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How to Find a Qualified Botox Doctor Near You

Botox has been around for long enough that most people are familiar with the basics — you notice some wrinkles, you get a few Botox injections, and the wrinkles disappear.

That’s all correct, but you might still have questions that the basics don’t cover, like:

  • How much does Botox help?
  • Who can administer Botox?
  • Where can I find Botox near me?

One of the most important questions about Botox treatments is how to find a qualified Botox doctor in your area. In this post, we’ll talk about why choosing an experienced, qualified physician for Botox is important and what questions can help you find one.

Who Can Give Botox Injections?

In the United States, only medical professionals with specialized training are legally authorized to administer Botox injections. In every state, this includes physicians, but many states also allow nurses, physician’s assistants, dentists, and similar professionals to perform injections.

An esthetician, however, can’t legally deliver Botox injections unless that person also happens to be a medical professional.

Why It’s Important to Find a Qualified Physician

While various medical professionals can provide Botox injections, certain types of physicians are particularly familiar with facial anatomy. Their specialized training and more extensive knowledge of the face’s musculature mean they are best equipped to minimize risk and achieve the best results for patients.

Facial anatomy isn’t exactly the same from person to person. Muscles can be larger or smaller, and slightly different in shape and/or location. There are a lot of muscles next to and overlapping each other in the face, as well. Without the necessary expertise, it’s easy for a legal Botox provider to accidentally inject the wrong spot or the wrong amount, causing side effects that last months.

In the end, choosing a qualified, experienced physician who knows facial anatomy will get you better results and save time and money.

Infographic: How to Find a Qualified Botox Doctor Near You

How to Find a Qualified Botox Doctor Near You

To find a Botox doctor near you, it’s important to look into the qualifications and background of anyone you’re considering. We’ve provided five questions to consider below.

1. What is the doctor’s experience?

You can start by looking into the experience of the doctor you’re considering. Is their specialty related to the face? How much practice do they have injecting Botox? Do they consistently produce great results for their patients?

2. Do patients return for their follow-up Botox treatments?

One way to find out how well a doctor near you administers Botox is to find out whether their patients come back for their ongoing Botox treatments. You can also check online reviews or before-and-after photos if any are available.

3. What are the doctor’s credentials?

Again, it’s important to be sure the medical professional who will actually be performing your Botox injections is a specialized physician. Once you locate an appropriate specialty practice, such as an ENT office, you can call to ask who actually administers the Botox injections.

Is it the physician, or a PA under supervision? Does the physician have any Botox training or experience?

Though it might be tempting to save money by visiting a lower-cost establishment, consider how much risk you’re willing to take. A job poorly done is more expensive — not to mention more distressing — than paying a little more for a qualified professional.

4. What results can I expect?

A trained, experienced physician should be able to understand and diagnose your particular case during a face-to-face consultation. They should also be able to tell you whether or not Botox will actually help you, and how much.

A qualified physician isn’t just throwing Botox at every issue they see. Instead, they take care to identify the specific problem and set reasonable expectations for the outcome.

5. How do you handle unexpected outcomes?

Though seeing a qualified specialist minimizes the risk of side effects, especially in Botox “danger zones,” no procedure is ever 100% risk-free. With that in mind, ask the physician how they handle unexpected outcomes after Botox treatments.

Do they have a plan? Will they take steps to correct an issue, or will you need to see another doctor? Do they have enough background with Botox not to compound a problem by attempting the wrong solutions?

This is why having an experienced doctor is so important.

Find a Great Botox Doctor Near You

No one wants to endure months with the results of a faulty Botox treatment. To minimize that possibility, seek a qualified Botox doctor near you. Now that you know what questions to ask, you should be able to find an experienced professional who understands exactly what’s needed to address your concerns.

What You Need to Know About Swollen Tonsils

Whether it was once or twice as a kid or more of an ongoing battle, chances are you or someone you know has experienced the unpleasant sensation of swollen tonsils.

Swollen tonsils can be uncomfortable and painful, making it difficult to eat, drink, and even sleep. But what causes swollen tonsils?

In this article, we’ll delve into the most common (and some not-so-common!) causes of this common ailment.

What Are Swollen Tonsils?

Your tonsils are the two little mounds of tissue that sit on either side of the back of your throat. To be more accurate, those are your palatine tonsils — the most famous of the human tonsils.

In reality, the tonsils are part of a circle of tissue in the back of the nose and the throat called Waldeyer’s ring, which includes:

  • Palatine tonsils — the familiar tonsils at the back of the throat, which we usually just call tonsils
  • Pharyngeal tonsils — also called adenoids, which live behind the nose
  • Lingual tonsils — which don’t get much fanfare (and don’t have a nickname) and which live on the back of the tongue

Despite what conventional wisdom taught in the past, tonsils do have a role to play. All the tonsils, including those at the back of your throat, are made up of lymphatic tissue and comprise part of your body’s immune system.

Essentially, your tonsils are little lymph nodes in your throat. To ward off infection, they act as filters to catch viruses and bacteria trying to enter your body through the nose and mouth.

If you’ve ever been sick and noticed swollen spheres on either side of your neck, you know that lymph nodes swell as they try to fight off infection. So, occasional swollen tonsils are normal and indicate your immune system is working to protect you.

However, excessive swelling, long-term swelling, and additional symptoms can indicate something’s gone wrong with the system.

Two Types of Swollen Tonsils

In evaluating swollen tonsils, one of the most important things to consider is whether the swelling is short term (acute) or long term (chronic).

Short-term swelling is episodic, meaning it comes and goes. It often accompanies a nearby infection, an allergy flare-up, or an infection of the tonsils themselves. When the issue resolves, the tonsils shrink back to normal size again.

Short-term swelling might produce certain annoying symptoms while they last, such as snoring or pain, but these issues resolve when the swelling does.

