archive page

Salivary Gland Tumors Symptoms and When To Call Your Doctor

“Tumor” is a scary word. We associate tumors with cancer, and then cancer with shortened lifespans.

But fortunately, tumors don’t always mean cancer.

If something unusual is going on with your salivary glands, you may be worried about a salivary gland tumor. Here, we’ll take a look at some common salivary gland tumor symptoms, along with who’s at risk for this specific kind of tumor.

What Are Salivary Gland Tumors?

Salivary gland tumors are unusual growths that can form in the salivary glands or the ducts leading out of the salivary glands. The job of the salivary glands is to produce saliva to help maintain oral health, moisten the mouth, and begin the breakdown of food.

Besides the many minor salivary glands scattered throughout the mouth, people have three pairs of major salivary glands:

  • Parotid salivary glands directly in front of the ears.
  • Submandibular salivary glands below the border of the jaw.
  • Sublingual salivary glands underneath the tongue.

Tumors can occur in any of these major salivary glands. But the vast majority of salivary gland tumors (about 80%) form in the parotid glands.

Not many people develop salivary gland tumors. But even if you do, odds are in your favor for it not being cancerous. About 75% of parotid gland tumors are benign, and 50% of submandibular gland tumors are benign. Sublingual gland tumors are more likely to be cancerous, but these are extremely rare.

Salivary Gland Tumor Symptoms

Salivary gland tumor symptoms can be a bit tricky to spot because the symptoms don’t appear immediately. The tumors tend to grow slowly, which means they may not be large enough to cause symptoms for some time.

The most common salivary gland tumor symptom is a small lump in front of the ear, near the jaw, or in the neck. Patients usually can’t feel this lump until the tumor grows to at least 1 centimeter (cm) in diameter. Once it grows to 2 cm or larger, patients may be able to see a bump when they look in the mirror. A doctor may notice less visible lumps when palpating a patient’s neck or jaw during a routine exam.

Salivary gland tumors can involve the nerves, muscles, and other structures in the face, so they can sometimes interfere with the normal functioning of those structures. As such, other salivary gland tumor symptoms to watch for include:

  • Unusual swelling in your face, mouth, or neck that doesn’t go away.
  • Pain in your face, mouth, or neck that doesn’t go away.
  • One side of your face or neck changing in appearance.
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your face.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth fully.
  • Difficulty swallowing normally.
Salivary Gland Tumor Symptoms and When To Call Your Doctor Infographic

Who’s at Risk for Salivary Gland Tumors?

Many times, tumors, cancers, and abnormal growths can be linked to genetics, lifestyle choices, and other clear causes. Unfortunately, researchers have yet to find a clear link between most salivary gland tumors and any clear cause.

Warthin tumors, a specific type of salivary gland tumor, have been linked to smoking. But possible causes for other types of salivary gland tumors are less clear.

About two out of three cancerous salivary gland tumors are diagnosed in adults older than 55, meaning (as with many cancers) age may be a risk factor.

Exposure to radiation and certain workplace substances, such as sawdust, pesticides, and industrial solvents, may also increase people’s risk for developing specific salivary gland cancers.

How Common Are Salivary Gland Tumors?

Salivary gland tumors aren’t very common.

One population-based study concluded that about five people per 100,000 develop a benign salivary gland tumor, and only one develops a cancerous tumor.

The American Cancer Society reports that cancerous salivary gland tumors account for 6–8% of all head and neck cancers. They estimate between 2,000 and 2,500 cases of salivary gland cancer in the U.S. each year.

When To Call a Doctor About Salivary Gland Tumor Symptoms

Although salivary gland tumors are rare, it’s always best to get anything concerning checked out. If you think you might be experiencing salivary gland tumor symptoms, contact your ENT doctor to make an appointment.

While you might be hesitant to call just for an innocuous little lump, some of the other salivary gland tumor symptoms are more concerning and warrant immediate investigation. These include:

  • Swelling or pain in your mouth that worsens while eating or chewing.
  • A lump in the mouth or neck that grows and/or doesn’t disappear within two to three weeks.

Other concerning symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lump.
  • An immobile lump.
  • A rock-hard lump.
  • Facial weakness.
  • Facial paralysis.

Most of the time, treatment involves removing all or part of the salivary gland and its accompanying duct. Cancerous tumors may require radiation as well.

The outlook for patients after salivary gland tumor treatment is generally excellent, especially with early detection. Patients can help by paying attention to any salivary gland tumor symptoms they notice and consulting their doctor as soon as possible. The earlier we detect a salivary gland tumor, the earlier we can treat it.

5 Thyroidectomy Complications and How To Manage Them

If you’ve been told that you need a thyroidectomy, you likely have some concerns about the procedure. First, rest assured that thyroidectomies have a very low rate of complications.

But as with any procedure, complications do sometimes occur. Today we’re taking a look at the five most common thyroidectomy complications and how to deal with each of them.

What Is a Thyroidectomy?

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

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

When the thyroid doesn’t function properly, it can lead to problems that may make a thyroidectomy necessary. Some conditions that may require a thyroidectomy include:

  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
  • Thyroid cancer.
  • Suspicious nodules.
  • Goiter (noncancerous thyroid enlargement).

Possible Thyroidectomy Complications

Although a thyroidectomy is a fairly straightforward and routine procedure, a few complications can sometimes arise after surgery. We’ll address them here from most common to least common.

In this post, we look at the five most common thyroidectomy complications and how to deal with each of them.

1. Low Calcium Levels

A low calcium level, also known as hypocalcemia, is the most common thyroidectomy complication. Behind the thyroid are four small glands called the parathyroid glands. Sometimes after a thyroidectomy, your parathyroid glands experience a kind of “shock” and don’t function properly for a short time due to inflammation.

This parathyroid shock results in not enough parathyroid hormone being released into the body and causes transient hypocalcemia, a temporary reduction in the calcium levels in your blood. It is common after a complete (versus partial) thyroidectomy, particularly when the thyroid gland is extremely enlarged, as with Graves’ disease.

Because hypocalcemia is so common, we recommend that our patients take calcium tablets like Tums for a few weeks after their thyroidectomy to make sure their calcium levels stay within normal range. You can also supplement with vitamin D to ensure the calcium is well absorbed.

2. Injury to the Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve

Because the recurrent laryngeal nerve is so close to the thyroid gland, it can be easily damaged during a thyroidectomy. Damage to this nerve can cause vocal cord problems (paresis) and difficulty breathing and swallowing.

Talk to your doctor if you find that your voice is hoarse or you experience trouble with breathing or swallowing after your thyroidectomy. In most cases the injury resolves itself with time — usually several months — but some surgical treatments are available if necessary.

This complication is much less common with high-volume surgeons, which is why we recommend seeking out an experienced, high-volume surgeon for your thyroidectomy.

3. Abnormal Scarring

Most thyroidectomy incisions now are significantly smaller than they were in past years, so there is less opportunity for scarring. Your grandmother’s thyroid scar, for instance, may have been long and curvy across her whole upper chest, but a thyroidectomy scar today is usually short and straight across the lower neck.

Surgeons close thyroidectomies in the same way that plastic surgeons close face lift and breast augmentation incisions. They place the stitches underneath the skin, and only thin, adhesive bandages remain outside.

The best way to avoid abnormal scarring is to follow your surgeon’s postoperative instructions. But some people’s skin is simply more prone to abnormal scarring, such as hypertrophic or keloid scarring, than others. If you develop an abnormal scar, you can talk to your doctor about topical treatments, scar injections, or scar-reduction surgery.

4. Excessive Bleeding

Excessive bleeding after thyroidectomy surgery is extremely rare, and having an experienced, high-volume surgeon makes it even more rare. This complication will most likely appear while the patient is still in recovery at the surgery center.

Excessive bleeding after a thyroidectomy is a serious complication that can require a return to surgery. If you’re taking blood thinners like aspirin or warfarin before surgery, it’s important to ask your surgeon how long prior to surgery you need to stop taking these medications.

5. Infection

Unfortunately, infection is a risk any time a surgical incision is made on the body. The good news is that the neck has excellent blood flow, so infection following a thyroidectomy is unusual. Infection is a more rare complication even than bleeding.

When it does happen, though, post-surgical infection usually arises a few days after surgery. Signs of infection usually include redness and swelling around the incision. You should contact your doctor immediately if you think your surgical site might be infected.

Infection can be treated with antibiotics, but sometimes drainage may also be necessary.

A Tip for a Complication-Free Thyroidectomy Recovery

One of the most important recommendations we can give about thyroidectomy recovery is to follow your ENT surgeon’s postoperative instructions. Be sure to keep your follow-up appointments as well, so your healthcare team can help you be proactive in spotting any abnormalities.

The physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock are high-volume thyroid surgeons, performing multiple thyroidectomies every week. Call ENT Associates of Lubbock today to schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and will be by your side throughout your recovery.

Tonsillectomy vs. Adenoidectomy: The Differences Explained

Until fairly recently, most people believed that the tonsils and adenoids were useless, unnecessary tissue. But medical researchers now understand that these are important parts of the immune system.

Today tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies aren’t performed as cavalierly as they were in the past, but they can still be necessary at times.

So what exactly are the tonsils and adenoids? Why would they need to be removed? And what’s the difference between a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy?

What Are the Tonsils and the Adenoids?

Tonsils and adenoids are made up of the same type of lymph tissue. They work as part of the body’s immune system to identify and protect against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, though, the tonsils or adenoids can become infected or inflamed and cause problems.

People have three pairs of tonsils at birth. What we traditionally think of as “the tonsils” are really the palatine tonsils. Palatine tonsils are the two round masses on either side of the back of your throat, which you can easily see in the mirror.

The adenoids are also known as the nasopharyngeal tonsils and are smaller clusters of lymph tissue behind the nose and roof of the mouth. The adenoids are fairly large at birth, but tend to shrink between the ages of eight and 12.

The palatine tonsils and adenoids are the most likely to cause problems and require removal via tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy.

The lingual tonsils sit far back in the throat, at the base of the tongue. They hardly ever cause problems or need to be removed.

Tonsillectomy vs. Adenoidectomy

Now that we’ve covered some basic facts about the location and function of the tonsils and adenoids, let’s look at why and how they are removed.

What exactly are the tonsils and adenoids? Why would they need to be removed? And what's the difference between a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy?

Tonsillectomy

The two primary reasons for tonsil removal are obstruction and infection.

When tonsils become swollen and inflamed, they can block the airway, making breathing difficult. This airway blockage can lead to snoring and sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea in particular can have devastating health consequences that can sometimes be avoided through a simple tonsillectomy.

Additionally, swollen tonsils can sometimes cause abnormal dental development in children.

Recurrent infection in the tonsils, also known as chronic tonsillitis, is also a common reason to remove the tonsils. This is most often due to strep throat. Most ENT doctors agree that you should consider a tonsillectomy if you’ve had:

  • Seven infections in one year.
  • Five infections for two consecutive years.
  • Three infections per year for three years.

Patients with chronic tonsillitis may notice symptoms like tonsil stones, very bad breath, chronic sore throats, and drainage from the tonsils.

The tonsils may also be removed due to the presence of abscesses or tumors, but this is very rare.

Adenoidectomy

Adenoidectomies are usually only needed in children, since adenoids are generally small or nonexistent by adulthood.

Swollen adenoids can lead to chronic sinus infections and worsening allergies. Because the adenoids sit so close to the eustachian tube, they can swell and block off the tube’s opening. If your child is dealing with chronic eustachian tube dysfunction, your ENT surgeon may recommend removing the adenoids.

Depending on the specific case, the surgeon may also recommend a tonsillectomy along with the adenoidectomy.

Before, During, and After Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy

Tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy preparation, surgery, and recovery are very similar.

Before Surgery

Tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies are usually performed in an outpatient surgery center under general anesthesia. You will be asked to refrain from eating and drinking starting from midnight the previous night, and you will need someone to drive you to and from the surgery center.

When patients arrive at the surgery center, a nurse will go over the details of the surgery, and you should also have a chance to speak with your surgeon before the procedure begins. For adults, a nurse will insert an IV before taking them back to the operating room. Once in the operating room, a mask and the IV will be used to administer anesthesia.

For young children, an IV is usually placed after they have been anesthetized to avoid any upset before the surgery begins.

During Surgery

When the patient is asleep, the surgeon inserts a retractor to hold the mouth open and operates through the mouth. For an adenoidectomy in children, they remove the adenoids, and for a tonsillectomy, they remove the tonsils from the surrounding muscle.

In adult patients undergoing a tonsillectomy, the surgeon double-checks to make sure the adenoids are no longer there. Since adenoids usually shrink and disappear by the age of 12, it’s rare that adults need these removed as well. But if any tissue remains, the surgeon removes it.

The entire procedure takes about 20-45 minutes depending on the size of the tissue to be removed and the extent of any infection.

After Surgery

Patients will spend one to two hours in the recovery area after surgery. If they are recovering well and drinking fluids, they are sent home.

Depending on the age of the patient, recovery may take up to two weeks. During this time, hydration is the most important factor. Drink plenty of fluids and stick to a soft diet. Avoid using straws with thick liquids such as shakes, sharp or scratchy foods like chips, and participating in any strenuous activity.

Swallowing will be quite painful, similar to a strep throat infection. For children, plan to have an adult nearby during this time to help keep the child hydrated and restrict activity.

When Is a Tonsillectomy or Adenoidectomy Necessary?

If you or your child is experiencing breathing problems, sleep apnea, or chronic strep throat, talk with an ENT doctor to see if a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy could be the answer. If your child’s pediatrician or dentist has referred them to visit an ENT, we highly recommend following up on that referral.

The physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock are high-volume surgeons who are experienced in performing tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies. We can help you decide whether a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy is necessary.

The 5 Best Decongestants for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

If you experience eustachian tube dysfunction, you know the feeling of fullness and pressure that fills your ears. Naturally, you want to alleviate this feeling however possible. But what is the best way to accomplish this?

Let’s explore the best decongestants for eustachian tube dysfunction so you can you choose the one that’s right for you.

What Is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction?

The eustachian tube is a tiny channel that connects the middle ear with the nasopharynx at the back of the nose. When you swallow, yawn, or chew, the eustachian tube opens up to equalize the air pressure in your middle ear (behind the eardrum) with the air pressure around you. The eustachian tube also allows any excess fluid from the middle ear to drain into the back of your nose and down your throat.

