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What Is an ENT Doctor and When Should You See One?

The human body is made up of a vast network of interconnected systems, a complex machine capable of healing itself, growing new tissue, and fighting off disease. It’s so complicated and mysterious that despite studying it for generations, we still don’t know all there is to know about it.

This is why physicians cover different fields in medicine; there’s just so much to know. Some physicians are general practitioners, establishing long-term relationships with patients and monitoring their overall health for warning signs of deterioration or disease. Other physicians specialize in one body system or area, diving deep on the subject and giving it their full attention.

An ENT is one of these specialty doctors. But what is an ENT, what do they do, and when should you see one? We’ll break it down in this post.

What Is an ENT?

ENT stands for “ear, nose, and throat” and is the general term for an otolaryngologist. Otolaryngology is the branch of medicine that diagnoses and treats disorders of the head and neck.

ENT disorders involve the ears, nose, throat, or neck, and treatments for these conditions can be both medical and surgical in nature. This is why ENTs are known by yet another name: head and neck surgeons.

ENTs are highly trained, uniquely qualified doctors who intimately understand the network of passages between your ears, nose, and throat and the conditions that affect them.

What Is an ENT’s Specialty and What Do They Treat?

Some people only think of ENTs as treating severe allergies. Which they do! But they treat many other conditions, too, some common and some not so common. ENTs treat patients of all ages, from newborns to seniors, and assist with a huge variety of issues, which we’ll look at by category below.

Ear concerns:

Nasal and sinus concerns:

Throat concerns:

Pediatric ENT issues:

Head and neck complaints:

Plastic and reconstructive surgeries:

  • Cleft lips
  • Cleft palates
  • Ear deformities
  • Reconstruction
What Is an ENT and When Should You See One Infographic

How Does ENT Care Fit in With Regular Medical Care?

Typically, you see your general practitioner at least once a year to monitor your health and pick up on any new problems. Because ENT doctors are specialists, you won’t necessarily see one unless you develop an ENT issue.

Sometimes people see an ENT because their primary care doctor notices an ear, nose, throat, or neck issue, and they know to refer the patient to an ENT for further investigation and specialized treatment. Other times, patients notice ear, nose, throat, or neck issues themselves and seek out ENT care directly.

Once you establish a relationship with an ENT, they’ll determine how often you need to come in based on your unique situation. Everyone is different, so this varies greatly from person to person and condition to condition, unlike yearly primary care appointments.

When Should You See an ENT?

As you saw above, many conditions and ailments can warrant ENT care, but you may not know whether you have one of those conditions yet. So how do you know when to visit an ENT?

It really just boils down to uncertainty. If you notice any irregularities or have any concerns regarding your head and neck area, it’s always a good idea to see an ENT specialist.

Being proactive about even minor issues can make a positive difference in your health. Plus, getting a specialist’s insight can provide the intangible but valuable benefit of peace of mind. Keep in mind, though, that certain conditions may require initial evaluation by your primary care physician, who can then give you an ENT referral.

What Is an ENT Visit Like?

What is an ENT visit like, and what should you expect? At your first appointment, you’ll provide all the typical doctor’s appointment information, like insurance, medical history, medications you’re taking, etc. In the exam room, the doctor will ask about your symptoms, and then examine the relevant area.

Our office has in-house equipment so that, if necessary, we can immediately perform additional tests, like CT scans, eardrum mobility testing, and more. We can also perform certain procedures immediately in the office if needed, such as ear tube placement.

ENT appointments usually last 30-60 minutes, though additional testing may take longer. Once your doctor reaches a diagnosis,they will discuss treatment options with you. In many cases, treatment can be completed in a single office visit. However, some conditions may require ongoing care or even surgery.

The Final Word: What Is an ENT?

So, what is an ENT? An ENT is a physician who cares for people by diagnosing and treating their ears, noses, throats, and necks. They address seemingly minor issues like tonsillitis, postnasal drip, and sinus infections, which can improve a patient’s quality of life. They also take care of more serious issues like sleep apnea and various head and neck cancers, which can increase a patient’s length of life.

ENTs play an important role in healthcare. If you’re experiencing unpleasant or concerning symptoms in your ears, nose, throat, or neck, don’t be afraid to contact an ENT office today. That’s why we’re here!

Can’t Breathe Through Your Nose When Lying Down?

Few things are as uncomfortable as being unable to breathe while you’re lying down.

If you can relate, you might assume nasal problems are causing your breathing issues. In many cases that’s true, but other medical conditions can also contribute. To help you determine what’s going on, we’ll review some of the top culprits that interfere with breathing through your nose when lying down.

Cause #1: Nasal Problems

Nasal issues are the most common reason people feel like they can’t breathe through their nose when lying down. These include:

Allergies

Allergic rhinitis, also known as seasonal allergies, can sometimes cause breathing issues at night. Here in West Texas, common allergens like ragweed and dust can wreak havoc on our lives. They make it difficult to breathe during the day, let alone at night when we lie down to rest.

Uncomfortable symptoms like nasal congestion and sneezing affect your ability to breathe. They also tend to worsen at night, especially if your sleep environment is full of allergens like pet dander or dust. As a result, you might struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, causing even further issues like daytime drowsiness.

If treatments like over-the-counter allergy medications and saline irrigation systems aren’t helping, or if you’re experiencing new or worsening allergy symptoms, an ENT doctor can help you investigate the problem and find relief.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are soft, noncancerous growths in the nose. They aren’t painful, but they can interfere with breathing. They hang like teardrops from the lining of your nasal passages and can sometimes become inflamed, blocking your airway. When you lie down, larger growths block your nasal passages and make it hard to breathe.

Nasal polyps don’t usually develop until you’re well into adulthood. People with asthma, allergies, nasal inflammation, or repeated infections are more likely to develop them. Nasal polyps don’t always produce symptoms, but they can sometimes cause:

  • Snoring
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Nosebleed
  • Postnasal drip
  • Sinus pressure
  • Loss of smell or taste

Once nasal polyps get big enough, sleep apnea, sinus infections, and other breathing problems can become issues, too.

An ENT doctor can diagnose nasal polyps based on your health history, symptoms, and a quick look inside your nose. Several treatment options can reduce symptoms or cure the polyps, like:

Deviated Septum

With this condition, the thin wall of cartilage and bone between your nasal passages is crooked, making the nasal passage on one side smaller than the other and disrupting your breathing.

We often associate a deviated septum with a broken nose, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes people are born with it, or it can be caused by an injury to the nose, like a car crash or sports injury.