Long-term swollen tonsils, on the other hand, are characterized by chronic, persistent swelling. You might notice your enlarged tonsils every time you use a mirror to look in your throat, or your doctor or dentist might comment on them regularly. They never seem to fully shrink down, even when you’re not sick.

Besides the visible characteristics, symptoms of chronic swollen tonsils can include difficulty swallowing food, a muffled or “hot potato” voice, and consistent snoring, even in children. They can increase the risk of sleep apnea.

The Most Common Causes of Swollen Tonsils

By far, the most common cause of swollen tonsils is tonsillitis from a bacterial or viral infection. There are, however, several other common causes to keep in mind.

Infrographic: What You Need to Know About Swollen Tonsils

Swollen Tonsils From Infections

One of the most common causes of swollen tonsils we see is strep throat. Strep throat is a particularly unpleasant bacterial infection of the throat that frequently affects children and teens. It typically causes a high fever, throat pain, and difficulty swallowing, along with swollen tonsils.

On the viral side, upper respiratory infections frequently cause acute swollen tonsils. Mono, or mononucleosis, also causes swollen tonsils that can take much longer to resolve.

Swollen Tonsils From Allergies

Allergies are the immune system’s overreaction to a particle like pollen or dander entering the body. It mistakes the particle for a viral or bacterial invader and reacts to fight off the perceived threat. Because the tonsils are part of the immune system, they get involved, too.

Swollen Tonsils From COVID-19

Like any upper respiratory infection, COVID-19 can cause swollen tonsils. However, we haven’t seen a particularly strong link between the two.

Swollen Tonsils From Birth

Some people are simply born with larger tonsils than others. Unfortunately, this means they may encounter the symptoms of swollen tonsils more often, since any swelling is more noticeable. Even without swelling, large tonsils can interfere with swallowing or contribute to sleep apnea.

Other Reasons for Swollen Tonsils

If a patient comes in with swollen tonsils, we’re always cognizant of the possibility of tonsil cancer. Fortunately, tonsil cancer is fairly easy for a trained professional to spot. It includes symptoms like:

  • Asymmetrically enlarged tonsils
  • Pain in the throat
  • Pain in the ear on the same side as the swollen tonsil
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Voice changes
  • Symptoms don’t go away, but progressively worsen

Tonsil cancer isn’t nearly as common a cause of swollen tonsils as the other causes mentioned above. Also, it’s important to note that swollen tonsils — even chronically swollen tonsils — don’t cause tonsil cancer. They can simply be a symptom of it.

When to See a Doctor for Swollen Tonsils

If you’re wondering why your tonsils are swollen, especially if they’ve been swollen for longer than a few days or with an unknown cause, see a doctor. They can investigate the source of the problem and advise you on what steps to take.

Sometimes antibiotics are appropriate, and sometimes antihistamines can help. Tonsillectomies are much less common now than they used to be, but doctors may recommend them in more severe or chronic cases.

What a Pediatric Otolaryngologist Is (and When to See One)

If you’ve heard of pediatric otolaryngology before, you may be wondering whether you should take your child to a pediatric ENT.

It’s a good question. From the name, you’d think you should take children to pediatric otolaryngologists for all of their ear, nose, and throat needs. But it turns out that’s not quite the case.

Because it’s not immediately clear what the difference between a pediatric otolaryngologist and a general otolaryngologist is, this post will detail the responsibilities and expertise of each so you can better determine where to take your child.

What Is Pediatric Otolaryngology?

Pediatric otolaryngology is a subspecialty of general otolaryngology — the branch of medicine that deals with conditions of the ear, nose, and throat. Most ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctors, including myself, are general otolaryngologists.

All otolaryngologists complete four years of medical school followed by five years of specialty training. During our residency, we see hundreds if not thousands of children and manage their medical issues.

From that point, some otolaryngologists decide to specialize further and pursue an extra year of training — called a fellowship — in pediatric otolaryngology. This usually takes place in an environment like a children’s hospital, where the doctor gains training and experience with more complex cases.

What Does a Pediatric Otolaryngologist Do?

Because of their additional year of training, pediatric otolaryngologists typically handle more rare and complex conditions. They’re especially adept in the treatment and management of different pediatric airway issues, such as a narrowed trachea, and perform procedures such as tracheostomy and bronchostomy.

Some have familiarity with rarer or more difficult cases in children, including congenital conditions like certain craniofacial issues or hearing loss. Some perform more specialized procedures, like pediatric cochlear implantation.

Infographic: What a Pediatric Otolaryngologist Is (and When to See One)

When Do You NOT Need a Pediatric Otolaryngologist?

For the common ear, nose, and throat issues children experience as they grow up, it’s unnecessary to seek out a physician who specializes in pediatric otolaryngology. A general otolaryngologist has more than enough training and practice in these more common issues:

When Does a Pediatric Otolaryngologist Make Sense?

If we encounter a case better suited to pediatric otolaryngology, we refer that patient out to a qualified pediatric ENT. Such cases might include: 

  • Improperly fused craniofacial bones 
  • Cleft lip or palette 
  • Significant congenital hearing loss that may require a cochlear implant 
  • Excessive narrowing of the airway that might require a tracheostomy or an airway surgery on the voice box or trachea
  • Large head or neck cancers

Final Thoughts on Pediatric Otolaryngology

Pediatric otolaryngology is an important subspecialty within the ENT field. We need physicians who know the ins and outs of the rarer and more difficult pediatric conditions and have the training and practice to treat them most effectively.

However, if you’re simply looking for an ENT who can effectively care for your child through the various ear, nose, and throat issues of childhood, a general ENT is more than qualified. We treat patients from all walks of life, from ages zero to 100, and we enjoy getting to know and care for the whole family in one place!

3 Botox “Danger Zones” to Watch Out For

When it comes to Botox “danger zones,” it’s not so much that you shouldn’t inject particular regions of your face — it’s that you really need to know what you’re doing.