When the eustachian tube becomes blocked by inflammation, mucus, or infection, fluid and air pressure begin to build up in the middle ear. This is eustachian tube dysfunction, and it leads to a whole group of unpleasant symptoms.

Causes of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Most frequently, eustachian tube dysfunction is caused by nasal swelling and excess mucus production caused by allergies, a sinus infection, or a respiratory virus. The eustachian tube is lined with the same type of mucosa that lines the entire mouth, nose, and throat, so when your nose is swollen and congested, your eustachian tube is too. This blocks off the entrance of the eustachian tube, leading to dysfunction.

Pressure and altitude changes from flying on an airplane, SCUBA diving, or driving on mountain roads at high elevation can cause temporary eustachian tube dysfunction, but it generally resolves once your feet are firmly on the ground again.

Smoking can also irritate the eustachian tube lining and lead to dysfunction.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction Symptoms

The symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction vary, but may include:

  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Feeling a “sloshing” of fluid in the middle ear.
  • Painful pressure in the ears.
  • Loss of balance.
  • Fluttering or popping feeling in the ears.
  • Muffled sense of hearing, as if you were underwater.

The Best Decongestants for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Since eustachian tube dysfunction is usually caused by inflammation in the nose, the best way to treat it is to relieve that swelling and allow the eustachian tube to open and close freely again. You can use a variety of treatments to decongest (reduce the swelling in) your nasal passages.

Below are some of the best products for decongesting your nose and finding relief from eustachian tube dysfunction.

1. Saline Nasal Spray

Irrigating your nose and sinuses with saline spray is a great first line of defense against eustachian tube dysfunction. Saline clears mucus out of the nose and has a mild decongestant action. Because saline contains salt, it works to shrink the swollen lining of the nose and eustachian tube.

Using saline spray is a good idea any time you feel congested or your ears feel stopped up. Saline irrigation is virtually free from side effects. And unlike many other medications, you won’t experience any “rebound congestion” when you stop using it.

You also won’t build up a tolerance to saline spray. Saline solution is all natural and available in any drug store or grocery store.

2. Topical Steroid Sprays

Topical steroid sprays are designed to help you avoid the whole-body side effects that can come with taking oral steroids. Topical steroid sprays work directly on the nasal lining without affecting the entire body.

Topical steroids are a great complement to saline nasal spray, and side effects are minimal, especially when used short term. (Steroid sprays are usually safe for use for periods of up to several months, but you should consult with your doctor.)

The most common brand-name steroid sprays are Flonase and Nasacort. However, the generic versions — fluticasone and triamcinolone — are just as effective and usually cheaper.

3. Topical Decongestant Sprays

Topical decongestant sprays are helpful for immediate relief when even breathing in through your nose becomes difficult. They can be used for about three days at a time, but beyond that, you may experience a severe rebound effect that results in even worse congestion.

Afrin (oxymetazoline) and 4-Way (phenylephrine nasal) are among the most common and effective topical decongestants.

4. Oral Decongestants

Oral decongestants are highly effective at eliminating nasal and sinus congestion, but they must be used with extreme caution. Oral decongestants are not recommended for use by those in the elderly population or those with high blood pressure or heart problems.

You should consult with your healthcare provider before combining medications, but it is generally safe to use oral decongestants in combination with any of the medications listed above. In general, we recommend trying the topical sprays before resorting to oral decongestants.

Sudafed is the most commonly available over-the-counter oral decongestant. Pseudoephedrine is the generic name for Sudafed and is just as effective.

5. Antihistamines

Antihistamines block receptor cells for histamine, the chemical in the body that leads to allergic reactions and swelling of the nasal mucosa. We recommend taking antihistamines only on a short-term or as-needed basis, because they tend to cause too much drying. Long-term use can lead to bloody noses and even higher susceptibility to sinus infections.

We prefer non-drowsy antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Xyzal so you can keep your eyes open during the day. You can look for their generic counterparts — loratadine, cetirizine, and levocetirizine — which are, once again, just as effective and cheaper.

What To Do if the Best Decongestants Don’t Help Your Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

The list above contains our best over-the-counter recommendations for decongesting your nose to alleviate eustachian tube dysfunction.

If they don’t provide relief, however, or if your eustachian tube dysfunction worsens, talk to your ENT doctor. They can discuss further options with you, such as a myringotomy, tympanostomy tube placement, or eustachian tube balloon dilation.

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery: Everything You Need To Know

If you’ve been suffering from chronic sinus congestion, it’s likely that you’ve tried a variety of decongestants, steroid sprays, neti pots, and allergy shots. Maybe your healthcare provider has even recommended endoscopic sinus surgery.

But you’re just not sure. Clearing out the sinuses through surgery? Isn’t that kind of… crude? Like “rootering” out a clogged pipe? And what if it doesn’t work?

Fortunately, the reality of endoscopic sinus surgery is much more delicate than pipe cleaning. Modern medical technology allows surgeons to clear the sinuses using tiny, sophisticated instruments. No “rootering” required!

What Causes Sinus Problems?

The sinuses are air-filled spaces in your skull. Each person has four sets of sinuses: in the forehead and cheekbones, behind the nose, and between the eyes.

Researchers are still exploring why the sinuses exist. But we do know that they lighten the skull, produce mucus that lubricates the inside of the nose, and allow your voice to resonate and carry farther.

Though the sinuses are usually filled with air, they can become blocked through inflammation, mucus, or nasal polyps, causing them to fill up with mucus and fluid. This moist environment creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Suddenly, what was once an air-filled cavity is now home to many unwelcome bacterial invaders.

Who Needs Endoscopic Sinus Surgery?

In many cases, treatments like antibiotics and steroid sprays work well to clear this sinus blockage. But even after these treatments, some people still have blocked sinuses.

Patients suffering from persistently blocked sinuses which have not responded to treatment may want to consider endoscopic sinus surgery.

Persistently blocked sinuses are more than just a nuisance. If left untreated, persistent sinus infections can potentially invade the orbital cavity, eye, or brain to cause further complications. Such cases are rare, but still a good reason not to let blocked sinuses go unchecked.

In most cases, patients simply become fed up with the inability to breathe through their nose. The facial pressure, congestion, and drainage make their lives miserable.

How To Prepare for Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

Your ENT doctor will usually perform a CT scan prior to recommending endoscopic sinus surgery. The CT scan allows them to locate the exact site of the chronic infection and inflammation.

To prepare for surgery, you’ll need clearance to stop taking any blood-thinning medications like aspirin or warfarin several days prior to surgery. Stopping these medications is vital to preventing excessive bleeding during and after the procedure.

You will also receive a prescription for a 10-day course of antibiotics and steroids before surgery. Taking these medications beforehand is important because they further decrease bleeding and help your surgeon to better see the inside of your sinuses during surgery.

What Happens During Endoscopic Sinus Surgery?

Most endoscopic sinus surgeries are performed in an outpatient surgery center. They are performed under general anesthesia, so you won’t be awake during the surgery.

The surgeon inserts an endoscope (a thin tube with a light and a tiny camera attached to the end) through your nostrils to see into your sinuses. The endoscopic camera displays an image of the sinuses onto a video monitor, while the surgeon uses computer-guided instruments to carefully remove any large blockages. Blockages may include bone, tissue, polyps, or tumors. Clearing these blockages allows for a wider opening for air to flow through the sinuses.

Although endoscopic sinus surgery can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, more involved surgeries (as in cases with extensive polyps) can last two to three hours.

A general principle that guides the extent of endoscopic sinus surgery is that the more open the sinuses, the better the patient will feel.

Experienced surgeons perform more complete surgeries so that the patient will be less likely to need a follow-up procedure in the future. So when considering endoscopic sinus surgery, it’s important to look for a high-volume surgeon who performs many procedures each year. They are unlikely to miss anything the first time around.

Recovery From Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

Your surgeon will insert packing into your nose at the end of your surgery. This packing is dissolvable, so you won’t need to worry about removing it. After surgery, you can begin using saline irrigation several times a day. Saline helps to dissolve the packing and flush out any lingering crustiness while your nasal cavity heals.

Fortunately, recovering from endoscopic sinus surgery is not usually painful. You can expect quite a bit of nasal congestion for about a week after the surgery, but it’s important to avoid blowing your nose at this time. Many patients find it helpful to sleep upright in a recliner for a few days due to the pressure and nasal obstruction from the packing.

As is the case with most surgeries, nonsmokers tend to recover faster and better than smokers, since smoking restricts blood flow to healing tissues.

Patients should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activities such as running for a week or two after surgery to prevent excessive bleeding.

After surgery, we provide our patients with nasal irrigations that contain a combination of saline solution and steroids. When patients experience a slower-than-normal healing time, it’s almost always because they aren’t using this irrigation as prescribed. In our experience, irrigating once or twice a day significantly decreases healing time.

Curious About Endoscopic Sinus Surgery?

If symptoms of chronic sinusitis are interfering with your life and your ability to breathe, give us a call. Our entire team at ENT Associates of Lubbock loves helping our patients breathe easier, and we understand people’s fears surrounding endoscopic sinus surgery.

The surgeons at ENT Associates of Lubbock, Dr. Scolaro and Dr. Cuthbertson, are experienced in treating patients who have chronic sinusitis. We look forward to hearing from you!

Salivary Gland Tumors: Everything You Need To Know

Salivary gland tumors are usually diagnosed in one of two ways. Either you notice a strange bump in front of your ear, or a doctor feels that bump during a routine medical appointment.

A bump is often the first and only symptom of a salivary gland tumor.

Salivary gland tumors are not common. Each year, for every 100,000 people only about five will develop a benign salivary gland tumor, and only one will develop a malignant tumor.

But what causes salivary gland tumors? And how do you treat a salivary gland tumor if you’re one of the unlucky few who gets one?

What Are Salivary Gland Tumors?

Salivary glands are responsible for producing the saliva that moistens our mouths, begins to break down our food, and keeps our oral tissues healthy.

We all have two types of salivary glands: major salivary glands and minor salivary glands. Minor salivary glands are tiny, numerous, and scattered throughout the mouth. A tumor in these minor glands is almost unheard of. We also have three pairs of major salivary glands:

  • Parotid glands in front of the ears.
  • Submandibular glands just below the border of the jaw.
  • Sublingual glands below the tongue.

Tumors can occur in these major glands. The vast majority — about 80% — of salivary gland tumors grow in the parotid gland.

Salivary gland tumors grow slowly and can range greatly in size. Very small tumors may go unnoticed since they don’t usually produce any symptoms. When they reach one centimeter, patients may be able to feel a bump when they touch the area. At two centimeters and above, the tumors become big enough for patients to notice visually.

The cause of salivary gland tumors remains somewhat of a medical mystery. One type of salivary gland tumor, the Warthin tumor, has been linked to smoking, but in general researchers haven’t found a link between salivary gland tumors and lifestyle choices, genetics, or other clear causes.

A doctor palpates for salivary gland tumors under the jaw of a bearded older gentleman.

Salivary Gland Tumors: Benign or Malignant?

If you want to know whether your salivary gland tumor is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous), you will have to see an ENT doctor. There’s no way to determine what kind of tumor you have by symptoms alone. However, some worrisome symptoms can include:

  • Rock hard bump.
  • Immobile bump.
  • Facial weakness.
  • Facial paralysis.
  • Pain in tumor.

Most salivary gland tumors, however, even the cancerous ones, are painless and asymptomatic at first. Even if you experience some of these symptoms, you won’t know for sure what kind of tumor you have until you see a doctor and get tested.

About 75% of salivary gland tumors in the parotid gland are benign. About half of submandibular tumors are benign. Sublingual gland tumors are very rare, but most are malignant.

To diagnose a salivary gland tumor and determine whether it is cancerous, your ENT doctor will order a CT scan and a fine needle aspiration biopsy.

The biopsy sample will go to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope. This will reveal whether your tumor is benign or malignant. It can also show exactly what type of benign or malignant tumor you’re dealing with, which will help your surgeon determine the best next steps.

Treatment for Salivary Gland Tumors

Treatment for salivary gland tumors generally involves the surgical removal of all or part of the affected salivary gland.

For example, a superficial parotidectomy removes the 85% of the parotid gland that sits on top of (superficial to) the facial nerve, but not the 15% that sits below the facial nerve. Surgery to remove the entire gland is called a total parotidectomy.

If a salivary gland tumor is malignant, patients may require radiation therapy as well. Malignant parotid tumors, specifically, tend to be less aggressive than typical cancerous tumors. This doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, only that they’re slower to grow and spread.

Discovering a salivary gland tumor is benign doesn’t mean it won’t need treatment. The most common type of noncancerous tumor, the pleomorphic adenoma, can actually become cancerous if it goes untreated for too long. In fact, benign parotid tumors can be more aggressive (faster growing) than other types of benign tumors in the body.

The good news is that most parotid tumors are diagnosed fairly early because of their obvious appearance. 

Outlook After Treatment for Salivary Gland Tumors

The outlook for patients diagnosed with salivary gland tumors is excellent in most cases.

It’s extremely rare for salivary gland tumors to be both aggressive and malignant, which is good news. It means people often have the time to notice a lump in their salivary gland and get it checked out before a cancerous tumor has the chance to spread.

The key is to catch salivary gland tumors in a timely manner and treat them appropriately right away. Fortunately, their high visibility makes early treatment more likely.

Do You Suspect You Have a Salivary Gland Tumor?

The surgeons at ENT Associates of Lubbock are experienced in the identification and treatment of salivary gland tumors. Although these tumors are rare, it’s important to catch them early so they can be addressed effectively.

If you’ve found a lump in one of your salivary glands, give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

6 Tips for a Quick and Comfortable Thyroidectomy Recovery

Very few people look forward to the possibility of surgery.

But beyond fears about the procedure itself, the thyroidectomy recovery process may cause some anxiety as well. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to ensure a thyroidectomy recovery that’s as comfortable as possible.

The first thing to know is that thyroidectomy surgery has a very low rate of complications and a quick recovery time.

Next, we’ll take a look at what exactly a thyroidectomy is and what you can do to help your recovery.

thyroidectomy recovery

What Is a Thyroidectomy?

A thyroidectomy is a surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck in front of the voice box. The hormones it produces play a huge role in the metabolic functions of the body.