One of the most common complaints among people with a deviated septum is nasal congestion. The congestion is usually more severe on one side of the nose, so they may find it easier to sleep on one side at night. They might also snore and wake up with a dry mouth since they can’t breathe well through their nose while lying down.

Septoplasty surgery can correct the breathing problems caused by a deviated septum. An ENT surgeon performs this corrective surgery under general or local anesthesia (depending on the severity of the deviated septum).

During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision inside the nose to straighten the nasal septum. This simple correction helps improve airflow through the nose.

Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is a condition where your sinuses remain swollen and inflamed, interfering with mucus drainage and making your nose feel stuffy. Typically, it’s caused by an infection, allergies, a deviated septum, or nasal polyps and can affect both adults and children.

Chronic sinusitis often makes it difficult to breathe through your nose while lying down. It can also make the area around your eyes and cheeks feel swollen and tender. The symptoms are generally similar to a cold, but chronic sinusitis lasts much longer, often at least 12 weeks.

Other symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Nasal congestion
  • Poor sense of smell and taste
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue
  • Ear pain

If your symptoms aren’t responding to treatment or you’ve had them for longer than 12 days, an ENT doctor can help by identifying and treating the underlying condition.

Cause #2: Issues Related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you can’t breathe through your nose when lying down, it could be related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. It occurs when you have excess soft tissues around your throat. When you sleep, the muscles in your neck, throat, and tongue relax, and those extra soft tissues can block your airway, causing breathing problems.

One of the most common signs of OSA is loud snoring, but others include:

  • Episodes of paused breathing while you sleep
  • Abruptly waking up choking or gasping for air
  • Having a headache, dry mouth, or sore throat when you wake up
  • Feeling excessively sleepy during the day

Not everyone who snores has OSA, but if you notice one or more of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to call a doctor and get checked out.

Cause #3: Chronic Heart and Lung Problems

Chronic heart and lung problems sometimes make you feel short of breath when you lie down. Although this is the least common cause of breathing issues at night, it’s a possible (and more serious) cause you should consider.

If your heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs. Fluid can also build up in your lungs, making you feel like you can’t breathe when you lie down.

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of heart and lung problems, and other possible signs include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heart palpitations (racing, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat)
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea
  • Confusion/cognitive impairment
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles

Heart disease and lung conditions can be life-threatening, so you should see a doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms alongside breathing issues. With the proper treatment, heart and lung conditions are manageable.

Can’t Breathe Through Your Nose When Lying Down Infographic

When to See an ENT Doctor

If you or your partner have concerns about how well you breathe while lying down, a reputable ENT doctor is the best person to help you determine the root cause. They can evaluate your symptoms, order a sleep study to test for sleep apnea, and advise you on next steps to take.

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we’re invested in our patients’ quality of life and can help you get relief from breathing issues. If you regularly can’t breathe through your nose when lying down, schedule an appointment with an ENT doctor today.

When to Worry About Thyroid Nodules

Though thyroid nodules don’t make the news very often, they’re incredibly common.

According to the American Thyroid Association, half of all Americans will develop at least one thyroid nodule by the time they’re 60. The risk increases with age, so about 50% of 50-years-olds have a thyroid nodule, and 70% of 70-years-olds have one. Women are also four times more likely to develop thyroid nodules than men.

Fortunately, only about 5% of thyroid nodules are cancerous. But since they’re so prevalent, how do you know when to worry and when not to worry about thyroid nodules?

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, with a lobe sitting on either side of your windpipe. This little gland plays a big role in keeping major bodily functions running properly, including:

  • Heart rate
  • Metabolism
  • Muscle and digestive function
  • Brain development
  • Energy levels

Since the thyroid plays such a significant role in our bodies, we have good reason to pay attention to its health and to developments like thyroid nodules. Nodules can indicate or coincide with conditions like:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Grave’s disease
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Thyroid cancer

However, the presence of a thyroid nodule doesn’t necessarily mean you have one of these conditions. They can exist without causing any problems at all.

When Should I Worry About Thyroid Nodules?

Many thyroid nodules are so small that doctors can only detect them using ultrasound. Others are large enough to feel with your fingers when you palpate the area around your lower neck.

While these larger nodules are more worrisome than the tiny ones, size doesn’t necessarily reveal the nature of a thyroid nodule. For this reason, nodules of any size need medical evaluation.

Whether your doctor noticed your thyroid nodule or you discovered one yourself, any sort of unexpected growth is alarming and disconcerting. Let’s walk through the specific guidelines doctors use to help them decide when to worry about thyroid nodules.

The Thyroid Nodule Rating System

ENTs, endocrinologists, and radiologists use the TI-RADS, or the Thyroid Imaging Reporting and Data System, to rate the various traits of thyroid nodules. By measuring five characteristics (composition, echogenicity, shape, margin, and echogenic foci), the system ranks thyroid nodules on a suspicion scale of 0–5.

A score of 2 or below means you don’t need to worry about your thyroid nodule. A score of 3 or above means your doctor should perform followup testing in the form of a fine needle aspiration biopsy. You can see the full scale and its classifications below.

Score <1-2 = SAFE: Thyroid nodules scoring between 0 and 2 are not suspicious and don’t require further workup.

Score 3 = MILDLY SUSPICIOUS: Perform fine needle aspirate if the thyroid nodule measures over 2.5 centimeters.

Score 4 = MODERATELY SUSPICIOUS: Perform fine needle aspirate if the thyroid nodule measures over 1.5 centimeters.

Score 5 = VERY SUSPICIOUS: Perform fine needle aspirate if the thyroid nodule measures over 1 centimeter.

A nodule’s size in and of itself doesn’t mean it’s suspicious, but if it exhibits other characteristics on the TI-RADS scale, size becomes an important factor. Ultrasound imaging can help doctors identify your nodule’s characteristics, and the fine needle aspirate allows your doctor to remove a tiny sample of the suspicious nodule for examination under a microscope. This can reveal whether the nodule is cancerous or benign.

When to Worry About Thyroid Nodules Infographic

Treating Thyroid Nodules

In the 95% of cases where a thyroid nodule is benign, no treatment is necessary. Your doctor will continue to monitor the nodule over time. If it grows or becomes suspicious according to the TI-RADS calculator, your doctor can perform another biopsy to test for the development of thyroid cancer.

If a biopsy reveals a malignant nodule, you’ll likely need thyroid surgery to remove all cancerous cells.