Every region has subtleties that require a thorough understanding of the facial muscles, their functions, interactions, and more. If someone isn’t intimately familiar with the details, they could end up injecting the wrong amount, the wrong muscle, or no muscle at all.

Why Botox “Danger Zones” Can Cause Problems

In order to avoid Botox danger zones, it’s important for Botox providers to really know facial musculature and how different muscle groups interact. Otherwise, they won’t have an adequate picture of where to inject — and where NOT to inject — the medication.

For example, the frontalis muscle of the forehead has two lobes that come together in the center, but with a gap in one area. It’s possible to miss the muscle entirely if someone injects the center of the forehead without understanding where that gap is. The drug then can’t do its job because it’s not in the muscle.

Besides not producing the desired results, that’s just a waste of money.

There’s more nuance to Botox than first meets the eye if a provider wants to get the exact result a patient is after. Some other problems with Botox danger zones include injecting too many units into a muscle, injecting the wrong spot in a muscle, or accidentally injecting a nearby muscle. It’s even important to understand where not to inject Botox to achieve a certain effect.

Infographic: 3 Botox “Danger Zones” to Watch Out For

3 Botox Danger Zones

Three particular facial areas qualify as “Botox danger zones” because they require caution and expertise to achieve effective, natural-looking results and avoid mishaps. Again, knowing where to inject and where not to inject is crucial to achieving great results.

Botox Danger Zone #1: The Brow

Many of us have seen perpetually surprised-looking Botox patients on TV shows and recognize that something went wrong there. That look, among other things, is a reason the brow/forehead is a Botox danger zone.

That frontalis muscle we mentioned above is responsible for forehead wrinkles, but it’s also in charge of raising the eyebrows. It works in tandem with another muscle around the eyes — the orbicularis oculi — which pulls your eyebrows in the opposite direction. Together, these muscles give your face great flexibility of expression.

Brow Droop

If a Botox provider injects too much above the brow, they can paralyze the frontalis muscle. The wrinkles are taken care of, but the patient won’t be able to raise their eyebrows. Their forehead will be frozen, and the muscles around the eyes won’t encounter any resistance when they pull downward, resulting in a drooping brow.

Eyelid Droop

Another danger-zone problem gained attention in 2021 when a lifestyle blogger and influencer from Chicago shared her story of Botox gone wrong. Botox eyelid droop can happen when a provider injects between the eyebrows improperly. The Botox can migrate and infiltrate a nerve that controls eyelid muscle movement, producing sometimes shocking results.

Raised Brow

Drooping issues aren’t the only problems in Botox danger zones. A raised brow can be just as unpleasant.

If a Botox provider only injects the muscle around the eyes, then a patient can end up with the perpetually surprised look we mentioned earlier. When only the downward-pulling muscle weakens, the upward-pulling muscle (the frontalis) is free to keep those eyebrows hiked up high all the time.

Or, if an inexperienced provider injects too much Botox above the middle of an eyebrow, and not enough above the outside edge, the patient can end up with an unfortunate Spock-like tilt to their eyebrows.

Botox Danger Zone #2: Next to the Mouth

Another Botox danger zone is the area next to your mouth, which contains a number of muscles that help with facial expression and mouth movement. These muscles can vary in size and even location among different people, so experience and expertise are crucial.

The primary problem in this danger zone is a flat or otherwise altered smile from Botox injections for jaw thinning or to treat TMJ disorder.

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder affects an estimated 5–12% of people, and women at least twice as often as men. It can cause intense pain and interfere significantly with daily life. Physicians discovered that using Botox to weaken the masseter, the large chewing muscle that runs from the cheek to the lower jaw, can help relieve TMJ symptoms.

This same treatment can also serve cosmetic purposes, giving the jaw a slimmer appearance by relaxing the masseter.

In both cases, the trouble comes when a provider injects too far forward into the masseter, affecting an adjacent muscle called the risorius. The risorius stretches from the corner of your mouth back toward the masseter and pulls your mouth out and up for a smile — unless it’s inadvertently paralyzed by a misplaced Botox injection.

Botox Danger Zone #3: Below the Mouth

Some people would like a lift to the corners of their mouth, especially if they feel they appear to be constantly frowning. This is where we encounter the final Botox danger zone.

Small doses of Botox, carefully administered, can weaken a muscle called the depressor anguli oris and reduce its downward pull. Precision and experience are the keys here. Mistakes in this area can not only affect the appearance of a patient’s smile but also their ability to eat and drink properly.

How to Reduce Risk in Botox Danger Zones

Many people aren’t familiar with all the potential side effects of Botox and may not realize the complex knowledge necessary to properly administer injections. It seems simple enough, but without the right knowledge and experience, it’s easy to make a mistake that will affect someone’s life for months.

This is why we recommend getting your Botox injections from an experienced, trained physician with an intimate understanding of facial anatomy. They know where to inject and where not to inject to achieve the best results, especially in Botox danger zones. Their expertise even allows them to customize treatments to each patient while significantly reducing your chance of a mishap.

Myth vs. Fact: Can You Lie Down After Botox?

Just about everyone has heard of Botox, and for a good reason. This non-invasive procedure gives you a younger, brighter-looking face almost instantly. And since Botox is temporary, you can tweak your treatments over time until you achieve your desired results. What’s not to love?

While Botox is popular and effective, some common misconceptions might leave you questioning whether it’s right for you. Today, we’re analyzing one such myth: whether you can lie down after Botox, and how long after Botox you can lie down.

Can You Lie Down After Botox?

Yes, you can lie down after you receive Botox.

Many people worry that if you lay their head down after a Botox treatment, the injection will diffuse into the wrong part of the face and lead to poor results. Fortunately, that’s not how Botox works.

Once your doctor properly injects Botox into a specific area of your face, it will stay there unless you heavily massage it out. Botox is injected into solid muscle tissue, meaning gravity has no effect on it. As long as you don’t massage or push on the treated areas, you won’t move the Botox.