A partial thyroidectomy removes only part of the thyroid, while a total thyroidectomy removes the entire thyroid gland. Doctors perform these procedures for a number of reasons:

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

6 Tips for a Better Thyroidectomy Recovery

Even though you’ll be under general anesthesia during the thyroidectomy itself, there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself heal and get back to daily life as quickly as possible.

Tip #1: Choose an Experienced, High-Volume Thyroid Surgeon

Vocal cord injury and calcium problems are among the most common complications during thyroidectomy recovery. In most cases, these complications can be avoided by choosing a surgeon who regularly performs successful thyroidectomies.

During your preoperative appointment, ask your surgeon how many thyroidectomies he or she performs each year. Ideally, your surgeon will perform at least 50 to 100 thyroidectomies per year.

Experience is important, but there’s not a set number of years of practice you’re looking for. Instead, find a surgeon who stays current on the latest surgical techniques and who practices evidence-based medicine. An attitude of always improving and striving to be the best combined with performing a high volume of thyroidectomies each year are important factors in helping to minimize complications.

Tip #2: Follow All Preoperative Instructions From Your Surgeon

Your ENT surgeon will give you a list of preoperative instructions to follow before your surgery. These instructions may seem simple, but they’re designed to help you avoid difficulties during your thyroidectomy procedure and recovery.

You will be instructed not to eat or drink after midnight the night before your thyroidectomy. This is to reduce the likelihood of aspirating (breathing in stomach contents) while under anesthesia.

In the week leading up to your thyroidectomy, it’s best to avoid alcohol and tobacco use. Focus on eating healthy foods and getting sufficient sleep (seven to nine hours per night) in the days leading up to your surgery. You’ll also want to shower with antibacterial soap the night before surgery.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you take any blood-thinning medications like aspirin or heparin. Your surgeon will likely want you to stop these medications prior to surgery to avoid excessive bleeding, and you’ll need to consult with your prescribing physician.

Tip #3: Don’t Spend Too Long Recovering in Bed

Rest is an important part of thyroidectomy recovery. But spending too long in bed after an outpatient procedure can actually lead to complications.

While you shouldn’t stop by the gym on your way home from the surgery center, it’s important to include some gentle movements in your daily routine in the days after your procedure. Walking is especially important for preventing blood clots after surgery.

Gentle neck stretches can help prevent neck pain. You can ask your doctor what activities will be safe for you during your recovery period. Most patients can look forward to resuming their normal activities about five days after surgery.

Tip #4: Minimize the Use of Pain Medications

You may experience some neck pain in the days after surgery, but most patients describe this as a mild discomfort. The thyroidectomy incision itself usually isn’t very painful. The discomfort is more often from the neck muscles, but can be alleviated through gentle neck stretches.

Although you may be prescribed pain medicine for your recovery, it’s best to take these medications as minimally as possible. Without narcotics in your system, you’ll be less constipated, less groggy, and more able to participate in normal activities. You’ll also be able to drive sooner after surgery!

Tip #5: Leave Your Surgical Wound Alone

You might be tempted to touch your surgical scar frequently. That’s a normal impulse when there’s a new change to your body. But the best thing you can do to minimize infection risk during your thyroidectomy recovery is to keep your hands off your incision.

After a thyroidectomy, you usually won’t have any visible, external stitches. Your incision will be closed with small Steri-Strips. There’s nothing you need to do to keep them clean, and there are no dressings to change.

If you absolutely must touch your incision, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after you touch it. But the best course of action is to keep your hands away.

Tip #6: Take Your Thyroid Medication as Prescribed

After a thyroidectomy, you’ll need to take a thyroid hormone supplement from now on since your thyroid can no longer produce your body’s thyroid hormone.

A thyroid supplement is a simple pill that you take each morning. Your surgeon will order a starting dose for you, but it may need to change. Your surgeon will adjust your dose based on the results of your blood work a few weeks after surgery.

If you only had a partial thyroidectomy, you might need thyroid hormone replacement, but you might not. Your doctor will monitor your blood work results to determine if you need a hormone supplement.

Taking your thyroid medication as prescribed is important in helping you feel your best. If you miss a dose, you’ll likely feel a little sluggish for a day or two. If you miss many doses, more serious complications can arise.

Looking for a High-Volume Thyroid Surgeon?

If you’ve been told that you need a thyroidectomy, you may have more questions about the thyroidectomy recovery period.

The physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock are high-volume thyroid surgeons with extensive experience. We perform multiple thyroidectomies every week and stay current on the latest developments in medicine and surgery.

A quick and comfortable thyroidectomy recovery begins with choosing the right surgeon. Call ENT Associates of Lubbock today to schedule a consultation. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and walk with you all the way through your recovery.

Nasal Polyps Removal: Your Treatment Options Explained Simply

Let’s face the facts: life with nasal polyps is miserable.

You’re constantly congested. You have frequent sinus headaches and constant facial pressure. You can’t breathe properly through your nose (and so your mouth is dry on top of everything else).

You may not even be able to smell your food anymore. It’s all the misery that comes along with a cold… but without the hope that your symptoms will resolve in a week or two.

Is there anything you can do about your nasal polyps? What is nasal polyps surgery, and what’s the outlook if you decide on nasal polyps removal?

What Are Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps are noncancerous, inflamed tissues that arise from the mucus membranes. These swollen masses filled with fluid can look almost like bloated grapes.

Nasal polyps physically block the flow of air through the nose. They can form in the nasal passageways or further back, in the sinuses.

What Causes Nasal Polyps?

Nasal polyps usually develop due to a combination of factors, including any condition that causes chronic swelling in the nasal passageways and sinuses. Asthma, chronic allergies, cystic fibrosis, and sensitivity to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) all increase your risk for developing nasal polyps.

Additionally, a chronic condition called Samter’s triad includes nasal polyps as one of its key symptoms, along with asthma and aspirin sensitivity. People with Samter’s triad often develop recurring nasal polyps.

Symptoms of Nasal Polyps

Very small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms at all, but larger polyps can make life miserable. The masses in your nose can cause difficulty with breathing and, therefore, sleeping.

Like any swelling in the nose and sinuses, nasal polyps can cause facial pressure and sinus headaches. Many people with nasal polyps even lose their sense of smell and taste.

A woman with tissue in hand closes her eyes and uses a nasal spray for relief from her nasal polyps.

Treatment Options for Nasal Polyps Removal

Nasal polyps removal is a lot like pulling weeds; you have to get them out at the root. If the polyps are lower down in the nose, you may have luck treating them at home.

Sometimes, though, the nasal polyps start in the sinuses. In these cases, an ENT surgeon will need to surgically remove the polyps at their origin point.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Nasal Polyps

When nasal polyps are mild, you can try treating them at home with an over-the-counter nasal antihistamine or topical steroid spray such as Flonase. Steam inhalation and saline sinus rinses (like a neti pot) may also help to decrease symptoms.

People who may have Samter’s triad should avoid aspirin or other NSAIDs so they don’t exacerbate their symptoms.

Sometimes simply better controlling your allergies or asthma can lead to a decrease in nasal polyps.

Surgery for Nasal Polyps Removal

When nasal polyps interfere too much with your daily life and your breathing, it may be time to consider endoscopic sinus surgery to remove them. Endoscopic sinus surgery is an outpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia.

Endoscopic sinus surgery doesn’t leave any external scarring because it’s performed through the nose. The surgeon inserts a scope with a tiny camera through your nostril and back into your sinus cavities. They then remove the polyps that are restricting your airflow.

Often your surgeon will prescribe a nasal spray for use after your surgery to prevent the nasal polyps from returning.

What’s the Outlook After Nasal Polyps Surgery?

The outlook for patients after nasal polyps removal is excellent! The goal of nasal polyps removal is to help you feel better, and in the vast majority of cases, that’s exactly what happens.

Many patients regain their sense of smell and taste (although it’s not guaranteed). Most patients’ breathing improves and they experience less congestion, less facial pressure, and better sleep after the surgery.

For some patients who fail to control their polyp regrowth with medications and surgery, new biologic medications, like Dupixent®, are showing great promise. Dupixent® is a twice-monthly injectable medication that can also benefit patients with asthma and severe dermatitis.

Suffering From Nasal Polyps?

If you’ve had to suffer with nasal polyps for a long time, these results might sound too good to be true. But the physicians at ENT Associates of Lubbock are experienced in treating and removing nasal polyps.

We invite you to contact our office to book a consultation to discuss your treatment options. Our team would love to help you breathe easier and get back to the life you enjoy.

A Surgeon’s Guide to Septoplasty: Before, During and After

Do you find yourself constantly shifting positions at night because you can only breathe through one nostril?

Does your partner complain about your snoring or loud breathing while you sleep? Or maybe your mouth is dry because you can’t breathe through your nose.

If this describes you, then you might have a deviated septum, or be considering septoplasty.

Let’s take a look at what a deviated septum is, how septoplasty surgery can help you, and what to expect if you decide to get septoplasty.

What Is a Deviated Septum?

The nasal septum is a wall of cartilage and bone that separates the nose into two distinct halves. Your nostrils can then effectively channel the air you breathe up through your nose.

The nasal septum should be fairly straight, but it can become crooked, deviating to one side or the other. This is called a deviated septum.

A deviated septum constricts at least one side of the nose, keeping air from flowing freely.

Causes of a Deviated Septum

Some people are born with a deviated septum. Sometimes this problem develops in the womb, but it can also result from an injury during the birth process.

Injuries to the nose can also cause a deviated septum. Common sources of such trauma include car accidents, sports injuries, and hits to the face during fights. Even if the nose doesn’t break, a deviated septum can still occur.

Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

When the nasal septum becomes crooked, it can restrict the airflow through one or both sides of the nose. This blockage is often constant because it isn’t caused by allergies or a cold, but a physical obstruction.

A nasal blockage, especially on both sides of the nose, forces you to breathe through your mouth. This mouth breathing can cause a dry mouth. Your nose may dry out as well, leading to frequent nosebleeds.

The obstruction to your breathing can also cause snoring as well as difficulty sleeping. If you also have sleep apnea, your snoring may be severe, and you may have trouble using your CPAP machine.

Other symptoms of a deviated septum can include headaches, facial pain and frequent sinus infections.

What Is Septoplasty?

Septoplasty is a corrective surgery to straighten the nasal septum without needing to remove much (if any) cartilage or bone. It can be performed under general or local anesthesia, depending on the degree of deviation.

The surgeon makes a small incision inside the nose. This incision allows the surgeon to straighten the nasal septum, which improves nasal airflow.

Before Your Septoplasty Surgery

Preparing for a septoplasty is similar to preparing for most other surgical procedures that involve general anesthesia.

We ask you to refrain from eating and drinking after midnight the night before your procedure. This helps reduce your chance of aspirating anything from your stomach during anesthesia.

Be sure to tell your surgeon if you take any blood thinners. You may be instructed to stop taking these before your septoplasty.

You should also shower with antibacterial soap before your procedure.

If you would like to trim your nose hair beforehand, feel free to do so. But there isn’t much you need to do to prepare for a septoplasty surgery. We wouldn’t even ask you to trim your hard-earned mustache!

The Day of Your Septoplasty Surgery

If your nasal septum is only mildly deviated, the ENT surgeon might be able to correct it in an office procedure with local anesthesia! But most of the time, especially for severe deviations, septoplasties are performed under general anesthesia at a surgery center.

Upon your arrival at the surgery center, a nurse will place an IV catheter in your arm. After you talk with your surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the nurse, you will be given general anesthesia.

The septoplasty itself is relatively simple and painless. The procedure usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes to perform. You can expect to wake up from surgery with plastic splints in your nose (which hold the septum straight while it heals), and perhaps dissolvable packing material.

The splints and packing will make it very difficult to breathe through your nose for several days, so patients should not expect immediate relief following surgery.

Septoplasty is usually an outpatient surgery, so you will be released to go home the same day.

septoplasty surgery

After Your Septoplasty Surgery

Following a septoplasty, you should expect moderate nasal congestion while your nose heals. It is very important to use saline spray to keep the nose moist. This will reduce crusting and encourage the packing material to dissolve more quickly. You should use saline spray at least several times per day, or more if you like.

Light bleeding is normal for a day or two following surgery. However, if bleeding increases or continues for several days, your surgeon may have you try some Afrin nasal spray. This should be done sparingly at the direction of your surgeon, as Afrin can actually increase rebound congestion once you stop using it.

We recommend that you take two or three days off work after your septoplasty. You should take it easy for those first few days, but we don’t recommend staying in bed. Instead, try to move around and participate in simple (gentle) activities. After these first days, you can return to work and your normal daily routine.

The plastic splints will be removed in the doctor’s office four or five days after your surgery. Once these are removed, it will be much easier to breathe through your nose, though you may still have some packing material that has yet to dissolve.

You should continue to use your saline spray, or you can even try a saline irrigation to clear out any remaining crusting or packing. This may take another week or two to resolve, so don’t worry if you’re still congested or having some difficulty breathing through your nose a couple of weeks after surgery.

You’ll be scheduled for a final postoperative appointment about four weeks after your surgery to make sure you’re healing well and seeing good results from your procedure.

After recovering from their septoplasty surgery, many people say they can breathe more easily, sleep better and snore less.

Septoplasty surgery doesn’t correct sleep apnea, which is a different medical issue. So if you used a CPAP device for sleep apnea before your septoplasty, you will still need to use it after your surgery.

The good news is, many people find that they tolerate their CPAP machine much better after their septoplasty surgery.

Could Septoplasty Help You?

The surgeons at ENT Associates of Lubbock are experienced in performing septoplasties, along with many other surgeries. If you’ve been suffering from difficulty breathing, one-sided congestion, and snoring, reach out to us for a consultation.

If septoplasty isn’t the right procedure for you, we’ll help you find the treatment that works for your specific situation. We look forward to meeting you!

Tympanostomy vs. Myringotomy: Differences Explained

Tympanostomy vs. myringotomy. If you’re not familiar with medical lingo, those words probably sound like gibberish!

But if you or your child suffer from frequent middle ear infections, you may have run across one or both of these terms in the past.

Is a myringotomy the same thing as a tympanostomy? And which procedure would be appropriate for your situation? You’ve come to the right place.

Why Would I Consider a Tympanostomy or Myringotomy?

The vast majority of these procedures are performed on young children, most of them under the age of two. The unfortunate truth is that the human eustachian tube (the small tunnel that connects the back of the throat to the middle ear) doesn’t always work very well, especially in little kids.