In some cases, even benign thyroid nodules can cause worrisome symptoms. If a nodule grows too large, it can cause pain or interfere with breathing or swallowing, especially when the person lies down. In these cases, thyroid surgery may also be necessary.

The Bottom Line on When to Worry About Thyroid Nodules

Thyroid nodules are incredibly common, and doctors can’t (and don’t want to) simply remove everyone’s thyroid gland. This is why the medical community developed some very specific criteria to evaluate thyroid nodules both large and small and determine which need to be removed.

So if you discover a thyroid nodule, your best course of action is to visit an ENT, endocrinologist, or radiologist for a workup. Let them worry about your thyroid nodules for you. By visiting your doctor and getting evaluated, you’re doing everything in your power to take care of your health.

A Doctor Gives 4 Tips for Flying With a Sinus Infection

If you’ve ever flown with a sinus infection, you’re probably not in a hurry to repeat the experience.

Flying with a sinus infection can be intensely painful, but what if you can’t avoid the trip? Can anything make the flight less torturous?

Let’s look at why sinus infections cause in-flight pain and four ways to make your air travel more comfortable.

Why Flying With a Sinus Infection Hurts

First, if you’re sick, and especially if you’re coughing, you probably shouldn’t be flying. Not only is it better for you to stay home and rest, it’s also better to keep from spreading your illness to others. That said, if you suffer from chronic sinusitis and/or severe allergies, you may end up needing to fly with a sinus infection or blocked sinuses.

The pain of flying with a sinus infection comes not from the infection directly, but from the changes in pressure during takeoff and landing.

The sinuses are air-filled cavities within your head, and they connect to the back of your nose through narrow drainage pathways. Normally, these pathways allow mucus and air to flow out of the sinuses and through the nose, but they can become blocked by severe congestion or a sinus infection. One of the consequences is that the air pressure inside your sinuses can no longer equalize with the air pressure around you.

The same principle applies if your ears become plugged due to your sinus infection. Your middle ear connects to the back of your nose via the eustachian tube, which can become blocked by congestion, preventing pressure equalization.

When you fly and the air pressure around you changes, the pressure within your blocked sinuses or ears stays the same, causing a great deal of pain. The four tips below focus on relieving this blockage to reduce the pain of flying with a sinus infection.

A Doctor Gives 4 Tips for Flying With a Sinus Infection Infographic

1. Topical Decongestants

Topical decongestants such as nasal steroid sprays can help relieve congestion almost immediately, and are available over the counter at any pharmacy. These fast-acting decongestants may reduce your congestion enough to open up your sinus passages and/or eustachian tubes, at least temporarily, and help you avoid a painful flight.

We recommend using a topical decongestant 30 minutes before your flight, allowing time for it to get to work before takeoff. One caution: Topical decongestants are a short-term solution, and using them for longer than three days can actually worsen your nasal congestion. So use them sparingly, and only when you need them for your flight.

Afrin (oxymetazoline) is one of the most common topical decongestants, but sometimes even a saline spray or rinse can help open up sinus passages without the risk of rebound congestion.

2. Systemic Decongestants

Systemic decongestants are another type of non-prescription drug designed to relieve nasal and sinus congestion. They come in pill form, rather than as topical sprays, and start working after your body absorbs them into your system.

Familiar brands like Sudafed, Allegra D, and Claritin D all contain pseudoephedrine, a systemic decongestant that reduces swelling and, consequently, may help open up your ears and sinuses.

However, systemic decongestants are not considered safe for people with high blood pressure or heart problems. If you fall into this category, you could try some home remedies for sinus infections instead.

3. Gum, Snacks, and Beverages

Chewing gum on a plane is a well-known way to help your ears “pop” as the pressure changes. That popping sensation is just your eustachian tubes opening up as you chew and swallow, allowing the pressure in your ears to equalize.

Keeping gum handy during takeoff and landing encourages chewing and swallowing, both of which can help your eustachian tubes open up, though it may not provide the same relief to your sinus passages. If you don’t like to chew gum, eating or drinking can provide a similar benefit by helping you swallow often. The more frequently you swallow, the more the pressure in your ears has a chance to equalize.

4. Antibiotics (Sometimes)

If you have a flight coming up and you have a sinus infection, it’s possible antibiotics could help clear the infection up faster. It’s important to note, though, that antibiotics will only help if your sinus infection is bacterial, not viral.

Most sinus infections are viral and resolve within 10 days with only over-the-counter medications and home remedies. However, if your sinus infection lingers longer than 10 days and you experience symptoms like facial pressure, headache, and fever, you may need an antibiotic.

Antibiotics are not a quick fix, so it’s best to start them well before your trip. They’re only available by prescription, so talk to your doctor as soon as you suspect you have a bacterial sinus infection.

Before Flying With a Sinus Infection

The symptoms of a sinus infections are very similar to the symptoms of other conditions, including colds, the flu, COVID-19, and even allergies. So while flying with a sinus infection is no fun, it’s important to be sure you’re actually dealing with a sinus infection.

Before you travel, we strongly recommend finding out what’s causing your symptoms to keep both you and those around you safe and healthy.

If you’ve had sinus infection symptoms for more than a week or 10 days, contact your doctor to determine the source of your condition and the best way to treat it. The sooner you have a clear diagnosis, the sooner you can take steps to feel better again.

How To Have a Quick and Comfortable Septoplasty Recovery

Planning a surgery is usually accompanied by a fair amount of anxiety. The thought of the procedure itself can be unsettling, but then you start to think about the recovery. Will it be difficult? Will it be painful?

Fortunately, septoplasty recovery is neither. In reality, it’s more annoying than anything, due to the stuffiness and congestion that tend to follow surgery.

Typically, however, patients are breathing easier within a week, often for the first time in years — maybe for the first time in their lives.

In this post, we’ll discuss what a septoplasty is, what’s involved in septoplasty aftercare, and how to make your septoplasty recovery as quick and comfortable as possible.

What’s a Septoplasty?

A septoplasty is a common surgery performed on the nose to correct a deviated septum.

The nasal septum is the wall that divides your nose in half; it’s composed of bone and cartilage. The design of the septum allows for smooth airflow through both sides of the nose so that the sinuses can function optimally.

Sometimes, however, the nasal septum can become deviated, or crooked, either from birth or trauma. This can prevent good airflow through the nose, causing snoring, sleep apnea, and overall difficulty breathing, especially on one side.

A severely deviated septum can inhibit breathing on both sides of the nose and force people to breathe through their mouths. This can lead to a dry mouth and frequent bloody noses.

