all the papilloma tissue is gone.

Your surgeon may sometimes need to perform more than one procedure in order to remove the entire papilloma. And because inverted papillomas grow inward toward the bone, they sometimes cause more invasive problems and require another surgery to resect the entire area.

Prognosis After Inverted Papilloma Removal

Inverted papillomas do, unfortunately, have a fairly high rate of recurrence. Though most instances happen earlier, some papillomas have recurred up to eight years after surgery. For this reason, it’s important to stay in touch with your ENT doctor to watch for signs that the papilloma has returned.

Think You Might Have an Inverted Papilloma?

Although inverted papillomas are rare, they can be frustrating for those who deal with them.

Our team at ENT Associates of Lubbock is here to provide evidence-based, compassionate care for those dealing with inverted papillomas or a host of other ear, nose and throat concerns.

If you’re experiencing the symptoms discussed above, reach out today to schedule a consultation with one of our ENT doctors. We look forward to hearing from you!

Are Your Symptoms Human Papillomavirus or Throat Cancer?

Since the release of the first vaccine for human papillomavirus in 2006, we’ve heard a lot more about HPV and the health conditions linked to it.

Women are encouraged to get screened for HPV at their yearly gynecologist appointments since an HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer. But not everyone knows that HPV can lead to cancer in the throat as well.

This may leave you wondering, “What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus? How do I know if I have HPV? Could my HPV cause throat cancer?”

What Is the Human Papillomavirus and What Are Its Symptoms?

The human papillomavirus, usually referred to as HPV, is a specific type of virus.

There are more than 100 different strains of HPV, and most of them are harmless. An estimated 79 million Americans currently have some form of HPV infection, with another 14 million expected in the next year. Most of the time, though, HPV doesn’t cause any symptoms.

When you catch the flu virus, it usually causes you to feel pretty sick and have specific symptoms. Those symptoms let you know you probably have the flu. But since most people with HPV are asymptomatic, they won’t know they have the virus unless they get tested for it specifically.

You can’t feel HPV in your body, and your immune system can clear most types of HPV over time. But sometimes the virus doesn’t go away and instead reproduces, eventually leading to symptoms you notice.

For example, HPV can cause warts on various body parts. And unlike other viruses, HPV can cause several types of cancer, like cervical cancer and throat cancer. So while you won’t feel the presence of the virus itself, you could very well feel the symptoms of a cancer caused by the virus.

human papillomavirus throat cancer symptoms

The Real Question: Do I Just Have a Sore Throat or Is It HPV Throat Cancer?

The real question isn’t whether you have HPV, but whether you have a run-of-the-mill sore throat or HPV throat cancer symptoms.

Historically, smoking and high levels of alcohol consumption have been the biggest risk factors for throat cancer. Recently, though, we’ve seen a trend of younger patients being diagnosed with throat cancer. In fact, up to 70% of oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers are now associated with HPV!

Anyone exposed to HPV can develop HPV-associated throat cancer, but heterosexual males are most at risk because of current sexual practices in our society.

What Is Throat Cancer?

Cancer happens when normal cells in the body replicate and grow out of control. Most laryngeal (throat) cancers are a type of cancer known as “squamous cell carcinoma.” Squamous cells are the type of cells that line the back of the throat, where this cancer starts.

Throat cancer can originate in several areas, but most throat cancers caused by HPV start in the tonsils or on the back of the tongue.

The Connection Between Human Papillomavirus and Throat Cancer

You can’t feel HPV if it doesn’t cause your body’s cells to start growing out of control. But if HPV does lead to cancer, these are some human papillomavirus throat cancer symptoms you may notice.

Spitting or Coughing Up Blood

When throat cancer originates at the back of the tongue, it can sometimes cause blood to appear in your saliva. When the cancer is farther down, in the voice box, it can cause you to cough up blood.

If you notice blood in your saliva or after a cough, especially with no apparent cause, you should talk to your ENT doctor to investigate what’s happening.

Throat Pain

Cancer at the back of the throat can make it difficult or painful to swallow. This pain can also radiate to the ear.

While throat pain is common with viral illnesses and strep throat, pain from oropharyngeal cancer will persist beyond the length of a typical illness. You also probably won’t experience a fever or other symptoms of acute illness.

A Mass in Your Neck

It’s not uncommon to feel swollen lymph nodes in your neck when you’re fighting a cold or the flu. But if a mass in your neck sticks around beyond the duration of an illness, or if it isn’t associated with an illness at all, give your doctor a call. Sometimes throat cancer doesn’t cause any other initial symptoms, and this is the first sign people notice.

A mass in your neck doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but you should schedule an appointment with your ENT doctor to see what’s going on.

Is It Time To Call a Doctor?

Any of the symptoms listed above warrant a call to an ENT doctor. While each symptom on the list can have other causes, remember that the symptoms of cancer don’t come and go. Cancer symptoms begin, persist and usually get worse.

Any lingering cough, continued spitting up of blood, pain in the throat or pain radiating to the ear, or a mass in your neck should prompt you to schedule a checkup.

If you’re worried you may have human papillomavirus throat cancer symptoms, contact ENT Associates of Lubbock today to schedule an appointment. Our physicians have the experience and knowledge to find the root cause of your symptoms and help determine the best course of treatment for you.

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