Normally, when you swallow food, drink, or saliva, air enters the middle ear from the back of the throat via the eustachian tube, ventilating the space. A healthy eustachian tube is open, and air and fluid are allowed to drain through it, so ear pressure remains normal.

But when you experience eustachian tube dysfunction, this passageway can become swollen or blocked due to infection or inflammation. Air and fluid build up in the ear, leading to pain, pressure, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Both a myringotomy and tympanostomy help to ventilate the middle ear when the eustachian tube falls down on the job.

tympanostomy vs myringotomy

Tympanostomy vs. Myringotomy: What Are the Differences?

What Is a Myringotomy?

A myringotomy is a simple office procedure. An ENT surgeon uses a sharp tool to lance the tympanic membrane (the eardrum), making a small hole.

This new opening allows the middle ear to ventilate and drain externally, through the outer ear, since the eustachian tube is blocked. The eardrum will heal itself within two weeks of the procedure, so it’s a short-term solution.

A myringotomy can be a good option for patients with a temporary eustachian tube blockage. This might be someone who developed fluid in their ears after experiencing a bad head cold or flying on a plane, for example.

The vast majority of patients experience immediate relief from a myringotomy.

What Is a Tympanostomy?

You can think of a tympanostomy as an “add on” procedure to the myringotomy. You can’t have a tympanostomy without first having a myringotomy!

When a eustachian tube problem is long-term or recurring, or if fluid persistently refuses to drain from the middle ear, a tympanostomy could be necessary.

After making the small incision in the eardrum during a myringotomy, the doctor inserts a tiny tube (about a millimeter in diameter) into the hole created by the scalpel. This prevents the ear drum from closing up and allows fluid to continue to drain from the middle ear for a longer period of time.

A tympanostomy is frequently performed on young children to prevent recurrent ear infections.

How To Make the Decision

In addition to all the symptoms mentioned above, a poorly ventilated middle ear can also cause retraction of the eardrum and even eventually damage the bones in the ear. The bottom line is this: an ear that isn’t properly ventilated isn’t a healthy ear.

Deciding between a tympanostomy and a myringotomy is a matter of determining whether you need short-term or long-term relief from pressure and fluid buildup.

For an adult dealing with an acute ear infection with a lot of pain and pressure who needs quick relief, a myringotomy should do the trick.

But for a child or adult dealing with chronic ear infections or fluid buildup, a tympanostomy will likely be the better solution.

You can discuss your specific situation with an ENT specialist to determine what the best course of action is for you.

Suffering From Repeated Eustachian Tube Blockages?

Our ENT physicians are experts in eustachian tube dysfunction and ear infections, and have extensive experience performing both tympanostomies and myringotomies on patients of all ages.

Our entire office team is here for you and your family. Reach out today to discuss your situation and which of these procedures might be right for you.

9 Doctor’s Tips To Prevent Your Ear Infection Coming Back

You know the feeling: your ear is completely stopped up. You feel like you’re underwater, and you quickly realize your lipreading skills are sorely lacking.

You’ve tried every trick in the book: swallowing, holding your nose and bearing down, clearing your throat… and nothing works. That’s not even mentioning the pain and pressure in your ear!

As bad as an ear infection is for you, it’s even worse when it’s your child. An inconsolable toddler, pulling at her ear, crying and feverish, is truly heart wrenching.

But when it’s all over, after you’ve been to the doctor, started the antibiotics, and your child is sleeping soundly again, one question remains:

How can you prevent another ear infection from happening in the first place?

What Is an Ear Infection?

First, let’s take a look at what ear infections actually are so we can better understand how to prevent them.

Ear Infection Symptoms

The medical name for the ear infections we’re talking about is otitis media, or a middle ear infection. Otitis media is an infection of the middle part of the ear, where air and fluid tend to build up. Symptoms include a sudden onset of ear pain, difficulty hearing, drainage from the ear, and fever.

In young children, symptoms include irritability, pulling at the ear, and a decrease in the quality of their sleep (and consequently in yours!).

Ear Infection Susceptibility

Bacteria and viruses cause middle ear infections. This happens frequently when a cold virus moves from the nose through the eustachian tube and into the middle ear.

Since young children have shorter and straighter eustachian tubes, they are more prone to middle ear infections than adults. As children grow, their eustachian tubes lengthen and develop a slope, so a backup of fluid and infection into the ear is less likely.

Young children between the ages of three months and three years are most susceptible to ear infections. Many children have multiple ear infections every year. In our office, we see the highest incidence of ear infections in the winter, during cold and flu season.

Any type of cold, flu, bacterial sinusitis, or respiratory infection makes a person more susceptible to developing an ear infection. The buildup of pressure caused by air travel can also lead to an ear infection, especially if you travel with a cold virus.

preventing ear infection

Nine Tips for Preventing Ear Infections

Here are a few tips from our ENT physicians for preventing ear infections for the whole family.

Please note that these are only suggestions. It’s always best to consult with a doctor who knows your specific case.

Tip #1: Use Commonsense Measures To Prevent Colds and the Flu

Most ear infections begin with a cold or the flu, so one of the best ways to prevent an ear infection is to avoid getting a virus in the first place!

Commonsense measures — like staying away from people when they’re sick — can go a long way toward helping you and your child stay healthy. Remember to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wearing a mask can help prevent the transmission of respiratory illnesses as well.

Tip #2: Breastfeed Your Baby

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months of a baby’s life, in part due to the immune protection breastfeeding provides to babies.

One study showed that exclusive breastfeeding for four months reduced the risk of ear infection by 50%, compared to those who didn’t breastfeed at all.

So while breastfeeding doesn’t mean children will avoid ear infections altogether, it could provide them with an immune advantage.

Tip #3: Avoid Bottle Feeding While Baby Is Lying Flat

Babies and toddlers who drink milk while lying down are more susceptible to ear infections. The milk can flow easily from the back of their throat into their middle ear through their short eustachian tubes. Sometimes we can even see milk when we look in the ears of infants in our office!

If you give a bottle to your baby, help them to recline but not lie entirely flat while they drink.

Tip #4: Remember That Daycare Increases Germ Exposure

Let’s face it: young kids aren’t known for their hygiene habits. So an environment full of children from other households will naturally increase the spread of cold germs.

It’s not often realistic or even desirable to remove a child from daycare. So keep in mind that repeat ear infections are more due to an underlying eustachian tube problem than to an excess of germs. Withdrawing a child from daycare won’t solve the eustachian tube issue, even if it reduces germ exposure.

(There’s even some evidence that more exposure to germs helps build up a child’s immune system.)

Tip #5: Avoid Cigarette Smoke Inside the Home

Secondhand smoke increases the likelihood of respiratory infections and ear infections in children. Making your home a smoke-free zone could really help prevent ear infections. If you’re having a hard time cutting the habit, try to avoid smoking inside the house and around your children.

Tip #6: Stay Up to Date on Routine Immunizations

Having your child vaccinated for viruses like Haemophilus influenza type b, pertussis, measles, and the flu can help prevent them from contracting these infections, which can in turn help prevent ear infections from developing.

Tip #7: Don’t Forget Your Genetics

We can’t choose our parents or our genes, but we know that genetic tendencies play a role in susceptibility to cold viruses and ear infections. If recurrent ear infections run in your family, you might consult an ENT doctor about the best methods of preventing ear infections in you and your children.

Tip #8: Consider Adenoid Removal

If your child is over the age of two and still fights frequent ear infections, you may want to talk to your ENT doctor about removing the adenoids. For some children, this can improve their eustachian tube blockage issues.

Tip #9: Consider Eustachian Tube Dilation

Adults over the age of 22 can consider eustachian tube balloon dilation to help prevent their eustachian tubes from becoming blocked and causing an ear infection.

When Should I Consider Seeing a Doctor for Recurrent Ear Infections?

Especially when it comes to children, the sooner you can get help for an ear infection, the better. This is especially true if it seems like the infection keeps coming back.

To watch for ear infections in young children, keep an eye out for irritability, crying when lying flat, waking in the night, and restlessness (especially in a child that usually sleeps soundly). Ear drainage may also indicate that your child needs medical attention.

ENT Associates of Lubbock treats ear infections for family members of any age. Give us a call to set up a consultation today.

3 Types of Sinus Surgery (and Which Is Right for You)

People undergo sinus surgery for a wide variety of reasons, such as to help prevent or treat infection, sleep apnea, or other serious health conditions. In our ENT practice, the number one reason for the sinus surgeries we perform is to improve the symptoms of chronic sinusitis.

What Is Chronic Sinusitis?

Chronic sinusitis occurs when the sinuses remain swollen for an extended period of time, usually several months. Your sinuses are air-filled spaces inside your head. Sinus tissue can become inflamed for a number of reasons, such as bacterial or viral infections, environmental allergies, and nasal polyps.

Symptoms of chronic sinusitis vary widely, but are similar to most upper respiratory illnesses: runny nose, congestion, facial pain and tenderness, headache and postnasal drainage.

Chronic sinusitis is, in a word, miserable. In fact, in one study participants with chronic sinusitis scored higher on a depression screener than participants without sinusitis.

With all this distress, it’s no wonder that many patients find themselves considering sinus surgery!

Three Types of Sinus Surgery

There are three main types of sinus surgery. Here are a few details about each of them, from the simpler procedures to the more involved.

1. Procedures To Improve Nasal Breathing

When patients come to our office with trouble breathing through their nose, they’re often dealing with a nasal airway obstruction. So the first category of sinus surgeries we’ll look at are procedures that improve your ability to breathe through your nose.

  • Septoplasty. The nasal septum is the flat wall of bone and cartilage that separates the nose into two halves. Most people have a fairly straight septum, but it sometimes deviates to one side or the other. This is called a deviated septum. A deviated septum can cause difficulty breathing through one side of the nose, leading to snoring and congestion.

    Septoplasty can be performed under local or general anesthesia. A small incision is made inside the nose to allow the surgeon to straighten the septum, improving nasal airflow without needing to remove much bone or cartilage.
  • Submucous resection of the inferior turbinates. Turbinates are small, bony ridges in the nose covered by soft tissue. They clean and moisturize air as it enters the nose and passes into the lungs. Sometimes, the inferior turbinates can enlarge and cause difficulty breathing through the nose.

    A submucous resection decreases the size of the enlarged inferior turbinates to allow air to flow more freely.

    Turbinate resection is often performed at the same time as septoplasty.
  • Adenoidectomy. Adenoids are small masses of lymph tissue at the back of the nose. Adenoids, also sometimes called pharyngeal tonsils, are an important part of the immune system in young children, helping to fight infection. Adenoids shrink as children grow older and their bodies develop other ways of fighting infection. Adenoid tissue usually disappears before the teen years.

    Even though adenoids play an important role in the immune system, they can also become swollen and restrict nasal airflow. Adenoidectomies are performed under general anesthesia, so the patient is asleep during the entire procedure. The adenoids are removed through the mouth.

    Tonsillectomies are frequently performed at the same time as adenoidectomies in young children. In adult tonsillectomies, the surgeon will remove any adenoid tissue that still remains.

2. Balloon Sinuplasty

Many chronic sinusitis patients suffer from chronic environmental allergies. But some also have small sinus openings, which means a small amount of swelling can have a bigger effect than usual.

If this is your specific issue, balloon sinuplasty may be the answer.

Balloon sinuplasty is performed under local anesthesia. An ENT doctor passes a small balloon through your nose and into the sinus openings.

The balloon is inflated for about 10 seconds and then removed. This brief inflation is enough to permanently widen the opening to the sinus cavity, allowing air to flow more freely.

3. Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

The last type of sinus surgery we’ll discuss is endoscopic sinus surgery. This is a much more invasive surgery for people with advanced infection, severe nasal polyps, or other tumors.

Endoscopic surgery is performed under general anesthesia. The surgeon inserts an endoscope (a thin tube with a light and camera attached to the end) through your nostrils to see into your sinuses.

The surgeon uses specialized instruments to safely remove any large blockages, including bone, tissue, tumors and polyps. This creates a much wider opening for air to flow into the sinuses.

Your Next Steps if You Suffer From Chronic Sinusitis

Occasional sinus blockage is a part of life for most people. Cold viruses will always be around to cause swelling and a stuffy nose. But if your nasal and sinus tissues have been inflamed for several months, it may be time to call in reinforcements.

Your first step is getting checked out by a trained ENT specialist. Dr. Philip Scolaro and Dr. David Cuthbertson are experienced in diagnosing and treating a variety of sinus issues. They are both skilled sinus surgeons as well, with experience performing all of the above procedures, and more.

Our team is here for you and your entire family. Call our office today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to meeting you!

ClariFix and Postnasal Drip: The Complete Guide

A runny nose and postnasal drip can make your life miserable. Carrying tissues with you everywhere you go, constantly blowing your nose, people looking at you like you have the plague: it’s not anyone’s idea of a good time!

But when these symptoms continue for months (or even years), they can affect every aspect of your life. Your nose is red and raw. Allergy medication isn’t delivering the promised results, but you keep hoping. In the meantime, these meds come with a long list of side effects.

You know it’s not a serious health problem, but the physical discomfort begins to affect your mood. You feel like you’re stuck with these symptoms forever.

What Is Postnasal Drip?

Mucus is a wet, slippery substance that’s constantly produced by membranes in various areas of the body. Mucus keeps the body moist and helps prevent viruses and bacteria from causing infections.

The nose produces mucus continually. Usually, because the back of the nose is connected to the throat, this mucus slides down the throat without you ever noticing.

Sometimes, though, you do notice. You feel like you always need to clear your throat or like mucus is constantly building up in your throat. This is postnasal drip.

The feeling of postnasal drip can stem from two causes:

  1. Excessive mucus production in the nose.
  2. Difficulty clearing a normal amount of mucus from the throat.

When a patient comes in complaining of postnasal drainage, the mystery we must solve is this: Is this patient’s problem originating in the nose or in the throat?

clarifix-postnasal-drip

Problem in the Nose: Excessive Mucus Production

Sometimes the nose produces excess mucus. This may be as a normal response to a cold or other infection, or to changes in the weather or allergens. Whatever the cause, people experiencing excessive mucus production often need to blow their noses frequently and may have an irritated throat from all the drainage.

When the excess mucus outlasts any infection and becomes a chronic problem, your throat may feel irritated all the time or you may have a chronic runny nose. This could be from overactive nerves in the back of the nose continuing to send signals to the body to produce more mucus than necessary.