Other Botox Myths Debunked

If you’re considering Botox treatment, you’ve probably heard many Botox myths, including the lying down after Botox myth. Quite a few of these stem from general misunderstandings about how Botox works, but we’re here to clarify what is and isn’t true.

Myth: Botox Is Painful

Some people assume Botox is painful because the treatment involves a needle. We’re happy to reassure you that this is completely false.

When delivered properly, Botox injections cause very minimal discomfort. The needles are tiny, and an experienced ENT doctor will work quickly to complete the treatment. In fact, many people receive their Botox treatment on their lunch break and head right back to work with no recovery time needed!

Myth: Botox Causes Permanent Facial Paralysis

Botox doesn’t freeze your face. Instead, it simply weakens the muscle movements in whatever areas it’s applied to.

When injected correctly, your results will appear natural, and unlike with some extreme plastic surgeries, you won’t end up walking around with a permanent shocked expression on your face!

Infographic: Myth vs. Fact: Can You Lie Down After Botox?

What Should I Do After Getting a Botox Treatment?

In order to experience the smoothest recovery possible, adhere to any tips or recommendations your doctor gives. These may include the following.

Recovery Tip #1: Relax

One of the best things about Botox is there’s virtually no recovery period. After you receive treatment, you can immediately continue with your day. No specific actions are needed. So you can relax!

Recovery Tip #2: Don’t Massage It

Hands off! Botox won’t spread to any non-injected areas unless you massage it or press on it. If you want to actively participate in your recovery in some way, simply use those muscles to help the Botox distribute itself. For example, you can wrinkle or raise your eyebrows repeatedly.

Recovery Tip #3: Maintain a Consistent Treatment Schedule

The best way to maintain long-lasting, desirable results is to continue with regularly scheduled Botox appointments. Botox weakens your muscles over time, so the more consistent you are, the longer your results will last. One of the easiest ways to do this is to schedule your next appointment before leaving the office after a Botox treatment.

Booking Your First Botox Treatment? Visit a Reputable ENT Doctor

Once you decide you’re ready for your first Botox treatment, consult with an experienced ENT doctor. The initial appointment is a great time to discuss your desired results and debunk common misconceptions, such as the lying down after Botox myth. Your doctor will be happy to help you achieve the facial appearance you’re after!

What’s the Difference Between Dysport and Botox?

I don’t need to restate how popular Botox is.

“Botox” has become the generic term referring to cosmetic procedures that reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, like “Kleenex” is used to refer to all tissues. But just like Kleenex, Botox isn’t the only one of its kind out there. Another popular option called Dysport can help you achieve the same results.

Dysport and Botox have many similarities, but a few important differences. To help you decide which is best for you, we’ll compare Dysport vs. Botox.

What Is Botox and What Is It Used For?

Very simply, Botox is a paralytic agent. It reduces the appearance of wrinkles by temporarily weakening activity in the muscles below the surface of the skin. As a result, the overlying skin doesn’t crease.

Doctors typically use Botox to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but they may also use it to treat some health conditions, including temporomandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ, which limits jaw mobility.

Because it narrowly dissolves through the tissues, Botox is safe to use throughout the entire face. On average, the resulting effects are visible within five days of treatment and last about three to four months.

Although the effects of Botox are temporary, it weakens muscles over time. If you repeat your treatments about every four months (or as recommended by your physician), you’re less likely to need them as often over time, and you’ll be able to maintain your desired results longer.

What Is Dysport and What Is It Used For?

Dysport is another nonsurgical form of wrinkle treatment with a quick recovery rate. It’s very similar to Botox, as they’re both made from the same chemical structure.

Dysport and Botox injections work the same way: they temporarily reduce the appearance of wrinkles by relaxing the muscles beneath the skin. Like Botox, it’s been scientifically proven that small amounts of Dysport are safe to inject.

Dysport has a quicker onset than Botox — its effects are visible within as little as two to three days after treatment — but lasts the same amount of time.

Dysport vs. Botox: What Are the Differences?

If you compare Dysport vs. Botox, you’ll find they’re quite similar. However, there are a few very distinct differences to keep in mind:

  • Chemical composition: Although Dysport and Botox share a main ingredient, they contain different trace proteins.
  • Dissipation rate: Dysport tends to spread further through the tissues, meaning it could potentially distribute itself into the wrong place once it’s injected. As a result, you might end up with an uneven appearance in your face or unwanted lifting or sagging in areas you didn’t intend to change. The best way to avoid these unintentional results is to receive treatment from a trusted and experienced ENT doctor with extensive knowledge of the head, neck, and face muscles.
  • How quickly effects are visible: Dysport’s results tend to appear a few days before Botox’s. 

Generally, there aren’t many differences between Dysport and Botox. They’re both injectable treatments that can be completed at a doctor’s office in minutes, they provide the same effects that last about three to four months, and they’re very similar in price. Both treatments cause very minimal pain with little to no recovery time required — you could receive treatment during your lunch break and be back at work in minutes.

Infographic: What’s the Difference Between Dysport and Botox?

Dysport vs. Botox: Which Is Right for You?

Now that we’ve weighed Dysport vs. Botox, are you still struggling to decide which treatment is right for you?

The choice ultimately comes down to what you feel most comfortable with and what your physician recommends. An experienced doctor can administer both Dysport and Botox in a way that provides natural-looking results without drastically altering your appearance, so be sure to take their opinion seriously.

Arrange a consultation today to discuss your options.

How Often Should You Get Botox Touched Up?

Botox is undoubtedly the number one non-invasive procedure in 2022. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 7.4 million people in the U.S. receive Botox treatments in a single year.

And unlike a decade ago, many of the social stigmas about Botox no longer exist. It’s become so commonplace for both cosmetic and medical purposes that few people, if any, look askance at someone who’s had treatments. Plus, when Botox is given correctly, most people don’t look like they’ve had any work done at all. 