Common symptoms of a deviated septum can include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Headaches.
  • Facial pain.
  • Frequent sinus infections.

A septoplasty involves making a small incision inside the nose at the septum, lifting the lining, and straightening the deviated septum while removing as little bone and cartilage as possible. Although a minor deviated septum can be fixed under local anesthesia, you’ll need general anesthesia for most septoplasties.

After Your Septoplasty: Aftercare Instructions

One of the best ways to ensure a smooth septoplasty recovery is to follow all of the septoplasty aftercare instructions your surgeon gives you. Here are a few things we recommend.

How To Have a Quick and Comfortable Septoplasty Recovery Infographic

Understand the Immediate Postoperative Period

The septoplasty procedure itself takes 30–60 minutes. You’ll wake up from surgery with an IV in your arm or hand and dissolvable packing material in your nose. You’ll also have plastic splints in your nose to help hold the septum straight while it heals.

All of this splinting and packing, along with the normal swelling that accompanies surgery, can make it difficult to breathe through your nose for a time. So although septoplasty will help you breathe through your nose better in the long run, you should expect a fair amount of annoying congestion when you wake up from surgery.

Diet and Activity Restrictions

It’s a good idea to keep your meals light for the first few days after general anesthesia. Increase your diet as tolerated, from liquids to soft, light foods, and don’t move to heavy foods until your stomach has completely settled.

You may want to avoid any foods that require excessive chewing for the first few days. Excessive movement of the upper lip could potentially cause some irritation at the septoplasty site.

Additionally, you should also keep your activity level light. Walking around the house to keep your blood pumping is recommended following general anesthesia, but you should avoid strenuous activities that cause heavy breathing, like running or weightlifting.

Use Medications as Directed

Fortunately, most patients don’t require pain medication after a septoplasty, though some may need a pain pill for the first night or two to help them sleep. Ibuprofen as needed is an acceptable pain medication for septoplasty aftercare, and it can also keep your inflammation levels down.

Expect some bleeding for the first 24 hours after surgery. After that, the main symptom you’ll experience during your septoplasty recovery is nasal congestion. An over-the-counter saline spray can help alleviate some of this congestion, as can a topical decongestant spray like Afrin — but only for a day or two. (After three days, Afrin will cause a phenomenon known as rebound congestion.)

Other Tips To Make Your Septoplasty Recovery More Comfortable

An ice pack over your nose can help alleviate some of the swelling and discomfort following surgery. We also recommend sleeping in an upright position (propped up with multiple pillows or in a recliner) to make breathing easier while your post-surgery congestion lasts.

Don’t Be Afraid of Septoplasty Recovery

As you can see, there’s little to fear from a septoplasty recovery. The process isn’t usually painful, though it can be annoying and uncomfortable, and recovery is quick. Once the splints come out, your nose will start to feel normal again. And within one to two weeks, you’ll find yourself feeling better than normal — because you can breathe freely and easily!

What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?

Approximately 1 in 8 people in the U.S. aged 12 or older currently has hearing loss in both ears, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

With hearing loss this common, it’s only natural that many people are curious about it, and may even wonder if they have it.

So how do you know if you have hearing loss? And if you do, what level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid?

A Quick Anatomy of the Ear

Before we talk about various causes of hearing loss, let’s do a quick review of basic ear anatomy. The anatomical ear is much more than just the outer ear that we see attached to the sides of our heads, and learning about the different parts will help us understand hearing loss.

The Outer Ear

The outer ear is made up of the part of your ear that you can see in the mirror, plus the ear canal (the passageway to the middle ear). The ear canal leads to the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum, which is a thin barrier between the external ear and the middle ear.

An infection of the outer ear can cause the ear canal to swell shut, leading to temporary hearing loss. In most cases, antibiotic ear drops are enough to cure such an infection. In more extreme cases, oral antibiotics can be helpful.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear is on the other side of the eardrum. It contains three tiny bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes. Healthy middle ears contain air and a small amount of fluid. The eustachian tube, a thin passageway, connects the middle ear to the back of the nose for drainage and air pressure equalization.

A middle ear infection, or otitis media, is extremely common in small children. The eustachian tube doesn’t function as well in young children and can cause fluid, viruses, and bacteria to become trapped in the middle ear.

Most middle ear infections are caused by a virus and resolve on their own after several days. Others are caused by bacteria and may require antibiotics.

Middle ear infections can also cause a temporary reduction in hearing and difficulty understanding people’s words.

The Inner Ear

The inner ear holds the actual organ responsible for your hearing — the cochlea. Although hearing loss can originate in the outer, middle, or inner ear, most permanent hearing loss is related to problems in the inner ear.

Causes and Physiology of Hearing Loss

Within the cochlea, there are very delicate, tiny hair cells that vibrate in response to sound waves. That vibration transmits messages via the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets these messages as sound.

Prolonged exposure to loud noises, certain medications, and age-related physiological changes can damage these fragile hair cells — and they don’t recover. When these hair cells can no longer vibrate, they no longer transmit sound. This is hearing loss.

Some people are even born with a genetic predisposition to lose their hearing earlier in life than others.

What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid?

People adjust in different ways to the challenge of hearing loss. Technically, any level of hearing loss can benefit from a hearing aid, but whether or not you should get a hearing aid is a highly individualized decision.

A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if hearing loss is affecting your day-to-day life, your safety, and/or your ability to communicate with others, you might want to consider getting a hearing aid.

What Level of Hearing Loss Requires a Hearing Aid? Infographic

When it reaches 55–60 decibels (dB), hearing loss could cause you to miss out on important parts of conversations. Even smaller hearing losses can have you missing quieter speech or unable to hear an oncoming car.

The level of hearing loss that requires a hearing aid is unique to each person. Consider when hearing loss begins to affect your life noticeably. Some signs to watch for include:

  • People have to repeat themselves to you frequently before you hear or understand them.
  • You find yourself asking, “What was that you said?!” more than you’d like.
  • You watch television at a higher volume than you used to.

When you start to notice such signs, it’s a good idea to start taking steps to evaluate your level of hearing loss and find out what your options are.

Concerned About Hearing Loss? Here Are Your Next Steps

If you’re concerned about your hearing loss, we recommend you start with an ENT exam to make sure there’s not a medical or surgical cause for your hearing loss. If you have temporary hearing loss due to an infection, for instance, a quick course of antibiotics could clear things up — no hearing aids required! And while other causes of hearing loss may not be so simply solved, some surgical procedures can help restore hearing as well.