Problem in the Throat: Difficulty Clearing the Throat

Not all bothersome postnasal drip is due to excessive mucus. Some patients have difficulty clearing their throat of even normal amounts of drainage. These patients often have a constant urge to clear their throat due to laryngopharyngeal reflux or side effects from a medication.

What Is ClariFix?

ClariFix is a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure performed in the office. ClariFix uses cryoablation (freezing) to target overactive parasympathetic nerves in the back of the nose. This freezing makes the nerves less active and helps reduce mucus production.

What Is ClariFix for Postnasal Drip?

ClariFix is a short procedure performed in the office by an ENT doctor. They use a local anesthetic, so you’re awake for the process. The procedure itself only takes a few minutes.

Your physician uses a thin tube with a small light and camera, called an endoscope, to guide the placement of the ClariFix device in the back of the nose. The ClariFix device then applies cryotherapy to the overactive nerves in the back of the nose.

You may feel a little pressure or a cold sensation during the procedure, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.

Recovery time after the procedure is minimal, often only one day. You may deal with increased congestion for a short time after the procedure due to normal post-procedure swelling. Most patients begin to experience long-term relief from their postnasal drip within two to six weeks after the ClariFix procedure.

ClariFix only works in patients with postnasal drip that comes from the nose. For example, since this procedure targets overactive nerves in the back of the nose, it wouldn’t be helpful for someone who has difficulty clearing their throat due to reflux. Consult with your ENT doctor to determine if you would benefit from ClariFix.

What Are the Benefits of ClariFix Over Other Alternatives?

When compared with antihistamines, nasal sprays, and other home remedies, the benefits of ClariFix last much longer. Antihistamines last only a short time and can have unpleasant side effects, such as sleepiness, dizziness, and dry eyes, nose, and mouth. Such excessive drying can even make you prone to infection!

ClariFix, however, is well-tolerated and long-lasting. It permanently stops your runny nose and drainage after a brief period of post-procedure healing.

Dealing With Chronic Postnasal Drip?

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we can help you find the root of your postnasal drip issues and determine if ClariFix would be the right treatment option for you.

If you’re tired of managing chronic postnasal drip on your own, give us a call to set up a consultation with one of our ENT specialists. We look forward to hearing from you!

Everything You Need To Know About Parotid Tumors

Only about six in 100,000 people will experience a parotid gland tumor. Far fewer will have a cancerous parotid tumor.

Parotid tumors aren’t a well-known health condition, but they can be easy to identify. Today we’d like to bring some awareness to this particular type of lesser-known condition and help you know when to see a doctor.

What Is a Parotid Tumor?

We each have three sets of salivary glands and ducts that keep our mouths moist and help begin the breakdown of the food we eat. These are the sublingual glands (under the tongue), the submandibular gland (under the floor of the mouth), and the parotid glands (in front of the ears).

The parotid salivary glands are located in front of each ear and behind the angle of the jaw. They extend into the upper neck.

These glands can have a wide variety of types of tumors, both benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Types of malignant tumors include adenocarcinomas, lymphomas, and squamous cell carcinomas, just to name a few.

Some good news though: about 70% to 80% of all parotid tumors are benign.

One of the more common benign tumors is the pleomorphic adenoma. Although it’s benign, if left to itself it can actually become cancerous after a number of years. When this happens, the cancer is referred to as a carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma.

The bottom line is that even benign parotid tumors can be fairly aggressive, so it’s important to seek treatment. This is one of the reasons that most parotid tumors need to be removed.

parotid tumors

What’s the First Sign of a Parotid Tumor?

Parotid tumors generally come with one hallmark sign: a lump in front of the ear or at the base of the jaw. Sometimes patients ignore this lump because it isn’t causing them any pain or discomfort.

But a lump in the parotid gland area generally indicates a parotid tumor, so you should get it checked out by an ENT doctor immediately.

What Causes Parotid Tumors?

Unlike a lot of other tumors, most parotid tumors don’t have clear causes, like smoking or alcohol consumption, to indicate who might be at higher risk.

Some skin cancers have been known to spread to the parotid glands. And one type of parotid tumor, a Warthin’s benign tumor, has been connected to smoking.

But for the time being, it seems that some people are just more prone to parotid tumors than others. Genetic research is underway to try to determine if heredity might play a role in the development of parotid tumors.

Treatment and Prognosis

The usual treatment for a parotid tumor is a surgery known as a parotidectomy.

The tricky part of performing a parotidectomy is that the facial nerve passes right through the parotid gland. The facial nerve is responsible for sensation and motor function in the entire face and tongue, so this procedure is not without risk.

The facial nerve has five main branches that supply the face and tongue. Fifteen percent of the parotid gland is below the facial nerve (farther away from your cheek), but the remaining 85% is on top of the facial nerve (closer to your cheek).

In order to remove a tumor from the parotid gland, the surgeon must dissect the facial nerve. Most tumors occur in the larger, upper part of the parotid gland. Some, however, can occur in the lower portion of the gland, making removal more difficult.

What Should I Do if I Think I Might Have a Parotid Tumor?

If there’s a lump in front of your ear or at the base of your jaw, there’s a good chance it could be a parotid tumor. Fortunately, most parotid tumors are benign. But like we mentioned above, some benign tumors can evolve into cancerous tumors, so you should see your doctor right away.

The ENT Associates of Lubbock medical team is experienced in diagnosing parotid tumors. We can help you get the treatment or referrals you need for the best prognosis possible. Reach out to our team today to schedule a consultation.

Cauliflower Ear: What It Is, How It Happens, and How To Drain It

Boxing and wrestling fans know the unusual look of a perichondrial hematoma, more commonly referred to as “wrestler’s ear” or “cauliflower ear.”

Cauliflower ear has become less common in organizations like the UFC in recent years because of participants wearing more protective equipment.

Fighters like Phil Vickery and Randy Couture wear their cauliflower ears as badges of honor. But for the rest of us, cauliflower ear is something we’d probably rather steer clear of.

Unfortunately, avoiding a career in full-contact sports like wrestling, boxing, and martial arts isn’t quite enough to ensure we avoid this condition.

What Causes Cauliflower Ear?

Most people associate cauliflower ear with trauma to the ear, and that is a very common cause.

But cauliflower ear can also occur any time the skin of the ear separates from the cartilage. Blood (a hematoma) or clear yellow fluid (a seroma) can accumulate in this space under the skin.

This separation can be spontaneous, or it can result from an infection from an ear piercing. While piercing the cartilage in the upper part of the ear is fairly common, it can unfortunately result in quite a bit of (sometimes irreversible) damage.

What Happens in the Body When Cauliflower Ear Occurs?

Cartilage gets its blood supply from the skin. But when the skin separates from the cartilage, that blood can’t reach its usual destination. Instead, it accumulates in the open space and clots underneath the skin.

This disruption in blood flow, if left untreated, will cause the cartilage to die. Scar tissue then builds up, thickening the area. The ear loses its “crisp” shape, resulting in the “cauliflower” look.

This process can happen quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks, so timely treatment is important.

cauliflower ear

Is the Look of Cauliflower Ear Reversible?

Unfortunately, the unique look of cauliflower ear is not readily reversible. Your best bet is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Always use a helmet or protective headgear when participating in full-contact sports. (You’ll also protect your brain in the process!) If you notice an injury, infection, or fluid accumulation around the cartilage of your ear, see a doctor right away.

A physician can extract the fluid from under the skin with a needle. But because the skin will continue to provide blood flow to the area, that fluid often reaccumulates even after it drains.

The doctor can also install a tiny, portable drain in the ear, along with pressure dressings, to keep the fluid from building up until the issue resolves. This may require the patient to change their dressings at home. (Your medical provider will show you how to do this if it’s needed.)

How Can an ENT Doctor Help?

If a patient comes to the office with this issue, we perform a thorough assessment and examination of the entire ear. From that point, we can prescribe antibiotics to deal with any infection, drain any fluid accumulation, or both. In more severe cases, we can install the drain mentioned above.

Our physicians will look several steps ahead. Even if your ear is the only complaint you come in with, we also make sure nothing more serious could be causing your condition.

This is particularly important if the damage to your ear seems random and isn’t associated with an injury. Even though it’s uncommon, some autoimmune conditions target cartilage and could cause a separation between the cartilage and skin.

When Should I See an ENT Doctor for Cauliflower Ear?

Because a traumatic insult to the ear can progress quickly and isn’t easily reversible, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as you notice symptoms. Even if you only suspect an injury caused damage, but aren’t sure, it’s better to seek care sooner rather than later.

An infection or fluid accumulation between the skin and cartilage may cause pain, or it may only feel thick and heavy. Either way, it needs to be drained promptly. Doing so will help you avoid the thickened, cauliflower-like appearance that can result from a delay in care.

ENT Associates of Lubbock Treats Cauliflower Ear

Even though contact sports-related cauliflower ear is on the decline, we see a fair amount of ear injuries in our practice. From an accidental injury from siblings wrestling to an autoimmune disease that impacts your cartilage, we’ve got you covered.

Our physicians are experts at treating the ear, nose, and throat complaints of your entire family. Call us today to schedule a consultation with our team. We look forward to serving you!

Ask a Surgeon: What ENT Symptoms Shouldn’t I Ignore?

We’ve all done it. You have an unusual symptom that you’ve never experienced before. You ask a spouse or a friend what they think. Ultimately, you pick up your phone and turn to the one friend who always has your back (especially at 2 a.m.): Dr. Google.

Sometimes, Dr. Google is helpful. But sometimes, he confirms your worst fears and even suggests other fears you’d never thought of.

New symptoms can be scary, especially in your ears, nose or throat. But while there’s a lot of great information online, many minor ENT illnesses can have the same symptoms as major ones, so it’s hard to know what’s going on through symptoms alone.

The surest way to discover the source of your problem is to see an ENT doctor. ENTs have the special training and resources to see beyond your symptoms and identify their root cause. And if the diagnosis turns out to be something minor, you then have the reassurance from a medical professional that your symptom really isn’t anything to worry about.

So how do you know when you should see an ENT doctor? Here are a few ENT symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore, and why it’s important to get them checked out.

ent symptoms

Ear Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Sudden Hearing Loss

Unlike the gradual hearing loss many experience as they age, sudden hearing loss could indicate a more serious problem. If you wake up one morning with a noticeable reduction in hearing, you should see an ENT doctor quickly.

The cause of sudden-onset hearing loss could be as simple as wax blocking your ear canal. Or it could be nerve-related, which — while more serious than a simple wax buildup — is treatable with prescription steroids.

Severe Dizziness

Vertigo, or severe dizziness, is another sign that something isn’t right. Vertigo can originate in the inner ear, but the causes vary.

If you’re experiencing severe vertigo, you should see an ENT doctor to rule out a more serious cause for your dizziness, such as a stroke. (And we know that time is of the essence with a stroke.)

Chronic Drainage from the Ear

Often, drainage from the ear is simply wax buildup making its way out of the body. Some drainage is also normal if you have an ear tube in place.

But if you’re having a significant amount of ear drainage that lasts more than a week, or if you have an ear infection that isn’t responding to drops or other medications prescribed by your primary care doctor, it’s time to contact an ENT doctor for a closer look.

While some drainage from the ear is normal, chronic drainage can indicate a serious infection or a surgical problem.

Severe Ear Pain

And of course, you should seek medical help any time you experience severe ear pain. Pain is a sign that something isn’t right!

A variety of minor ailments can cause ear pain, such as swimmer’s ear and eustachian tube dysfunction. But extreme pain could indicate a serious ear problem, a throat issue that’s referring pain to the ear, or a deeper neurological concern.

Nose Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Nasal Blockage, Congestion or Obstruction

The vast majority of nasal congestion cases are due to viral illnesses. It’s rare, but ongoing congestion could also be a sign of a more serious infection. And, rarely, a nasal blockage or obstruction could be a tumor. A nasal polyp is also a possibility here.

Frequent Nosebleeds

Unless you’ve experienced an injury, the occasional nosebleed is fairly harmless. But recurring or frequent nosebleeds warrant a trip to the doctor. The bleeding could be harmless, or it could result from an infection or tumor.

Swelling, Redness, Inflammation or Tenderness of the Nose

Your nose may become a little puffy when you’ve been blowing it a lot, like with a cold or allergies. But any swelling and redness that’s also accompanied by a lot of inflammation and tenderness could be a sign of a very serious infection that needs to be seen in the emergency room.

Chronic Runny Nose

A chronic runny nose doesn’t necessarily warrant you dropping everything to run to the doctor. Most of the time, this ENT symptom is due to environmental allergies. But while this isn’t usually an emergency, you don’t have to resign yourself to living with a chronic runny nose!

Environmental and seasonal allergies are common and can be treated with relative ease.

Throat Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Persistent Sore Throat

A sore throat is usually due to viral or bacterial illness. Strep throat is a very common cause of persistent sore throat. But if your throat pain persists despite taking the prescribed antibiotics, that’s a sign that you should seek further medical attention.

Though rare, persistent sore throat can be a symptom of throat cancer. Despite the common belief that throat cancer only affects smokers, we’re seeing it increasingly with younger and younger non-smoking patients, mostly due to human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.

Recurring Tonsillitis

We define recurrent tonsillitis as seven infections in one year, five infections per year for two years in a row, or three infections per year for the past three years.

Any recurrent throat infection can be a sign of a more severe infection that your prescription antibiotics aren’t addressing. You may even want to discuss a tonsillectomy with your doctor.

Sore Throat with Neck Redness

Any redness of the neck that goes along with a sore throat needs to be investigated by a physician right away, as it’s a sign that an infection may have spread to your neck. This requires immediate medical intervention to keep the infection from spreading further.

Mass in the Neck

Any type of mass in the neck also deserves immediate attention. This could be thyroid-related, or it could be a lymph node, which may indicate a serious problem such as cancer. It could also be a number of different types of tumors. “Better safe than sorry” is definitely the motto to live by if you discover a lump or mass in your neck.

Severe Snoring or Stopping Breathing During Sleep

Snoring isn’t always a sign that something is seriously wrong. But if it’s severe, or if you stop breathing in your sleep, you might be dealing with sleep apnea. And sleep apnea can affect your daily life more than you realize!