Since Botox is a temporary treatment, the effects fade over time. So, how often should you get Botox refreshed after your initial treatment? Let’s dive into the details.

What Determines How Often You Should Get Botox Treatments?

Generally, the effects of Botox last about three to four months. While injection location, dosage amount, and the recipient’s skin type or coloration vary, none of these factors really affect the length of time between treatments.

Botox doesn’t work directly on the skin, but on the muscles beneath the skin, meaning skin thickness and coloration don’t affect the treatments. And the length of effectiveness in the muscles comes down mainly to the half-life of the medication itself, not quantity or location.

Instead, the number of treatments you’ve already had is the main factor that could alter how frequently you need Botox injections moving forward.

Botox can cause some weakness in the treated muscles over time. So if you’ve already had several Botox injections, you might find that the effects last longer for you. As a result, once you’ve had Botox treatments for one to two years, you might be able to schedule them every six months instead of every three months.

Of course, this varies from person to person. But generally speaking, the longer you continue to get Botox injections, the less frequently you’ll need them.

Why Do the Effects of Botox Wear Off?

To fully understand how often you should get Botox, it’s helpful to know how Botox works and why its effects eventually wear off.

Botox is a paralytic agent made from a bacteria-produced toxin, and it temporarily paralyzes the facial muscles it’s injected into. Because wrinkles actually come from muscle movement, this relaxing effect smooths the skin for a more youthful appearance.

While “paralytic agent” may sound frightening, Botox doesn’t damage your nerve endings. It just temporarily prevents them from communicating with your muscles.

Normally, your nerves release a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine to control your muscles. When a doctor injects Botox, however, the toxin binds to localized nerve endings and prevents them from releasing that neurotransmitter. As long as Botox remains connected to your nerve endings, it blocks the signals that would normally tell your muscles to move. 

Eventually, your body metabolizes the Botox. Once it dissipates, your nerves can release acetylcholine again, restoring communication between your nerves and muscles.

What Can I Do to Prolong the Effects of My Botox Treatments?

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find all sorts of tips and tricks to prolong the effects of Botox treatments. Unfortunately, those tips aren’t always reliable or even based on factual research. Some could even be detrimental.

To support the effects of your Botox injections, the best things you can do are:

  • Remain consistent with your treatments: Don’t wait too long to come in for your regular treatments. Schedule your Botox appointments ahead of time and stick with them. Remember that if you remain consistent, you should eventually be able to reduce how often you need treatments and perhaps even reduce the dosage you need.
  • Stay out of the sun: The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage skin cells and can lead to sun spots, reduced elasticity, and skin cancer. Minimizing sun exposure won’t necessarily reduce your wrinkles, since those are caused by muscular movement, but it will reduce overall damage, which will help your skin appear healthier and younger.
  • See an experienced doctor: ENT doctors have an extensive knowledge of head and neck anatomy, including facial musculature. Knowing exactly which muscles perform which actions allows experienced ENTs to determine where specific wrinkles originate and customize Botox injections to meet each patient’s particular needs.
Infographic: How Often Should You Get Botox Touched Up?

Talk With Your ENT About How Often You Should Get Botox

It’s always best to speak directly with your physician about medical treatments. You can ask questions about whether Botox will work for you and how often you should get Botox. Every person is different, and your doctor can advise you based on the details of your situation.

Our knowledgeable staff at Ear Nose & Throat Associates of Lubbock will ensure you have a safe and positive experience with Botox. If you’d like to receive ongoing injections, we can also help you establish a treatment schedule to maintain youthful-looking skin and achieve long-lasting results.

6 Benefits of That Botox Treatment You’re Considering

Botox has been around long enough that most people with any concern over facial wrinkles have at least considered it.

Botox injections are, in fact, very effective at improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Beyond that, Botox can also help treat certain medical conditions. Botox is safe and well-researched, but the finer details of this treatment aren’t very well publicized.

To remedy that, here we provide a brief introduction to the benefits of Botox. We’ll look at exactly what Botox is, how it works, and the main benefits of Botox to help you better understand this treatment and make an informed decision about whether to pursue it.

What Is Botox?

Botox is a temporary paralytic agent that can reduce the movement of muscles. Since facial muscle movement is what causes wrinkles to appear, Botox treatment smooths out the skin’s appearance and keeps wrinkles at bay.

Botox acts locally, meaning it only affects the muscles where it’s injected. This gives doctors a great deal of control over which muscles (and wrinkles) they target.

Botox is one of the most widely known brands of injectable botulinum toxin, a toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Much like people say “Kleenex” to refer to any brand of facial tissue, people often say “Botox” to refer to all the different brands of this particular treatment.

How Does Botox Work?

The nerves in your body tell your muscles when to move by releasing a small chemical called acetylcholine, also known as a neurotransmitter.

After injection, Botox binds to a particular muscle’s nerve and prevents it from releasing its neurotransmitter. As a result, the muscle injected with Botox can’t tense up or move, and the skin above looks smoother.

As long as the Botox is present, nerves can’t send their signals. But as your body metabolizes Botox, it wears off of nerve endings and stops working. This process takes some time, so the effects of a Botox injection usually last three to four months.

When muscles sit still for extended periods of time, they get weaker. So when people continue with Botox injections, they tend to need the treatments less frequently as time goes on.

Should I Be Concerned That It Paralyzes?

Understandably, the word “paralyze” may cause some concern. Here’s what you need to know: 

  • First, the effects of Botox are temporary. It won’t permanently paralyze your muscles. As the toxin wears off, you’ll gradually regain movement of your facial muscles.
  • Second, you may have seen some drastic Botox results in movies (or real life), but carefully administered, appropriate doses of Botox don’t have that effect. The amount of Botox we use depends on the size and location of the muscle. In our office, we typically start patients with about half the standard dose to evaluate the effects and proceed from there. Often, half is all they need.

Botox has very few side effects. The most common include:

  • Redness at the injection site
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bruising at the injection site

What Are the Benefits of Botox?