If your hearing loss stems from damage to the hair cells of your inner ear, your next step will be to visit with an audiologist. An audiologist can test your hearing, help you determine your degree of hearing loss, and, if necessary, fit you for hearing aids that suit your personal and lifestyle needs. An audiologist can also teach you how to care for your hearing aids and can make adjustments to your hearing aids as you learn to live with them.

The 3 Types of Thyroidectomy Explained

A thyroidectomy seems like a simple enough procedure, right? “Thyroid” refers to the butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck, and “-ectomy” means “to remove.”

But wait. Once you start to research this procedure, you find out there are different types of thyroidectomy: subtotal thyroidectomy, partial thyroidectomy, hemithyroidectomy, total thyroidectomy. What do all these terms mean?

In reality, there are only three types of thyroidectomy, and really only two that we commonly perform today. So let’s take a look at the three types of thyroidectomy, the differences between them, and when a thyroidectomy is needed.

Who Needs a Thyroidectomy?

The thyroid is a small organ with a lot of power. It affects many metabolic functions in your body — like breathing and body temperature — and it releases vital hormones to keep your body running.

Sometimes, however, the thyroid can develop problems. In these cases, one of the types of thyroidectomy can become necessary.

The 3 Types of Thyroidectomy Explained Infographic

Problem 1: Thyroid Nodules

The most common reason patients undergo a thyroidectomy is the presence of one or more thyroid nodules. Thyroid nodules are extremely common, and their incidence increases with age. In fact, ENT doctors often use age as a reference point for how common nodules are. For example, about 50% of 50-year-olds have nodules on their thyroid.

When your doctor notices a suspicious nodule on your thyroid gland, they may want to perform further testing, such as an ultrasound and/or a fine-needle aspirate (a type of biopsy).

A system called TI-RADS classifies thyroid nodules according to how concerning they are on a scale of one through six. A TI-RADS score of three or more usually indicates the need for a needle biopsy, after which a pathologist looks at the nodule cells under a microscope to determine whether they are cancerous. If the pathologist’s findings are inconclusive, then genetic testing can be performed as well.

More than 90% of nodules in adults will not be cancerous, but it’s crucial to identify the ones that are.

Problem 2: Enlarged and Pressing on Vital Structures

Another reason for a thyroidectomy is when the thyroid gland becomes very large and presses on other structures in the neck, such as the esophagus and trachea, making swallowing and breathing difficult.

Problem 3: Overactive Thyroid

People with certain thyroid diseases may require a thyroidectomy because their gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is often impossible to control medically, making removal of the thyroid gland the best option. Graves’ disease is one example of such a condition.

Subtotal Thyroidectomy / Partial Thyroidectomy

In past years, subtotal thyroidectomies (also called partial thyroidectomies) were common for patients with overactive thyroid glands from conditions like Graves’ disease. The thought for this surgery was that if the entire gland wasn’t removed, the patient wouldn’t need to rely on prescription thyroid medication for the rest of their life.

However, the thinking surrounding this issue has changed in more recent years. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is now quite safe, effective, and affordable, and it’s difficult to accurately estimate how much of the thyroid gland to remove and how much to leave.

As a result, the subtotal thyroidectomy or partial thyroidectomy is almost obsolete in our practice. While this procedure was an effort to minimize possible thyroidectomy complications, we now have better ways to minimize this risk, such as choosing a high-volume thyroid surgeon and closely following their postoperative instructions.

The other two types of thyroid surgeries listed below are much safer.

Hemithyroidectomy / Total Thyroid Lobectomy

A hemithyroidectomy, also called a total thyroid lobectomy, removes only one side of the thyroid gland, leaving the other lobe intact.

A hemithyroidectomy is usually performed when a patient has a suspicious-looking thyroid nodule. Sometimes, despite an ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration, it’s still hard to determine whether a nodule is cancerous. In many cases, once we remove the side of the thyroid with the nodule, we can immediately analyze it to find out whether cancer is present.

If no cancer is discovered, then the surgery is finished and the patient continues on with one thyroid lobe remaining. Often, they may not even need to take supplemental thyroid hormone because the existing side compensates for the side that was removed.

If cancer is discovered in the operating room like this, the surgeon may need to continue on to a total thyroidectomy. If you’re going in for a hemithyroidectomy, your thyroid surgeon will discuss the possibility of a total thyroidectomy with you before your surgery.

In the case of thyroid cancer, removing the entire thyroid allows for treatment with radioactive iodine, which can destroy any remaining microscopic disease.

Total Thyroidectomy

A total thyroidectomy is exactly what it sounds like: the removal of both sides (lobes) of the thyroid gland.

As mentioned above, a total thyroidectomy is often needed when cancer is found on one side of the thyroid. Another indication for a total thyroidectomy is when the thyroid gland grows to be extremely large and compresses the esophagus and trachea. In this case, removal relieves pressure in the neck, aids in swallowing and breathing, and serves a cosmetic function as well.

A total thyroidectomy is also the new standard type of thyroidectomy for controlling overactive thyroid glands due to conditions like Graves’ disease.

Looking for More Information About the Different Types of Thyroidectomy?

If you’ve been told that you may need a thyroidectomy, you may be a little anxious about the procedure and want as much information as possible.

We’ve written several articles to provide you with useful information about thyroid surgeries. Take a look at our guide to choosing a thyroid surgeon and our ultimate guide to thyroidectomies. We also have a post about how to manage and avoid thyroidectomy complications, tips to speed your thyroidectomy recovery process, and what you need to know about the scar you’ll have after thyroid surgery.

Turbinate Surgery vs. VivAer: Discover Which Is Right for You

Breathing.

When it comes easily, we take it for granted. But when something gets in the way of your ability to breathe, it affects every aspect of your life.

In this post, we’ll look at two common surgical options for nasal blockages: VivAer and turbinate surgery. We’ll discuss what they are, which could benefit you, and whether or not these procedures can be performed together.

The Problem: Nasal Valve Collapse

Your nasal valves, or nostrils, are the openings of your nose. They’re made up of your septum, your nasal sidewalls, and your inferior turbinates.

Three graphs showing Turbinate Hypertrophy.

When you breathe in, your nasal valves naturally contract slightly; if you sniff fiercely, they can close up entirely. But when your nasal valves close up anytime you take a relatively normal breath, it’s called nasal valve collapse.