Even if your snoring isn’t a serious concern, it could be fairly easy to correct by addressing the root cause. Depending on the cause of your snoring, treatment might involve a tonsillectomy, CPAP machine or Inspire procedure.

Don’t Go It Alone!

Telemedicine has been a boon to the medical community, especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, most ear, nose, and throat concerns require a more hands-on approach for diagnosis and care. ENT doctors can’t clean out earwax over the phone or see into your nose on a video call! In person, though, they can use various lights and scopes to identify the source of your problem and get you the treatment you need.

We want to stress that most of the serious illnesses we’ve listed above are rare. But it’s important to seek medical advice beyond what Dr. Google can provide to rule these conditions out.

So while you can treat lots of minor injuries and illnesses with home remedies, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, give ENT Associates of Lubbock a call.

Salivary Stones: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

You’re going about your day, and everything seems great. You’re checking things off your to-do list, feeling accomplished, and about to conquer the next item on your agenda.

Then, out of nowhere, you notice a lump in your upper neck. You wonder if you’re fighting off a virus, if this is a swollen lymph node. You sit down to eat and notice the lump becoming a lot more painful.

A little later, some pus starts draining into your mouth, and the floor of your mouth aches.

What’s going on? Is this a virus? Some kind of rapidly growing neck tumor?

Actually, chances are good that you’re dealing with a salivary stone.

Salivary Stones? What Are Those?

To understand what a salivary stone is, let’s first take a quick look at the salivary system.

The Salivary System

Salivary glands produce saliva to help moisten the mouth and digest food. There are three sets of salivary glands that empty saliva into the mouth through thin tubes called salivary ducts.

It’s possible to develop a salivary stone in any of your salivary glands or ducts. But the submandibular gland is more susceptible to developing stones than the other salivary glands.

The two submandibular glands are located just under your jaw, in your upper neck. They’re toward the back of your mouth and about the size of a walnut.

The submandibular gland sends saliva to your mouth through a duct called Wharton’s duct, which has to run upward, fighting against gravity. This means the saliva doesn’t always flow effectively and can more easily develop salivary stones.

The saliva running through Wharton’s duct can also be a bit thicker than the saliva from your other glands, making it more prone to developing stones.

How Do Salivary Stones Form?

Salivary stones, also called sialoliths or salivary duct calculi, are mostly made up of inorganic matter. This matter commonly includes phosphate, calcium and magnesium. The stones vary widely in size and can measure anywhere from 2 mm to about 1.5 cm in diameter.

Salivary stones can remain in the salivary gland, or they can break off and completely block the duct. In some cases, the blockage can cause an infection and result in an abscess.

Initial symptoms of salivary stones usually begin with swelling in the upper neck. Pain may follow, as well as swelling in the mouth. Pus may drain into the mouth through the salivary duct, as well.

If the blocked duct becomes infected, these symptoms will escalate. Further symptoms could include fever, fatigue, and an incredible amount of pressure and pain from the swelling.

What Causes Salivary Stones?

Unfortunately, we don’t always know what causes a salivary stone to form. Some people seem to be more prone to them than others, possibly because of salivary ducts that are a little more narrow than most.

Dehydration or lack of nutrition could also play a role, since either can cause decreased production of saliva.

salivary stones

Salivary Stone Treatment

You can take several steps at home to help you find relief from the pain and swelling.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is extremely important if you have a salivary stone. On top of all the other benefits of water consumption, staying hydrated can increase your saliva production, which may help flush out the stone.

It may help to include a little lemon juice in your water to stimulate even more saliva.

Apply a Warm Compress

Applying a warm compress such as a wet washcloth or a heating pad to the affected area could also help ease a little of the discomfort.

Seek Medical Attention

Any type of swelling in the neck requires prompt medical attention. Though salivary stones are uncommon, they can become infected and lead to abscesses. Beyond the pain an abscess causes, it could also interfere with your airway.

If you have any swelling in your neck, call your primary care provider or ENT doctor, or head to an urgent care or emergency room after hours. A dentist might also be able to help in this situation, since dental abscesses can have some of the same symptoms.

Medical care for salivary stones can vary, and may include any of the following:

  • X-ray or CT scan. Imaging can help guide your provider in deciding on the best medical care for your situation. Your doctor will want to make sure that the salivary stone blocking your duct isn’t from a larger stone in your salivary gland. If there is an underlying health problem causing the salivary stone, that could be identified through x-ray as well.
  • Massage of the affected gland. Sometimes massaging can help to work the salivary stone loose from the opening of the duct. We don’t recommend trying this without expert direction from a doctor. (The gland is usually very tender, too, so this likely won’t be a pleasant experience!)
  • Antibiotics. You may receive an antibiotic prescription to treat or prevent infection in the salivary gland and duct.
  • Stone removal. Sometimes your healthcare provider can remove the stone through gentle massage. At other times, they’ll need to make a small incision in the salivary duct to extract the stone. Though it sounds painful, this will help to relieve the pain and pressure buildup by letting the pus and fluid drain out of the salivary duct.
  • Gland removal. Extreme cases in which salivary stones recur frequently may require the removal of the affected salivary gland.

Your Next Steps if You Think You Have a Salivary Stone

You can’t plan for an interruption like a salivary stone. But at least you can have a solid plan for what to do next.

If you experience any swelling in your neck, seek immediate medical attention. Otherwise, if you think you might have a salivary stone, give ENT Associates of Lubbock a call. We have experience with salivary stones and many other ENT health concerns. We can assess your salivary glands and order any further testing or treatment you need.

6 Sinus Infection Home Remedies Recommended by a Doctor

You probably don’t give too much thought to your ability to breathe through your nose — until you wake up with a sinus infection and that ability is gone!

Sinus infections, sometimes called acute sinusitis, can steal your joy pretty quickly.

A lot of viruses start with nasal symptoms. If you have a scratchy throat, congestion, and a runny nose, you’ve probably got a virus on your hands.

(You should probably go wash those, by the way.)

What’s Happening in My Body?

Most sinus infections come from colds that start in the nose. (Doctors and nurses actually call the viruses that cause these “rhinoviruses,” because rhino means nose!)

A lot of sinus infections are caused by coronaviruses. (The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is a more severe type of coronavirus, but studies have shown that an estimated 15% of common colds originated from less serious coronaviruses.)

These viruses replicate in the nose. Your immune system then kicks off an inflammatory response to help kill the virus. This can cause swelling in the sinuses, leading to your symptoms.

Unlike bacterial infections, viral infections don’t respond to antibiotics and usually just need to run their course. But you don’t have to take it lying down!

Home Remedies for Sinus Infections

While you wait for the virus to finish doing its thing, you can try some home remedies for sinus infections to make yourself more comfortable.

Saline Spray and Sinus Rinses

Using a saline solution, rinse your nose and sinuses with a neti pot or other irrigation system.

You can buy saline solution over the counter or make your own at home with distilled water and saline packets. Saline spray also comes in small bottles that you can spray directly into your nose.

Sinus rinses like these work by flushing mucus out of the nose and sinuses to keep things flowing freely.

Saline also has a natural decongesting effect, meaning it shrinks your swollen nasal tissues and makes it easier for you to breathe through your nose!

Over the Counter Medications

For help alleviating sinus pressure and pain, try ibuprofen and a decongestant. Some medications include a combination of pain reliever and decongestant. (Advil Cold and Sinus is one example.)

Mild antihistamines like Claritin and Allegra are helpful in moderation. Strong antihistamines like Benadryl are often way too drying. Be careful not to take antihistamines too often.

Even though you want your nose to stop running, too many antihistamines can make it more likely that you’ll get sinus infections in the future.

Drugs like Mucinex and Flonase can also be helpful in thinning the mucus in your nose and sinuses. (Don’t use Mucinex-D if you have high blood pressure, though!)

If you use Afrin, make sure you stop after three days. Though it can seem like a miracle drug, using it more than three days in a row can lead to something called rebound congestion. In other words, when you stop using the Afrin after continuous use, your nose becomes more congested than it was in the first place!

Vapor Rub

Vapor rub products like Vicks usually contain mentholatum, which can help clear out your sinuses. Breathing mentholatum works similarly to eating spicy foods. You can apply vapor rub to your chest or add it to a humidifier.

Take Your Vitamins

Supplementing your diet with vitamins, especially vitamin C and vitamin D, can give a boost to your immune system to help it kick infection to the curb.

Vitamin C can be taken in chewable, liquid, or pill form. Vitamin D is usually taken in capsule or oil form.

Closely follow all directions on the bottle from the manufacturer.

Steam It Out

Steam is a great natural way to reduce the symptoms and discomforts of a sinus infection. The moist heat can open up your sinuses and help you breathe better.

Try the steam method by taking a hot shower, or just turn the shower on and sit in the steamy bathroom for 15 or 20 minutes.

Adding a humidifier or vaporizer to your bedroom at night can also help you breathe easier while you sleep.

Stay Hydrated

Fluid intake is one of the best ways to keep the mucus flowing so it doesn’t clog up your sinuses.

Be sure to drink plenty of water. You can also try an electrolyte beverage such as Gatorade.

Do These Things Work for Kids?

Sinus infections make everyone miserable, children as well as adults!

Most of the tips above also work for kids, but antihistamines aren’t recommended for young children.

Young children can’t blow their noses well, so helping them thin and clear the mucus from their nose is beneficial.

A nasal aspirator or a product like the Nose Frida can be a lifesaver in helping young children breathe through their nose.

A warm bath can help clear the sinuses and take a child’s mind off their illness.

Kids are often fascinated by the condensation that forms on surfaces in a steamy room. To occupy them while a hot shower runs in the bathroom, try tracing pictures with them on the mirror!

When Should I See a Doctor?

These home remedies for sinus infections are great for acute infections in the upper respiratory system.

But if five days or so pass and you’re not seeing any improvement, or if things are getting worse, it’s probably time to see an ENT doctor.

If you feel a lot more pressure behind your cheekbones and eyes or your nasal drainage has changed to yellow or green-tinged, it’s likely your sinus cavity has gotten infected from the blockage.

If you have symptoms like a fever, body aches, chills, chest congestion, or a cough, something more serious could be going on. Especially in this era of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to get checked out just to be safe.

If you’ve tried these home remedies without luck, contact ENT Associates of Lubbock to see what your next steps should be.

Persistent Sore Throat Infection? Here’s What To Do

What started as a little tickle in the back of your throat can quickly become incredibly painful.

Sore throat pain can simply remain an annoyance, or it can worsen to the point of interfering with eating, drinking, and even swallowing.

What Causes a Sore Throat?

Sore throats have many different causes.

Some sore throats are signs of contagious diseases, like those caused by viral or bacterial infections. At other times, a sore throat is more of a nuisance than a health concern.

Viral and Bacterial Infection

By and large, the most common cause of throat pain is an acute throat infection. These sore throats are caused by a virus or bacteria.

Usually, you can identify this as the cause when you also have symptoms like a fever, a runny nose, and just not feeling like yourself.

Your doctor might perform a throat culture by rubbing a cotton swab across the tissue in your throat and sending this swab to a lab to see which bacteria or virus is causing your infection.

These acute infections don’t usually turn into recurrent throat infection. Most resolve in a few days with or without treatment.

Recurrent throat infection is usually caused by strep. Strep throat is an infection caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes. The bacteria gets stuck in the tonsils and causes swelling, pain, and fever.

persistent-sore-throat

Other Causes of Sore Throat

Seasonal or environmental allergies can cause a persistent sore throat, especially when pollen counts are high. Environmental allergies are a leading cause of sore throats in the spring and early summer.

Sore throats are common with any type of runny nose. The mucus dripping down the back of the throat can result in irritation and pain.

In patients who deal with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), their stomach acid causes a burning pain their throat.

When a Sore Throat Is More Serious

Though this is rare, a persistent sore throat can be the first sign of oropharyngeal cancer (throat cancer).

In the past, most people believed that throat cancer only affected lifelong smokers and heavy drinkers.

Throat cancer wasn’t considered something younger adults needed to worry about. Avoiding smoking and alcoholism were viewed as surefire ways to avoid throat cancer.

In the past several years, though, we’ve seen an uptick in younger adults diagnosed with throat cancers. Most of these cancers are due to the human papilloma virus (HPV), a common virus that is usually sexually transmitted.

If you have a persistent sore throat, it’s best to see an ENT doctor to rule out more serious causes, like oropharyngeal cancer.

What To Do if You Have a Throat Infection

Most sore throats only last a few days. If you have other symptoms of a viral infection (runny nose, watery eyes, cough), your illness will likely run its course in a few days.

Home remedies can help alleviate some of your misery in the meantime.

What If I’m Not Better in a Few Days?

Using a flashlight and a mirror, look in the back of your throat (or have a family member do this for you). Is there any yellow pus in your throat or on your tonsils? This is a hallmark sign of strep throat, especially when you also have a fever.

If you think you have strep throat, or if home remedies just aren’t cutting it after a couple days, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you what’s really going on.

Ask Your Doctor if You Need Antibiotics

It’s important to see a doctor soon when you have signs of strep throat. Even though this infection is easy to treat with antibiotics, untreated strep can be dangerous.

Left untreated, strep infections can spread to other parts of the body. This can lead to more serious issues, like rheumatic fever, heart problems, kidney failure, and severe joint pain.

Tonsillectomy for Recurrent Throat Infection

If you’ve had strep throat six or more times in one year, you and your doctor may need to consider removing your tonsils. This can also help if you’ve had strep more than three or four times a year for several years in a row.

If you receive antibiotics for strep several times and it keeps recurring, discuss a tonsillectomy with your ENT doctor.

A tonsillectomy is usually an outpatient procedure that lasts about 20-30 minutes. It’s performed under general anesthesia, so you’ll be asleep the whole time.

A tonsillectomy leaves no visible scare, since the tonsils are removed through the mouth. But there will be some scabbing in the throat while the area heals.

You’ll also need to be careful to stay hydrated after the procedure. You’ll want to stick to soft foods until your throat is feeling better. (Ice cream and mashed potatoes for the win!)

Most cases of strep throat involve the tonsils, so this surgery can drastically cut down on the number of sore throats you get each year.

What’s the Outlook for Someone with Recurrent Throat Infections?

Even though recurrent throat infections are miserable in the moment, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! The outlook is excellent.

The vast majority of cases of strep throat are successfully treated with antibiotics. More chronic cases are almost always successfully treated with tonsillectomy.