Botox can be used in numerous cosmetic and medical applications, but because ENTs focus on the head and neck, we don’t offer Botox for conditions elsewhere on the body. Below are some conditions ENTs do treat and several benefits of Botox to consider:

Infographic: 6 Benefits of That Botox Treatment You’re Considering

1. Reduces Fine Lines and Wrinkles

This is one of the main benefits of Botox: it effectively smooths out fine lines and wrinkles on the face for a younger-looking appearance.

Doctors often use Botox to eliminate lines on the forehead, crow’s feet around the eyes, or smooth out the “eleven” lines that appear between the brows. They can also use Botox to flip the lip upward to give the appearance of fullness, or they can get rid of vertical bands on the neck that are a common sign of aging.

Essentially, doctors can treat any kind of cosmetic issue caused by muscle movement with Botox. Because of their intimate knowledge of head and neck musculature, experienced ENTs are especially adept at determining which muscles to treat to bring about specific results.

2. Treats Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)  

TMJ is a medical condition affecting the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. If you have TMJ, the muscles and ligaments around your jaw joints become inflamed and irritated, causing mild to severe pain. 

Botox injections can be an effective way to relieve TMJ discomfort in your jaw or ears. Treatment involves injecting Botox into the large, strong chewing muscles around the joint, weakening them to provide relief. 

3. It’s Only Temporary

The paralyzing effects of Botox are temporary and only last about three months. This is an important benefit because it gives you a chance to try Botox without being stuck with the results. If you like what you see, you can come back for more. Otherwise, you can decide Botox isn’t for you.

4. Quick and Minimally Invasive

Botox is a non-surgical outpatient procedure performed right here in our office. Once you arrive for your appointment, we discuss what you’d like to see, and you’re ready to begin. We make tiny injections into specific muscles we need to target, and you’re done. The whole process typically takes about 15 minutes, and you can head home or back to work immediately after we’re done. 

5. Produces Fast Results

Many topical treatments for fine lines and wrinkles take weeks or months to produce any results. One of the top benefits of Botox is that you begin to see results in just a few days, with full results appearing within two weeks.

6. Minimal Discomfort

Many people worry that the Botox injections will be painful, but another benefit of Botox is the incredibly tiny needle it uses. You may feel a slight pinch in a more sensitive area, but it really is very minimal. We’ve never had a patient leave saying, “I’ll never do that again!” In fact, almost everyone decides to repeat the process.

If you’re concerned about pain or any potential side effects, please let us know. We’ll be happy to talk with you!

Consider the Benefits of Botox for Your Situation

Whether you’re concerned about fine lines and wrinkles or a medical condition like TMJ, it’s helpful to discuss the benefits of Botox with a medical professional. A physician can advise you on whether Botox would be effective in your case and provide further details specific to your situation.

What You Need to Know About Asthma and Sleep Apnea

Did you know that if you have asthma, you also have an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, and vice versa?

Research indicates asthma and sleep apnea are indirectly connected, and each condition can potentially exacerbate the other. Although other contributing factors also play a role, knowing how asthma and sleep apnea are related and pursuing effective treatments for each may help you sleep better at night and feel well-rested throughout the day.

Let’s take a close look at each of these conditions and explore how they’re related.

How Are Asthma and Sleep Apnea Related?

Based on our professional experience and our review of recent data, we know that obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) and asthma are indirectly connected, with each condition negatively influencing the other.

Although asthma and sleep apnea affect one another, it’s not entirely accurate to say one directly causes the other. Because there are several hypotheses out there, several factors need to be considered.

Recently, researchers have found that obstructive sleep apnea could actually be a trigger for asthma exacerbations. There are a number of different pathways as to how. It may be because OSAS causes hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the blood and tissues. With a lack of oxygen, asthma symptoms may worsen.

Alternatively, a particular person’s airway lining could have increased irritability or a propensity for inflammation. If so, both asthma and obstructive sleep apnea may be exacerbated by that hyperactive airway lining.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic long-term condition that affects your lungs’ ability to carry air in and out. If you have asthma, your airways are overreactive and sometimes become inflamed and narrow, making breathing much more difficult.

Your entire respiratory system is split into two parts: the upper respiratory tract (your nose, mouth, and throat) and the lower respiratory tract (your lungs). When a person without asthma has an upper respiratory reaction to a trigger, their upper respiratory tract swells, causing nasal congestion and mucus production, which leads to a runny nose.

Asthma is a similar response, except that symptoms occur in the lower respiratory tract — in the lungs instead of the nose. Asthma triggers narrow the airways and makes breathing much more difficult.

Asthma exacerbations can be triggered by many things, including:

  • Exercise
  • Cold weather
  • Pollen or other allergens
  • Viral infections

Asthma symptoms can vary from person to person, but they often include:

  • Chest tightness and pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing when exhaling
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Coughing attacks that get worse with a cold, the flu, or respiratory infections

Unfortunately, there’s no “cure” for asthma, but an individualized treatment plan incorporating medications, medical monitoring, and lifestyle changes can help manage it.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops during sleep. Unlike asthma, which is a narrowing of the airways within the lungs themselves, sleep apnea is a physical obstruction of the airways before air reaches the lungs.

Usually, the physical blockage, which can be by the tongue, the tonsils, or one’s own body weight, occurs above the trachea, aka the windpipe.

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, which occurs when the throat muscles relax too much during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea happens when your brain doesn’t send proper messages to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs if you have both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up with a parched mouth
  • Gasping for air while you sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Long pauses where you’re not breathing while sleeping (reported by someone else)
What You Need to Know About Asthma and Sleep Apnea Infographic

What Are the Treatment Options for Asthma and Sleep Apnea?

Thankfully, both asthma and obstructive sleep apnea have a variety of treatment options.