Nasal valve collapse has a variety of causes, most of which are anatomical. If there’s not enough cartilage present in the sidewall of the nose, the sidewall can collapse in on itself with little provocation. Sometimes wearing glasses that sit too low on the nose can squeeze the nasal valves, and sometimes our inferior turbinates can become inflamed, blocking airflow.

Depending on the cause of your nasal valve collapse, turbinate surgery or the VivAer nasal remodeling procedure could be good options to explore.

Turbinate Surgery

The nasal turbinates are small, bony ridges covered by soft tissue in your nose. Each person has three sets of turbinates: superior turbinates, middle turbinates, and inferior turbinates. These shelf-like projections increase the surface area inside the nose, cleaning, warming, and moisturizing inhaled air before it passes down into your lungs.

The inferior turbinates are located lowest in the nose and form part of the nasal valves. Most of the time, they function well without you even knowing they exist. But the inferior turbinates are made of a very soft, spongy tissue that swells easily due to asthma, allergies, and other irritants. Swollen inferior turbinates can easily lead to nasal airway obstruction by blocking the flow of air.

Sometimes this swelling resolves with home remedies like topical steroid sprays. But when these measures fail, turbinate surgery can be a great option.

Submucous Resection of the Inferior Turbinates

Years ago, surgeons might have partially or fully removed a chronically swollen turbinate. However, since the turbinates serve an important purpose, this isn’t a fantastic method.

Instead, today we perform something called a submucous resection of the inferior turbinates. During this procedure, the surgeon creates a tiny incision, about one sixteenth of an inch long, in the front of the inferior turbinate. They then insert a tiny instrument called a microdebrider to remove the excess tissue. It’s a little like liposuction for the inside of the nose.

This process decreases the size of the inferior turbinates by several millimeters without decreasing the surface area of the nasal lining — so the turbinate can still do its job. Less tissue in the turbinate means less swelling, which translates into better airflow through the nose!

VivAer Nasal Airway Remodeling

While turbinate surgery addresses the problem of swollen inferior turbinates that block the nasal passages, VivAer gently and permanently reshapes and widens the nasal valve to remove any obstructions.

Using low-temperature radio-frequency energy, VivAer heats the nasal tissues via a small wand, allowing your ENT surgeon to apply a small amount of pressure to reshape the area. The sidewalls of the front of the nose then retain their new shape, allowing you to breathe in without troublesome nasal valve collapse.

Much like submucous resection of the inferior turbinates, VivAer is performed under local anesthesia in a physician’s office and can similarly expand the nasal airway by several millimeters.

Some people notice an immediate change in their breathing after VivAer. However, like any procedure, VivAer can also cause a bit of nasal swelling, so it may take four to six weeks to see the full benefits of the procedure. At ENT Associates of Lubbock, about 90% of our VivAer patients experience significant improvement in their nasal breathing.

Turbinate Surgery vs. VivAer… vs. Both: Making Your Decision

If you’ve found yourself researching both of these procedures, you might be wondering which surgery is right for you. After all, both procedures address the same issue (nasal airway obstruction) from different angles.

The first step in choosing a procedure is to speak with your ENT surgeon to determine what’s causing your nasal obstruction. If it’s solely due to turbinate swelling, for example, then you have your answer.

In other cases, both procedures might be appropriate. Nasal valve collapse and airway obstruction can result from issues with both the sidewall of the nose and the inferior turbinates.

The good news is that these surgeries pair beautifully together. Both procedures are quick, can be completed in your ENT physician’s office, and don’t require any splinting or packing in your nose. They both have incredibly high success rates as well.

Turbinate Surgery vs. VivAer: Discover Which Is Right for You Infographic

Bonus: Avoiding Septoplasty

One major benefit of seeing an ENT experienced in both turbinate surgery and VivAer is for people with a deviated septum.

An experienced surgeon can take a more conservative approach to dealing with a deviated septum, especially if the condition is on the milder side. By widening the nasal airway through turbinate surgery, VivAer, or both, some people can avoid a septoplasty altogether. This has several benefits:

  • Avoiding general anesthesia.
  • Avoiding nasal splinting and bulky packing.
  • Avoiding longer recovery time.

Talk With Your ENT Doctor

Both a submucous resection of the inferior turbinates and VivAer can be incredibly helpful, effective procedures for dealing with nasal airway obstruction. And if you need both, you can get both. The most important thing is to talk with your ENT surgeon to find the source of your nasal issues and determine the treatment that will be effective for you.

Can You Hear But Can’t Understand Words? Here’s What To Do

Some people are born with hearing deficits. Others develop hearing loss slowly over time, and still others lose their hearing rapidly.

When you can hear, but you can’t understand words, you may feel like the world is muffled. Maybe you can understand words in a quiet environment, but have a hard time understanding them in a noisy environment, like a crowded restaurant. Or maybe it’s difficult all the time.

Whatever your case is, keep reading to learn more about why you can hear but can’t understand words, and what you can do about it.

Anatomy of the Ear

To better understand hearing loss, let’s look briefly at the anatomy of the ear. Hearing loss can come from problems with the outer, middle, or inner ear.

  • The outer ear includes everything that we visually see as “the ear,” plus the ear canal that leads to the eardrum, the thin barrier between the outer and middle ear.
  • The middle ear is on the other side of the eardrum and contains three of the smallest bones in the body: the malleus, incus, and stapes (colloquially known as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup).
  • The inner ear contains the cochlea, which transforms sound vibrations into nerve impulses to send to your brain. It is also contains semicircular canals that help you keep your balance.

When You Can Hear But Can’t Understand Words

Whether the onset of your hearing loss was sudden or gradual, it can be disorienting and disconcerting.

When you visit an ENT for muffled hearing, we first have to determine where the cause of the problem is. Starting from the outside in, here are a few of the most likely causes of being able to hear but not understand words, and the treatments for each.

Problems With the Outer Ear

Did you know that ear wax can actually interfere with hearing? Normally, ear wax makes its way out of the ear through natural processes, but sometimes it can become stuck in the ear. This can happen because of structural abnormalities, Q-Tip usage, and other causes.

When the outer ear becomes impacted with wax, that wax blocks sound waves from reaching your eardrum and muffles your hearing. Your ENT doctor or audiologist can help clean the wax out of your ear, which usually improves hearing right away.

Other times, the outer ear can become infected and affect hearing. An outer ear infection, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, is very painful. Swimmer’s ear affects the skin in the auditory canal, causing it to redden, ache, and swell, sometimes severely. You may also experience drainage from the ear. It’s this drainage that usually causes muffled hearing.

Fortunately, swimmer’s ear is fairly easy to treat with antibiotic drops. Oral antibiotics can also be used for especially severe cases.