Dealing with a Persistent Sore Throat?

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we treat the whole family, from children on up through Grandma and Grandpa!

No matter what’s causing your recurrent sore throat, we can help you get to the bottom of it so you can get back to your life! Whether your recurrent throat infection is caused by strep, allergies, reflux, or something else, we’re here to help.

Give us a call to schedule a consult today!

How To Stop Snoring: A Doctor’s Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a chronic snorer, you’re probably used to ribbing from your spouse about how long they had to listen to your snores at night. You might have even earned an endearing nickname — like Tyranno-SNORE-us Rex.

In our ENT practice, it’s extremely common for patients to ask how to stop snoring because someone else is fed up. In fact, it’s much more common for snoring to bother household members rather than the snorer, who is usually blissfully unaware!

If it’s not interfering with your sleep, is snoring anything to worry about? Is snoring itself harmful?

Or has snoring become a relationship problem, more than a medical one, for you?

Is Snoring a Medical Problem?

Snoring isn’t necessarily a sign of a severe medical problem. In lots of cases, snoring really is more of a social problem than a medical one.

Making a bit of noise while sleeping is natural. This happens because the airway collapses a little when we lay down. As a general rule, men tend to snore more than women, though of course there are exceptions!

Sometimes, though, snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that means you stop breathing many times per hour every night and can be accompanied by loud snoring.

Sleep apnea can make you feel really groggy during the day. Some patients don’t even realize how serious their exhaustion is until they doze off behind the wheel!

What Causes That Ruckus?

So you know that you snore, and you want to learn how to stop snoring. But what causes that maddening sound in the first place?

Snoring is just the sound of the tissues in your upper airway vibrating against each other. This happens when airflow becomes limited.

When you’re awake, your body is usually upright. Your muscles keep your airway open without you having to think about it.

But when you sleep, your muscles relax and your airway collapses slightly inward. Your tongue can fall to the back of your throat as well.

Common Causes of Snoring

This airway collapse and tongue movement can happen to anyone, but some people are more susceptible to snoring than others.

Probably the most common cause of snoring is weight gain. As we age, it’s easy to put on a few pounds without noticing much. But being heavier means more weight pressing on your airways when you lie down, and that can mean a more noisy snooze.

Additionally, some people like to have a couple beers or glasses of wine before bed to help them relax. But studies show that drinking alcohol in the evening actually leads to poorer sleep quality. So you may find that your snoring is worse after you knock a few back.

Blocked nasal passages also tend to worsen snoring. Nasal blockage can be due to allergies, nasal polyps, or the common cold.

And like many other physical symptoms, genetics can play a role in snoring too. Some people are just born with anatomical differences in the ways their jaws are shaped that can lead to snoring. People with larger tongues are also more prone to become snorers.

stop snoring

How To Stop Snoring

If you’re a chronic snorer who wants to stop, it’s best to see your ENT doctor to make sure the snoring is harmless. Your doctor can help you rule out sleep apnea as the cause of your snoring.

Once you know you’re dealing with run-of-the-mill snoring, you can make some lifestyle changes to help you snooze silently.

Weight Loss

Losing weight can decrease snoring by taking pressure off your upper airway.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Specifically, cut back on evening drinking. If you’d like to enjoy an adult beverage, try to cut yourself off four or five hours before bed so you can sleep well.

Consider a Visit to Your Dentist

Your dentist may recommend a dental splint for your snoring. Dental splints are small devices that fit inside your mouth to pull your tongue away from the back of your throat.

Ask your dentist if this option could be right for you, but know that sometimes dental splints can cause teeth to shift and do not work for all types of snoring.

Change Your Sleep Position

Many patients (and patients’ spouses!) report that their snoring is more severe when they sleep on their backs. Most of us are pretty attached to our sleeping positions, but try sleeping on your side or stomach and see if that helps.

What if I Still Snore After Making All These Changes?

If you’ve tried the lifestyle changes in the last section and still struggle to get a good night’s sleep, talk with your ENT doctor about a sleep study. Sleep studies help doctors pinpoint the issue that’s causing your snoring.

If your care provider determines that sleep apnea is causing your snoring, they may prescribe a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to keep your airways open at night.

Some surgical procedures can also help you stop snoring, depending on the cause. In children and adults, large tonsils can cause snoring. A tonsillectomy is a simple procedure that can help stop childhood snoring.

Removing anything that blocks your airflow can lead to more rest. A septoplasty procedure straightens your septum — the bone and cartilage that divides your nose into a right and left side — if it’s crooked and causing breathing problems.

Removing nasal polyps can also restore good airflow.

Very rarely, a procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) can be a helpful option. This mouthful of a surgery is a little more invasive than the others and removes excess tissues in the throat, such as part of the soft palate in the roof of the mouth.

A newer procedure called Inspire might also be an option. Inspire is for snorers who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine.

Inspire is a very small device that’s placed in the upper chest (like a pacemaker). Every time you take a breath, a very small implanted wire stimulates the nerve that controls your tongue. This makes your tongue move just enough that air can easily pass through — silently.

Want To Stop Snoring?

Have you been wondering how to stop snoring? Give ENT Associates of Lubbock a call today today to find out what’s causing your snoring and what you can do about it.

Nasal Polyps: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

If you’re an allergy sufferer, you probably know the feeling of waking up with nasal blockage on a regular basis. You’re no stranger to complaints about your snoring, and you dread the spring and summer because of all the hay fever!

Even those of us lucky enough not to be afflicted with seasonal allergies have developed our own nasal dilemma in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is this runny nose just a cold? Is it an allergy to the high pollen count? Or is it triggered by all these lovely West Texas dust storms?

Is your decreased sense of smell just because of your stuffy nose, or is it a sign of COVID?

Nasal problems can be confusing because so many of them have similar symptoms. Nasal polyps are no different.

What Exactly Are Nasal Polyps, and Where Do They Come From?

Essentially, nasal polyps are just swollen tissue in the nose that blocks airflow. And they don’t always have one, specific cause.

About one third of the cases of nasal polyps we see in the office are in patients with allergies or asthma.

In other cases, the nasal tissue swells because the patient is sensitive to a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (an “NSAID”) like ibuprofen, taken for pain or fever. A syndrome called Samter’s triad includes three main symptoms: asthma, nasal polyps, and sensitivity to aspirin.

Less commonly, people who have autoimmune issues or difficulty regulating their immune systems can develop nasal polyps. Children with cystic fibrosis can as well. Churg-Strauss syndrome can also lead to the formation of nasal polyps, but this is an extremely rare disorder.

nasal polyps

What Kinds of Symptoms Do Nasal Polyps Cause?

Several common symptoms may indicate nasal polyps:

What Else Could This Be?

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can diagnose nasal polyps by using a small lighted camera to look in your nostrils. Because nasal polyps are easy to diagnose, the risk of misdiagnosis is pretty low.

If you think you might have nasal polyps, it’s important to get them checked out by an ENT doctor. Swelling in the nose can have a few other (possibly more serious) causes.

Rarely, nasal swelling can indicate a benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor in the nostril.

Even more uncommon, nasal encephaloceles occur when a portion of the brain tissue or brain lining descend down into the nostrils. Fortunately, nasal encephaloceles are extremely rare!

These rare but serious conditions show why it’s always good to see your doctor.

The good news is that nasal polyps are usually not dangerous at all. Generally, they’re just a result of too much inflammation in the nose.

What Are My Treatment Options for Nasal Polyps?

Nasal Spray Medications

Your ENT doctor may prescribe a topical steroid or a nasal antihistamine.

These medications come in a bottle, and you spray them up into your nose. They can control the inflammation caused by allergies and asthma and help the polyps decrease in size.

Allergy Injections

When polyps are a little more severe, receiving allergy shots is also an option for treatment. There are also new injectable biologic medications that have shown great promise in controlling extreme cases of nasal polyposis, often called polypoid sinus degeneration.

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

When your nasal polyps block up your sinuses and make it impossible to breathe through your nose, endoscopic sinus surgery is usually the way to go.

Endoscopic sinus surgery is generally a quick and routine outpatient procedure.

While you’re under general anesthesia, the surgeon inserts a small scope with a tiny camera into your nose and back into your sinus cavities (the open spaces behind your nose and cheekbones.) Your surgeon then uses very tiny surgical tools to remove the polyps and restore airflow. 

Because this surgery is performed through the nostrils, there are no surgical scars. You can expect to be resting at home in your bed just a few hours later!

Often your doctor will prescribe a nasal spray treatment after the surgery to control the regrowth of nasal polyps.

Can I Do Something To Keep from Getting Nasal Polyps?

The best way to prevent nasal polyps is to be proactive about your allergy care.

Especially if you deal with asthma and seasonal allergies, be sure to check in regularly with your ENT doctor. Don’t skip out on doses of allergy shots to save time. These treatments can help keep inflammation at bay and sometimes prevent polyps from forming in the first place.

If you suspect you may be sensitive to nonsteroidal drugs and aspirin, avoid these. (Be sure to chat with your doctor about other ways to treat pain and fever.)

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to prevent nasal polyps from forming or recurring. Some of us are simply more susceptible to polyps than others.

Do You Think You Might Have Nasal Polyps?

Have you noticed your nose becoming progressively more congested? Are you having a harder time identifying smells even though your COVID test was negative? Or do you have uncontrolled allergies or asthma?

Nasal polyps are fairly benign and harmless, but it’s always a good idea to rule out something more serious. Nasal polyps are also fairly easy to treat, so there’s nothing to lose!

If you blow your nose a few times and still feel like something is blocking your nasal passages, give us a call. An ENT Associates of Lubbock physician can examine your nose and see if nasal polyps are the culprit. We can also help you identify the nasal polyp treatment combination that’s right for you.

If you have uncontrolled allergies or asthma, we can help you treat those, too. Prompt treatment of allergies and asthma is key in preventing future polyps. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

When to Worry About Your Lingering Sinus Infection

Sinus infections have a way of making time stand still… in a bad way. When you’re constantly congested, battling headaches, and feeling sinus pressure, even a short duration of sickness can feel like it’s never going to end.

What if it doesn’t? If your lingering sinus infection becomes chronic, it may be time for more aggressive treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about sinus infections and when it’s time to take the next step in treatment.

Sinus Infections, Explained

Most infections in the nose are viral upper respiratory tract infections that resolve within 10 days.

However, if you have persistent colored nasal drainage coupled with extensive symptoms like facial pressure, headache, or fever for more than 10 days, it’s time to see your doctor. You may be experiencing a lingering sinus infection that requires medical treatment.

Lingering Sinus Infection or Chronic Runny Nose?

A lingering sinus infection is different from a chronic runny nose. Chronic runny nose typically comes from allergies or other irritants in the air. However, this can turn into an infection over time.

When the sinuses become infected, the allergies, irritants, or viral cold have caused swelling in the nose that’s blocked the drainage pathways. Consequently, fluid and mucous accumulate in the sinuses, where it has become infected with bacteria.

If you’ve been sick more than 10 days and begin to experience other symptoms like facial pressure, headache, and fever, you’re dealing with more than a chronic runny nose.

What the Treatment for Sinus Infections?

In order to eradicate the infection, you’ll need an antibiotic.

Some people continue to experience a lingering sinus infection even after antibiotics. Sinuses are considered a closed cavity. Removing infection from a closed cavity can require more prolonged antibiotic usage compared to infections that occur in an open cavity (like strep throat).

A sinus infection might require 2-4 weeks of antibiotics plus additional methods to encourage drainage of the sinuses. For a sinus infection to clear completely, we often recommend saline sprays, topical steroid sprays (like Flonase), and decongestants in addition to an antibiotic.

How Long Do Sinus Infections Last?

Many variables affect the duration of sinus infections. Most last more than 10 days, but when a sinus infection lasts more than twelve weeks, it is considered chronic sinusitis.

If after 10 days, your symptoms have not improved, see your primary care doctor. You may have an acute sinus infection.

If it lasts four weeks, you potentially have a sub-acute sinus infection that needs more aggressive treatment.

If symptoms last over 12 weeks, you’re likely dealing with a chronic infection. After such prolonged symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish sinus headaches from migraine headaches from severe allergies. After 12 weeks, diagnosing and treating the issue requires the medical expertise of an ENT.

lingering sinus infection

When To Visit an ENT

You may opt to visit an ENT if your sinus infection symptoms last more than one month. However, when a lingering sinus infection after antibiotics lasts more than 12 weeks, it’s definitely time to see a specialist.

If your doctor has treated you with antibiotics, saline, steroid sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants and you’re still not better, you’ve entered into a confusing area. You need a thorough exam of your sinus pathways with a fiberoptic scope and a CT scan to properly diagnose the problem.

Related: What Does An ENT Do At Your First Appointment?

If at any point you’re not sure what’s going on and your primary care doctor isn’t sure what’s causing the symptoms, see an ENT for a more specialized exam.

How to Treat A Sinus Infection At Home

In the first two weeks of a sinus infection, patients may use saline sprays, over-the-counter steroid sprays like Flonase, and over-the-counter decongestants.

After 10 days, if the drainage is still colored, an antibiotic is likely necessary. There’s no homeopathic alternative to antibiotics. However, saline spray, topical steroid sprays, and decongestants work well with antibiotics to clear most infections.

Will Sinus Infections Resolve If Left Untreated?

Lingering sinus infections should be treated before they escalate into a more serious issue. If a sinus infection is untreated, it may begin to impact the surrounding areas: the eyes and brain.

Untreated sinus infections can result in orbital and intracranial complications. Orbital refers to an infection that moves from the sinus into the eye. It can even result in an abscess in the eye area, which threatens vision.

Intracranial infections refer to infection in the brain. These can ultimately progress to become a brain abscess or meningitis if left untreated.

Because the sinuses are located close to the eye and brain, the most serious complications of an untreated sinus infection affect these important structures.

How An ENT Treats a Sinus Infection

If you have a lingering sinus infection after antibiotics, an ENT doctor often elects to be more aggressive in treatment than a primary care physician. They may prescribe longer courses of antibiotics, stronger medications, or recommend a procedure to open the sinuses.

If you have persistent sinus problems, the sinuses must first be unblocked. Sometimes, that’s done through a simple balloon sinuplasty and irrigation. Other times, unblocking the sinuses requires a more aggressive procedure like endoscopic sinus surgery. We opt for this procedure when the sinuses become so blocked, tissue and bone need to be removed to create a wider opening.