Treatment Options for Asthma

For asthma, there’s an increasing spectrum of treatment options from minimal to maximal. These include:

  • A rescue inhaler, a small, handheld device that pumps medication into your mouth and down to your lungs. The medicine opens your airways so you can breathe easier. Some people with mild asthma may only need to use an inhaler every once in a while. If you find yourself using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, you probably need more long-term treatment.
  • Inhaled steroids or bronchodilators are like inhalers, but they are long-acting and are used to control asthma symptoms instead of just providing quick, short-term relief. The steroids work to treat asthma by reducing inflammation in the lungs.
  • A combination of treatments may be necessary if you have very severe asthma. A doctor might have you use a rescue inhaler, bronchodilator, and oral steroids together to control and relieve your asthma symptoms.
  • Injectable medications for asthma are also sometimes necessary for severe asthma. These medications are in a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which block the response to airway triggers that cause inflammation. People with severe asthma typically receive this type of treatment every 2–8 weeks, and it may be administered at a doctor’s office, hospital, or via self-injection at home. 

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

For those with sleep apnea, treatment options include:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which is a machine with a hose that connects to a mask. The hose delivers constant and steady oxygen while you sleep. Unfortunately, some people have problems with leaky masks, insomnia, dry mouth, and/or other issues related to CPAP, and should consider CPAP alternatives in those cases.
  • Weight loss can help treat sleep apnea by reducing fat deposits in your neck and tongue to improve airflow while you’re sleeping.
  • Surgery is another alternative treatment for sleep apnea and may include a tonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils), nasal surgery, or Inspire (hypoglossal nerve stimulator surgery). Inspire is a tiny, implanted device that controls your breathing by sending a small electrical signal to the nerve that controls your tongue. Once it’s implanted, you use a small handheld remote to turn it on before bed and off when you wake up. Unlike CPAP, there’s no hose or mask needed.

When Is It Time to See a Doctor?

Asthma and sleep apnea are severe conditions that require ongoing treatment and medical monitoring. If you’re experiencing symptoms of either condition, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, loud snoring, or you stop breathing intermittently overnight, see a doctor immediately.

Here at ENT Associates of Lubbock, we’re eager to help you address your asthma and sleep apnea with a treatment method that’s tailored to you.

VivAer Post-Op Instructions for a Comfortable Recovery

Persistent nasal congestion can have a significant impact on your life. Whether you experience fatigue from poor quality sleep or struggle with the constant discomfort of breathing through your mouth, not being able to breathe well through your nose can cause a myriad of effects that are difficult to juggle.

One solution we offer is VivAer, a non-invasive, in-office procedure done to relieve nasal obstructions. This surgical procedure is quick, effective, and safe, with very little recovery time. However, that doesn’t mean the recovery period shouldn’t be observed seriously.

Let’s review the importance of following your doctor’s VivAer post-op instructions, what to expect after the procedure, and some quick tips for a worry-free recovery.

What Is VivAer?

Previously, the only solutions for chronic nasal obstruction were medications or nasal strips that only offered short-term relief from uncomfortable symptoms. Alternatively, you could opt for surgery, but these procedures were often painful and invasive.

Fortunately, VivAer is now an option for millions of people who suffer from chronic nasal congestion. The VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling surgery is ideal for people with chronic nasal congestion or stuffiness. It only takes a few minutes and is completed under local anesthesia right in your doctor’s office.

During the procedure, your ENT doctor will insert a small wand into your nostril and apply low-temperature radiofrequency (RF) energy to the specific areas of obstruction. This gently reshapes the inside of your nose, improving airflow so you can breathe easier.

The Importance of Following Your VivAer Post-Op Instructions

As with any surgical procedure, you’ll need to partner with your doctor to ensure that you recover smoothly and without any major or minor issues. Being gentle with yourself and following your ENT doctor’s VivAer post-op instructions is essential for a few reasons:

  • The surgery might not be as effective. If you neglect to care for your nose after the procedure, you could reverse the effectiveness of the procedure or undo the procedure altogether. In this case, your VivAer surgery will have been pointless.
  • Your recovery time might take longer. Without proper care after surgery, your nose could take longer to heal, making life more difficult in the meantime. If you meticulously follow your doctor’s VivAer post-op instructions, you’re much more likely to experience a fast and easy recovery period.

What to Expect After VivAer

Because VivAer is a non-invasive procedure, there are very few uncomfortable postoperative side effects. You may experience some bleeding for about a day after the procedure, and for about a week or so, you will experience nasal congestion.

You’ll also notice some crusting on the side of your nostrils for about 2–3 weeks. You also may experience mild tenderness in your nostrils if you wiggle your nose, but that’s normal too.

There is no lasting external change to the appearance of your nose after VivAer surgery. Occasionally, some patients experience some swelling of their nostrils, but that only lasts for a few weeks while the nose heals.

4 Tips for a Quick and Problem-Free Recovery

VivAer Post-Op Instructions for a Comfortable Recovery Infographic

Most people recover from this procedure very well. Follow these VivAer post-op instructions to ensure your recovery is as painless and simple as possible.

Tip #1: Apply a prescribed antibiotic ointment two times per day.

After the surgery, we’ll prescribe you a special antibiotic ointment to prevent infection and expedite the healing process. Apply the ointment to the inside of your nostrils twice a day. Doing so will also keep the inside of your nose from getting too dry and prevent excessive crusting.

Tip #2: Avoid picking at the crusting inside your nose.

It may be tempting to pick at the crusting that will develop inside your nose, but doing so will prolong your healing time. To ensure a fast and easy recovery, do your best to leave the crusting alone. As annoying as it is, it’s a part of the natural healing process.

Tip #3: Use saline spray generously.

Saline spray is a water-based mixture that contains salt, similar to the composition of your tears. After the VivAer procedure, gently spray the inside of your nose with a saline solution as needed. This will prevent uncomfortable dryness and help keep your nostrils moisturized. It will also help soften or dissolve some of the crusting.

Tip #4: Don’t squeeze your nostrils together for one week.