Problems With the Middle Ear

Fluid buildup or an infection in the middle ear (otitis media) can cause muffled hearing. Symptoms may include a feeling of pressure or fullness behind the eardrum. If this pressure continues to build, the eardrum could even rupture.

Your ENT doctor can diagnose fluid or an infection in the middle ear with an exam. Most ear infections are viral, though, and will resolve in a few days on their own. A bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics. In the meantime, decreasing inflammation by using decongestants may help facilitate draining of the middle ear and restore normal hearing.

If the fluid in the middle ear won’t drain or keeps coming back, the best method of relief is a tympanostomy.

Fluid buildup in the middle ear is extremely common in young children, but adults can experience it as well.

Problems With the Inner Ear

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing loss. SNHL results from a problem in the inner ear from one of two causes:

  • An issue with the nerve pathways between the inner ear and the brain.
  • Problems with the cochlea, a fluid-filled, snail-shaped bone in the inner ear.

SNHL can be caused by head trauma, repeated exposure to loud noises, genetic hearing loss, aging, and certain medications that damage hearing (such as particular cancer drugs and a class of antibiotics called aminoglycosides).

Diagnosing problems in the inner ear requires a test called an audiogram. An audiogram tests your ability to hear noises at various frequencies. People with SNHL usually find it particularly difficult to hear soft sounds, but louder sounds may also be muffled.

This can explain why someone with SNHL might be able to hear, but have trouble understanding people’s words or hear distorted words — especially in a noisy setting.

Hearing aids can be extremely helpful for people with SNHL. People who still have a good understanding of words often have an easier time with hearing aids, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help make words sound clearer as well. Assistive listening devices can be useful as well, though they’re most often used in classroom settings.

Can You Hear But Can't Understand Words? Here's What To Do Infographic

Your Next Steps

If you can hear but can’t understand people’s words, schedule a consultation with your ENT doctor and/or audiologist. They can check for problems with your outer and middle ear. An audiologist will perform an audiogram to determine if you have SNHL and whether hearing aids could be helpful to you.

If your audiologist determines that hearing aids could be helpful, they will generally recommend a 30-day trial to make sure the hearing aids are the best possible fit.

These days, you can purchase hearing aids online, at Costco, or sometimes directly through your insurance company. These can be an acceptable option in cases of mild hearing loss, but programming, service, and repair options are extremely limited.

People with more severe hearing loss and hearing loss involving difficulty in understanding words may want to get their hearing aids from their doctor or audiologist’s office. In these cases, it’s beneficial to have a board-certified audiologist who can program your hearing aids to your individualized hearing loss and who you can easily return to if adjustments need to be made.

5 Tonsillectomy Complications (Plus Who’s at Risk)

Most people are a little nervous before they go in for any kind of surgery, including a tonsillectomy.

Tonsillectomy complications are rare, but they can happen. In this post, we’ll provide information about the five possible tonsillectomy complications to show that they are, in fact, very rare. We hope this post sets your mind at ease and calms any anxieties you have about tonsillectomy complications.

5 Possible Tonsillectomy Complications

All surgeries and medical procedures come with some level of risk. All the possible complications must be listed in full on the informed consent documents you sign before you (or your child) undergo a surgery.

Some side effects are to be expected while recovering from a tonsillectomy, but fortunately, actual complications from a tonsillectomy are extraordinarily rare.

Awareness of the signs of potential complications will allow you to identify any potential problems quickly. And the sooner you contact your doctor about a complication, the sooner you can be on your way to feeling better!

Below are five possible tonsillectomy complications (and side effects), and who’s at risk for each.

5 Tonsillectomy Complications (Plus Who's at Risk) Infographic

1. Pain and Difficulty Swallowing

Pain and difficulty swallowing are less complications of a tonsillectomy and more side effects. All patients experience pain and difficulty swallowing after a tonsillectomy simply because it’s a surgical procedure requiring incisions in the throat.

Pain management is an important step in tonsillectomy recovery. Patients should follow their surgeon’s instructions for administering prescription pain medication in order to keep pain under control.

Significant pain and difficulty swallowing are sometimes more severe in adults who undergo tonsillectomies than in children. While children are usually uncomfortable for about a week or so, a steady diet of jello and ice cream is often enough to keep their throats soothed. In adults, however, the pain is often more intense as a result of the larger area of tonsillar tissue being removed.

Some patients try to avoid drinking/swallowing after a tonsillectomy due to the severity of the pain, but this can quickly lead to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mucous membranes, dry skin, extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, and dizziness. Very cold or frozen liquids, such as popsicles, can be helpful in getting enough hydration even with a painful throat.

Rarely, cases of dehydration after tonsillectomy may require IV hydration. So it’s important to contact your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of dehydration.

2. Referred Ear Pain

Most patients are surprised by pain in their ears after a tonsillectomy. This is another example of a common side effect versus a complication.

Ear pain after a tonsillectomy is called “referred pain” and is actually just nerve pain from your throat traveling through the glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves and being felt in your ears instead. Sometimes tonsillectomy ear pain is even more severe than the throat pain!

Most patients report referred ear pain about a week after their tonsillectomy. Fortunately, the ear pain usually resolves after a few days. Once you get over this hump, the rest of the healing process is usually uneventful. Following your surgeon’s instructions regarding hydration and pain management can help decrease your referred ear pain in the meantime.

3. Feeling of Something Stuck in Your Throat

Another common side effect of a tonsillectomy is feeling like something is stuck in your throat. This feeling can occur because of the expected inflammation and the scabs in your throat after surgery, but nothing besides your own tissue is really there.

Keeping your throat moist through a steady intake of water, popsicles, juice, and other soothing liquids may help ease some of the discomfort. And when the inflammation dissipates and your scabs fall off (usually 7–10 days after surgery), this sensation will disappear as well.

Scabs can be white or dark in color. Sometimes patients see white and assume it’s an infection, but this isn’t the case. Darker scabs can mean there is a little dried blood in the scab and are also not a concern unless there is active bleeding.

4. Bleeding After Surgery

Bleeding after surgery can either be a tonsillectomy complication or a side effect. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to differentiate between the two.

Bleeding immediately after a tonsillectomy or later during the day of your surgery is very rare. If this occurs, contact your surgeon immediately.