If you’re dealing with a lingering sinus infection, don’t let it progress to a more serious issue. Call your ENT so they can discover what’s at the root of your problem and find a treatment to bring you relief.

Tonsillectomy Scabs: A Surgeon’s Post-Op Guide

Prepping for your tonsillectomy is easy, but thinking about recovery is a little more complicated. Among the primary concerns of patients following this procedure are the tonsillectomy scabs that will form as their throat heals.

To help you navigate your post-op tonsillectomy journey, we’ve answered the top 10 questions we hear about tonsillectomy scabs:

What are tonsillectomy scabs anyway? Are they inevitable?

After a tonsillectomy, a scab is a necessary part of the healing process. The scab forms a layer of inflammatory cells as part of our immune response to a wound.

Tonsillectomy scabs form for the same reason scabs form on the outer layers of the body — to heal the wound. It’s similar to what would happen if you had an abrasion on your knee. A scab would form and eventually come off. When the scab comes off, it might bleed. Similarly, when a scab forms in your throat and then comes off, it may cause some bleeding.

Usually, minor bleeding from tonsillectomy scabs is not a major problem. It’s just the way your body heals the wound.

What do tonsillectomy scabs look like?

Scabs turn a shade of white after a tonsillectomy. Because it’s in the throat, it stays softer than a scab would when it’s exposed to air. Typically, the whitish scab is made of a coagulum of many different kinds of cells.

Related: Adult Tonsillectomy: What To Expect & How to Prepare

How long do tonsillectomy scabs last?

Most scabs only last 5-10 days. Then, they naturally flake off.

Tonsillectomy scabs may last longer on larger wounds created when large tonsils are removed. Also, people who have poor nutrition may heal slower than people who maintain a healthy diet.

tonsillectomy scabs

Can tonsils grow back?

While this may sound like a silly question, it’s actually legit.

Most ENT doctors completely remove the tonsils, including a surrounding capsule. However, there’s a different tonsil tissue on the base of your tongue called lingual tonsils. As the throat heals, the lingual tonsil can move into the lower area where the tonsil tissue was — and that’s what most people call a regrowth.

There is a less-popular technique of tonsil removal called sub-capsular dissection that purposefully leaves tonsil tissue behind. This method can lead to another form of tonsil regrowth.

While some regrowth is possible, tonsils will not completely return after a tonsillectomy.

Are tonsillectomy scabs painful?

Tonsillectomy scabs are not necessarily painful in their own right, but the healing process can be. The wound in the throat is uncomfortable as the body responds with inflammation and seeks to repair and re-cover nerve endings exposed in the procedure. This discomfort typically peaks around day seven after a tonsillectomy.

Will I see blood?

Most of the time, blood indicates the coagulum (or scab) has come off. When this happens, patients typically experience light bleeding. We recommend gargling ice water to constrict blood vessels and stop bleeding.

When should a patient call a doctor or visit the ER?

Post tonsillectomy bleeding can sometimes be severe. In these cases, it may be a small artery that’s bleeding (not the scabs). We consider bleeding severe when patients see enough bright red blood to fill a portion of a cup. If you experience a severe episode of bleeding, call your doctor immediately.

If bleeding happens once, it still may be a symptom of a scab separating from the throat. However, if severe bleeding happens twice, it’s likely an artery that’s bleeding.

If there are concerns about excessive bleeding, particularly if it happens twice, head to the emergency room. It’s always a good idea to call your ENT on the way to alert them to the issue.

What helps tonsillectomy scabs heal faster?

Good hydration and healthy nutrition help your body heal optimally. However, a healthy diet can be difficult while on a post-op liquid diet. As much as possible, opt for nutritional foods and beverages that are still gentle on the throat.

Typically, adults need 6-8 glasses of water a day. A child needs 3-4 glasses. If urine is dark or infrequent, you need more water. Beverages with electrolytes can be helpful with hydration as well.

While on a liquid diet, don’t forget to consider the nutritional value of what you drink. Smoothies and broth-based soups can help provide your body with the nutrition it needs to support healthy healing.

Also, avoid smoking, which delays healing.

Is bad breath normal after a tonsillectomy?

Bad breath is a normal post-op symptom. As the body responds to the wound in the throat, it typically produces bad breath.

Do patients need antibiotics after a tonsillectomy?

Post-operative antibiotics have been a debated issue among ENTs. In the past, some studies showed these to be beneficial in decreasing fever and bad breath while increasing wound healing rates.

More current research shows antibiotics are not completely necessary after surgery. Consequently, most doctors have an individual recommendation based on their experience with patients and what typically produces the best results.

Related: The Top 3 Reasons You May Need to Remove Your Tonsils

After your tonsillectomy, scabs are an inevitable part of the healing process. However, with the right care, hydration, nutrition, and awareness, your body will heal and you’ll be fully recovered within two weeks.

Have any other questions? Give us a call and we’ll help you navigate your tonsillectomy.

Chronic Runny Nose: At What Point Should You Worry?

You shouldn’t have to deal with a constantly runny nose.

Sure, it’s a minor inconvenience compared to other health issues. But when the snot won’t stop, a chronic runny nose can be extremely frustrating. You constantly have to sniff in, clear your throat, blow your nose, and keep a tissue on hand to manage the drainage.

Some people also deal with a sore throat, itchy eyes, and an itchy nose.

When kids experience a constantly runny nose, they start practicing the “allergic salute.” We’ve all seen it – it’s when they compulsively catch their nasal drainage with the back of their hand. Some kids wipe their noses so often, they actually create a crease in the nose.

Fortunately, we have ways to help eliminate the drainage — for kids and adults. If you’re dealing with a chronic runny nose, we’ll identify the source of the problem and find a treatment that puts a stop to it.

Causes of a Chronic Runny Nose

A runny nose can be a symptom of infections or allergies. When you discuss your symptoms with an ENT, they may use words like rhinorrhea or rhinitis to describe what you’re experiencing. Let’s start breaking down the words:

Rhino: Nose

Rhea: Drainage

Itis: Infection

Rhinorrhea, or nasal drainage, describes all mucous drainage from the nose — allergies or infection.

Clear drainage typically is triggered by allergies. When environmental elements like dust, cigarette smoke, perfume, or pollen irritate your nasal cells, your immune system responds with drainage. Essentially, as your body tries to attack the irritants, it produces mucous and results in a runny nose.

Colored drainage usually indicates infection and could also be called rhinitis. Infections occur when your nasal cavity becomes infected with bacteria or a virus. As your body tries to fight the infection, it produces colored mucous.

While most drainage indicates infection or allergies, ENTs are also alert to rare cases of CSF rhinorrhea. Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea occurs when people spontaneously develop drainage of brain fluid through the nose. Although extremely rare, your ENT will check for this as well and follow a specific course of treatment if they suspect it.

Treatments for a Runny Nose

Depending on the cause of the drainage, we then progress with a specific treatment. The main treatment for either allergies or infection is medicine.

For allergies, the occasional dose of a mild antihistamine (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra) helps block the body’s allergic response. But we don’t recommend taking these medications daily, as these medicines can overly dry out the sinuses. If you dry your secretions too much, you’ll actually promote sinus infection. We want our patients to gain relief from the drainage without interfering with the body’s ability to flush out the irritants when necessary.

If an occasional antihistamine isn’t enough, we add a topical steroid spray to the medication regimen. Until recently, these were only available by prescription, but very effective medicines like Flonase and Nasacort are now available over-the-counter. When patients use these medications during allergy season, they effectively block the allergic reaction. These topical steroid sprays deliver great results without putting the stress of steroids on the rest of your body.

Both antihistamines and topical steroid sprays can be used for adults and children (under the direction of a doctor).

For infections, an ENT will work to identify what caused the infection. If the infection was induced by allergies, they’ll not only treat the infection but work to help you manage allergies to prevent a recurrence. Additionally, some of the same medications that help manage allergies may also help reduce the symptoms of infection until it clears.

chronic runny nose

How to Relieve A Chronic Runny Nose… Starting Now

You don’t have to wait for a doctor’s visit to deal with your runny nose. You can begin managing your symptoms at home immediately.

Start by avoiding your triggers. If you’ve been to an allergist and identified what’s causing an allergic reaction in the past, you know what you need to avoid. It could be a pet or a type of pollen. Avoiding it is the first step.

If you’re unable to avoid your triggers (or unable to avoid all of them!), mild antihistamines and topical steroid sprays are your next step. These are readily available over-the-counter.

You can also begin to identify what’s happening with your child. If your child is always rubbing their nose, they likely have allergies (not an infection). Rather than turn to an antibiotic, try a more appropriate allergy medication to address their issue. Consider using children’s forms of the medications listed above — even the topical steroid sprays.

But don’t overdo it. Remember, a runny nose isn’t bad.

In fact, some drainage is good. For the nose to stay healthy, it needs moisture. A daily dose of an antihistamine can dry out the nasal cavity too much. If these medications seem too strong, try saline as a way to moisturize (and decongest) the sinuses without drying them out.

When to call the ENT

It’s smart to call an ENT if you think you may have a problem — then you’ll learn how to most appropriately treat it.

Is it allergies?

Do you have an anatomic issue like a deviated septum, polyps, or swollen turbinates?

Are you dealing with a chronic sinus infection?

We’ll help you figure out what’s causing the issue so we know the best treatment. If medications don’t fully address your problem, we also have procedural treatments to help alleviate chronic runny nose like Clarifix and RhinAer. Clarifix, a minimally invasive treatment for chronic drainage, targets the source of the symptoms using liquid nitrogen to deactivate some of the nerves that carry the impulses for the nose to swell, drain, congest, and run. Similarly, RhinAer, uses radiofrequency technology to target the same nerves and help reduce your runny nose.

If you’re dealing with an anatomic issue, we have other procedures to open the nose and help you breathe better. Depending on the issue, we can straighten the septum or shrink turbinates to open the passageways. If you have obstructions like these in the nose, you can’t tolerate even mild allergies.

There’s no need to keep carrying tissues or compulsively have to blow, sniff, or cough to manage your drainage. If you’re dealing with a chronic runny nose, an ENT can find a solution to provide you relief.

How to Tell if Your Tooth Extraction is Causing Your Sinus Problem

Recovering from a tooth extraction is quite a process. You have to carefully navigate what to eat, how to drink, and how much activity you should do as you allow your body to heal. But you also may need to pay attention to how your sinuses are reacting, especially if you had upper molars removed.

A sinus infection after tooth extraction occurs most commonly when the maxillary molars are removed. These upper teeth in the back project into the sinus cavity. When you need any of these teeth extracted, or if you have an infection or cavity in a maxillary molar, you may notice your sinuses react.

Infections can spread from the mouth to the sinuses for several reasons. For some, a cavity may extend into the center of the tooth — which holds the tissue that connects it to the root. This decay then spreads into the sinuses and causes an infection. Other people may develop an abscess at the base of the tooth. When it’s in the right location, the bacterial infection can spread to the sinuses.

A sinus infection after tooth extraction can also occur because a connection between the mouth and sinus cavity was opened.

If you’re dealing with a sinus issue after dealing with a dental issue, the two problems may be connected. Here’s how to tell:

Symptoms of a Sinus + Tooth Problem

It’s fairly common to have a tooth cause a serious sinus infection, but the symptoms aren’t always what people expect. Many people come in because they feel tooth pain along with their sinus symptoms. But tooth pain doesn’t necessarily indicate the sinus infection is from a tooth.

The most common complaints of those with a sinus infection after tooth extraction are:

  • Congestion on only one side of their nose
  • Yellow drainage
  • Pressure in the cheek
  • Odor in their nose

Dental infections are created by something called anaerobic bacteria — they don’t need oxygen, but they have a pungent odor. Patients typically report a strong smell that never seems to leave.

Also, these infections are often one-sided and isolated to an area above the teeth that caused the dental issue. If an X-ray shows that only the sinuses above these specific teeth are involved, the source is often a dental infection.

Interestingly, tooth pain isn’t typically a symptom. When the tooth is infected to this extent, the root dies and you don’t feel pain.

Instead, those with a link between their tooth and sinus issues might have a dental history of a crown on the tooth, cracked tooth, or deep filling. When we do the CT scan, we’ll see an abscess at the base of the tooth. If the tooth is extracted, the CT scan will show a connection between the sinuses and the mouth.

sinus infection after tooth extraction

How to Treat a Sinus + Tooth Infection

We typically begin treatment with antibiotics. However, once there’s an infection from the tooth in the sinuses, it’s difficult to eradicate with antibiotics alone.

If antibiotics are ineffective, a person may need to have surgery to open and drain the sinuses.

Additionally, they may need a root canal on the tooth to remove the abscess or a surgical repair to close the connection between the mouth and nose.

How to Distinguish a Tooth Problem from a Sinus Problem

It’s really difficult to identify if dental and sinus problems are related on your own. Sinus infections and allergies can cause tooth pain. Dental problems can trigger sinus problems. Some people have dental pain due to a bad tooth. After the tooth is pulled, they still feel pain because there’s an underlying sinus infection.

To distinguish between the two often takes a good ENT doctor. We’ll ask questions to understand your sinus and dental history, examine your sinuses with a scope, and use a CT scan (typically in-office) to get a better picture of what’s happening.

Related: What Does An ENT Do At Your First Appointment?

In fact, that’s where our expertise is — distinguishing between anatomic, allergy, sinus, and dental problems. These issues have many of the same symptoms. In order to find the real issue, we look at a patient’s history, conduct an exam, and interpret the CT scan to put together the reasons for the problems.

People who don’t get better, and still have the same symptoms recur, need an accurate diagnosis. Only then, can we really treat the symptoms in a way that will actually work.

How to Avoid a Sinus Infection After Tooth Extraction

After your extraction, the dentist will typically alert you if they see the potential for a problem to occur that would result in a hole between your mouth and sinuses. As a precaution, avoid forcibly blowing your nose so you don’t open a connection after your tooth extraction. If you blow your nose and feel air escape in the mouth, you know there’s a connection. If a hole opens up, it may have to be surgically closed.

Sinus problems can cause dental pain… and dental problems can cause sinus pain. There are a lot of nerves in the same area, and they present with many of the same symptoms. Whether you suspect a dental or sinus issue is at the root of your discomfort, an ENT will be able to help you move forward on your road to recovery.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK

subscribe to our channel

CONTACT US