Immediately after surgery, you’ll want to avoid squeezing your nose together when blowing to allow your nasal valve time to heal in the outward position. Pressing your nostrils together might undo the surgery, so it’s important to strictly adhere to this recommendation and give your nose the chance to heal correctly. Avoid accidentally hitting your nose, as well.

We Can Help You Follow Your VivAer Post-Op Instructions Safely

VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling surgery is a simple procedure that can relieve those who struggle to breathe through their nose, and we’re happy to provide it for our patients.

After the procedure, you don’t need to alter your normal daily activities very much. Take it easy for a few days, don’t overextend yourself or breathe too heavily, and follow our simple VivAer post-op instructions. The ENT Associates of Lubbock are here to help you with any questions you may have along the way, no matter what.

Your Options for Treating Swollen Turbinates

Being able to breathe through your nose is easy to take for granted. But when structures within your nasal passageways swell and impede normal breathing, it’s impossible to ignore. Among those structures are turbinates.

Swollen turbinates make your nose feel stuffy, often forcing you to breathe through your mouth, which can be really uncomfortable. They can even contribute to headaches and sleep disorders like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea if left untreated.

Let’s take a closer look at congestion from swollen turbinates to determine why it happens and what you can do about it.

What Are Turbinates?

Turbinates are structures made of bone and soft tissue. They sit along your nasal walls opposite the septum, which separates your nostrils into right and left sides.

You might have noticed that the word “turbinate” is similar to the word “turbine.” That’s because, very basically, turbinates affect the airflow in the nose.

Each of your nostrils has three turbinates: inferior, middle, and superior. The inferior turbinates most directly affect airflow because they’re situated further down toward the opening of your nostrils. Normally, there’s a space between the septum and the turbinates that allows air to pass through your nose so you can breathe with no problems.

Turbinates serve an important function. Their job is to filter, moisten, and warm air as it passes through your nose to your throat. Without them, breathing would be much more uncomfortable, coming with a rush of cold as air passed through your nose. Not pleasant!

What Happens When Turbinates Swell?

Everyone has a natural nasal cycle. One side of your nose will always be more congested than the other, and which side it is changes every few hours.

The problem begins when turbinates become so swollen that they prevent air from flowing in. At that point, they’ve become counterproductive. Since turbinates sit right in the midst of your nasal passages, any swelling can easily obstruct your breathing.

Several causes can trigger turbinate swelling, including:

  • Allergies (environmental or food)
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Sinus infections
  • COVID-19
  • A cold or the flu
  • Pregnancy or other hormonal fluctuations
  • The natural aging process
  • Prolonged Afrin or topical decongestant usage

What Non-Surgical Treatments Are Available?

ENT doctors typically treat swollen turbinates on a case-by-case basis. That means they look at your symptoms and the efficacy of previous treatments you’ve tried to develop an individualized treatment plan for you.

Most often, we start by treating allergies with medications like oral antihistamines, topical decongestants, or topical antihistamines.

  • Antihistamines block the effects of histamines, which are chemicals in your immune system that cause sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, or a runny nose to help your body expel allergens like pollen and pet dander.
  • Decongestants work by narrowing your blood vessels, which shrinks the swollen tissue inside your nose so air can pass through more easily.

Most antihistamine and decongestant combinations are available over the counter (OTC), but some require a prescription from your doctor. An ENT doctor can also give you detailed instructions on how and when to use these medications for the best results.

If allergies cause your turbinates to swell, you can limit your exposure to your allergens as much as possible. Some helpful tips include:

  • Remove excess dust and pet dander from your home.
  • Don’t smoke indoors.
  • Use specialized cleaners to remove any mold and mildew in your bathrooms, kitchen, or basement.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter inside your home. (especially in your bedroom or wherever you sleep.)

If these OTC treatments and environmental adjustments work to reduce the size of your swollen turbinates, you’ll be able to breathe normally through your nose, and surgery won’t be necessary.

When Should I Consider Surgery for Swollen Turbinates?

Infographic: Your Options for Treating Swollen Turbinates

Sometimes OTC treatments don’t work, and people still experience nasal congestion. If this is the case for you, it may be time to consider turbinate reduction surgery. 

The following surgical treatments are minimally invasive, safe, and can address enlarged inferior turbinates:

  • Submucosal turbinate reduction: This is the most common turbinate surgery. It’s usually an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia, but some advanced practices offer this procedure in the office with local anesthesia. During this procedure, an ENT doctor uses an endoscope (a small medical device with a light and camera on it) to see inside your nose. Then, they make a small incision in the mucosal lining of each inferior turbinate and remove the tissue causing the swelling.
  • Turbinectomy: With this procedure, the ENT doctor removes the bottom half of each inferior turbinate with a tiny, high-speed device. You’re sedated during the entire procedure, so it’s pain-free. Turbinectomies used to be the preferred surgical treatment for addressing swollen turbines, but have fallen out of fashion because taking too much tissue out of the nose can make nasal breathing uncomfortable. However, sometimes it’s necessary for excessively swollen turbinates.
  • Thermal application: An ENT doctor may also use heat to shrink swollen turbinates. This option is more commonly used with children because their noses are small, and there’s minimal space to insert surgical instruments into their nostrils. Instead, the ENT doctor will insert a probe into the turbinate to heat and shrink it.

Recovery from turbinate surgery usually takes about five to seven days. You might experience some nasal congestion during this time, but that’s normal. Nasal irrigation can help reduce congestion and speed up the recovery process.

You might also have some nasal discharge after surgery. If it’s yellow, green, or accompanied by a cough or fever, it may be a sign of infection and you should call your ENT doctor.

An ENT Doctor Can Help You Get Relief

If you’re frequently stuffed up and can’t breathe through your nose, swollen turbinates may be the cause. An experienced ENT doctor can review your treatment options and help you determine which one is best for you. Getting rid of that pesky stuffy nose might be easier than you thought!

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!

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