Delayed mild bleeding in the days after a tonsillectomy is a bit more common and falls into the category of side effect. Some light bleeding during postoperative days 7–10 occasionally occurs when the tonsillectomy scabs fall off. This bleeding, however, should be very light — more like a little blood in your saliva turning it pink. Nothing more significant. It should stop on its own or resolve with gargling a bit of ice water.

Occasionally, in about 1–3% of cases, bleeding is more extensive and qualifies as a tonsillectomy complication. With this more severe bleeding, patients might see larger amounts of fresh, bright red blood in the mouth or nose, or they may vomit bright or dark blood. This tonsillectomy complication requires immediate attention and a possible return to surgery to cauterize the throat.

In children, a risk factor for post-tonsillectomy bleeding is dehydration, so make sure to keep your child well hydrated during their recovery period.

In addition to dehydration, another major risk factor for post-tonsillectomy bleeding in adults is smoking. While we don’t ever recommend tobacco use, it’s especially dangerous after a tonsillectomy. Smoking dries out and irritates your throat, increasing your risk of severe bleeding. Smoking also decreases your tissue’s oxygen supply and can prolong the healing process.

So the top two measures you can take to reduce your risk of bleeding after a tonsillectomy are to drink plenty of fluids and avoid smoking before and after surgery. It’s also advisable to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin at this time as well, since they can increase your bleeding risk.

5. Anesthetic Complications

Fortunately, anesthetic complications are extraordinarily rare when your tonsillectomy is performed by a board-certified ENT specialist working with a board-certified anesthesiologist.

The elderly and patients with high-risk health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are more at risk for complications from anesthesia. Overall, however, a tonsillectomy is a very short procedure, meaning the time spent under anesthesia is also very short.

Riding the Tonsillectomy Recovery Wave

Recovering from a tonsillectomy can sometimes be a bit of a roller coaster. Most patients can expect a recovery period of 10–14 days. The initial few days after surgery are painful, followed by a few days of progress. About a week after surgery, expect a little regression period with referred ear pain lasting for a few days. Once you clear this final hump, you should be on the downhill slope toward complete recovery!

When To Call a Doctor About Tonsillectomy Complications

Following all of your surgeon’s postoperative instructions should allow you to avoid most tonsillectomy complications. You should contact your ENT doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • The pain is too severe to stay hydrated.
  • You feel like you’re becoming dehydrated.
  • Postoperative bleeding occurs more than once.
  • You notice more significant bleeding or begin vomiting blood.

Tonsillectomies are one of the safer surgeries a person can have, and tonsillectomy complications are rare. By being knowledgeable about the few potential complications, you can take precautions to lessen your likelihood of developing them and be prepared to spot them if they do occur.

Balloon Sinus Ostial Dilation: Everything You Need To Know

You’ve experienced the misery of chronic sinus infections.

Sinus headaches.

Facial pressure.

Congestion.

You’ve tried all the sinus infection home remedies. You’ve been treated with antibiotics, saline nasal sprays, and topical steroid sprays like Flonase. Maybe you’ve even tried allergy shots. But your sinus symptoms haven’t improved.

Maybe now is the time to consider balloon sinus dilation.

A Quick Overview of the Sinuses

Before we take a more in-depth look at balloon sinus dilation, let’s explore the sinuses.

Your sinuses are spaces in your skull that are filled with air and lined with mucous membranes. Each person has four sets of sinuses:

  • Frontal sinuses behind the forehead.
  • Maxillary sinuses behind the cheeks.
  • Ethmoid sinuses between the eyes.
  • Sphenoid sinuses behind the nose.

Your sinuses help lighten your skull and allow your voice to reverberate. They also produce mucus that lubricates the inside of your nose.

Although the sinuses are usually air filled, they can become blocked under a number of conditions. When mucus can’t drain out of the sinuses well, it accumulates in these normally open cavities instead. This moist environment is not only uncomfortable, but it can also lead to the growth of bacteria that results in a sinus infection.

Some people deal with chronic inflammation from environmental allergies, excessive mucus, or nasal polyps that stop up the sinuses. Other people are born with narrow sinuses, which swell closed more easily.

Balloon sinus dilation can help with most of these conditions.

What’s Involved in Balloon Sinus Dilation?

Over the past 10 years, balloon sinus dilation has emerged as an excellent alternative to endoscopic sinus surgery.

Endoscopic sinus surgery is a more involved procedure that requires general anesthesia and sometimes the removal of bone and tissue. But time and technology have progressed, and today we usually reserve endoscopic sinus surgery for cases where we need to remove tumors or extensive nasal polyps.

Balloon sinus dilation does not require general anesthesia or a visit to a surgery center. Instead, we perform this procedure in the office with minimal sedation and topical anesthesia. Your nose is numbed so you can’t feel the procedure, but you remain awake the entire time.

During the balloon sinus dilation (also called balloon sinuplasty), your ENT physician inserts a small balloon into your nostril using a thin tube with a light and tiny camera attached.

The physician then inflates the balloon to widen your sinus passageway. The balloon stays inflated for about 10 seconds and is then deflated. From beginning to end, the procedure takes about an hour. More than half of that time is spent simply waiting for local anesthesia to take effect and sufficiently numb the nose.

After a short recovery period, the newly widened sinus passages can drain more freely.

Balloon Sinus Dilation Risks and Safety Concerns

As with most medical procedures, patients may have questions and concerns before their balloon sinus dilation.

While no procedure is completely without risk, balloon sinus dilation is extremely safe. Because it requires only topical anesthesia and mild sedation, it does not involve the risks associated with general anesthesia.

Also, the results of balloon sinus dilation are permanent. It provides long-lasting relief from constricted sinuses.

Who Is Balloon Sinus Dilation For?

Balloon sinus dilation treats people who suffer from chronic sinus issues. You may be a good candidate for balloon sinus dilation if you:

  • Have sinus infections more than three times per year despite medical management.
  • Have chronic sinusitis that never seems to improve or respond to medications.
Balloon Sinus Ostial Dilation: Everything You Need To Know Infographic

Balloon sinus dilation can be performed on a broad range of patients, from teens up to the elderly. It is an excellent alternative to endoscopic sinus surgery for those who can’t tolerate general anesthesia due to health concerns.

Because this procedure doesn’t require any incisions, cutting, or removal of tissue, many patients prefer balloon sinus dilation over standard sinus surgery. Any bleeding or tenderness resolves quickly, and there are no long-term side effects. More than 95% of our patients are extremely satisfied with their results after balloon sinus dilation!

If you’re considering balloon sinus dilation for your sinus issues, give us a call. We’d be happy to set up a consultation to find out if this is the right procedure for you.

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.

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