A sore throat will happen to most people, and while this is usually the result of an infection, if you are dealing with persistent or recurring symptoms, you may be wondering when it might actually be time to see an ENT specialist.
Contagious infections are usually the cause behind most sore throats and these infections are either viral or bacterial. Sinus infections can also cause sore throats, particularly if you are dealing with postnasal drip. If you battle allergies to mold, dust, pollen, or pet dander, then you may also experience a sore throat along with a stuffy or runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing.
The most common viral infections to cause sore throats include everything from a simple cold and flu to whooping cough and mononucleosis (mono). Mono is one infection that can last weeks and cause severe symptoms including fever, chills, trouble breathing, and extreme exhaustion. If you suspect that your sore throat could be due to mono, it’s important that you see your otolaryngologist for treatment.
Bacterial infections can also lead to a sore throat, more particularly infections caused by the strep bacteria. These infections include pneumonia, sinus infections, and tonsillitis. Along with a sore throat, you may also experience a fever, red or white patches in the back of the throat, inflamed tonsils, and/or swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Sometimes, your sore throat can simply be irritated, whether that be from the weather, environmental pollutants, or vocal strain. From shouting and singing loudly at a concert to mouth breathing at night, there are many scenarios in which the back of the throat can dry out and cause discomfort. This is usually something that will go away on its own and is usually nothing to worry about.
However, if you find that your sore throat is persistent and occurs most mornings when you first wake up, this could be a warning sign of acid reflux. Acid reflux causes partially digested food and acid from the stomach to flow back up into the throat, which can cause burning and irritation of the throat’s delicate lining. If left untreated, acid reflux can do serious damage to the throat.
If your sore throat is accompanied by vocal changes including hoarseness, trouble swallowing, or difficulty breathing, these issues require an immediate checkup from an ENT doctor, as they could be signs of a polyp, growth, or tumor on the throat or voice box.
If you have been dealing with recurring sore throats or symptoms that last anywhere from 7-10 days then you should seek care. An otolaryngologist will be able to diagnose and treat any and all conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat, as well as the head and neck. If you are concerned about your sore throat, schedule an appointment today.
Having trouble breathing or catching your breath can certainly be a cause for concern. While it’s normal to be out of breath after an intense workout there are times when symptoms such as chest tightness, persistent coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing appear and any of these symptoms are usually signs that something more serious is going on.
As you might imagine, most breathing problems are associated with lung or respiratory conditions. These are problems that an otolaryngologist can easily help you treat or manage. Common lung conditions that can affect breathing include:
Asthma: a chronic condition that affects millions and causes inflammation and airway constriction, which results in coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. Symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.
Pneumonia: an infection of the respiratory tract that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs. It’s important to see an otolaryngologist immediately for treatment, as untreated pneumonia could be dangerous (and also highly contagious). Symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Shortness of breath
- Shallow breathing
- Productive cough, often with yellow or green mucus
- Chest pain that occurs when breathing deeply or coughing
- Muscle aches
- Sweating and fever
- Loss of appetite
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): this is a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases that cause airway obstructions within the lungs. The most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, a condition that most often occurs in smokers. Common symptoms of COPD include:
- Mucus production
- Persistent cough
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness
This is a progressive condition that will make breathing even more difficult as the condition advances. It’s important to see an ENT doctor right away if you notice any symptoms of COPD. Early symptoms include exercise-induced rapid breathing, a persistent cough, and clearing your throat often (usually in the morning).
Lung cancer: this type of cancer develops anywhere in the lungs, allowing abnormal cells to multiply until a tumor forms. While many people who develop lung cancer are smokers, this form of cancer can also develop in those who have never smoked a day in their life. Early warning signs of lung cancer include:
- Vocal changes
- Chronic cough
- Bloody mucus when coughing
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling weak
- Unexpected weight loss
Since the early warning signs associated with lung cancer can also be caused by other respiratory conditions it is important to turn to an ear, nose, and throat doctor who will be able to perform the proper diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
If you are having trouble catching your breath it’s important that you find out why this is happening to you. Call your ENT doctor today for an evaluation.
Feeling dizzy for a while after an intense roller coaster ride is normal; reading in a moving vehicle may cause you to feel nauseated. These uncomfortable feelings are temporary, but for people with a vestibular disorder, they last for days or weeks. Fortunately, the staff at Texas Ear and Vestibular Institute - Dr. Andrew Senchak and Dr. Margo Stewart - in McKinney, TX, are highly trained in diagnosing and treating the dizziness and nausea associated with vestibular disorders. Read on to learn more.
What is vestibular disorder?
Your ears are a small part of your body, but they are made up of a vast network of bone, cartilage, and blood vessels that not only control your hearing, but your sense of balance as well. The fluid inside the ear canal provides signals to the brain upon movement, which then adjusts for both subtle and quick activity. Disruption to the way your vestibular system functions causes uncomfortable symptoms that your ENT will discuss in the next section.
What are the symptoms of vestibular disorder?
People with vestibular disorder often seek medical attention from their ENT after a period of time in which they feel dizzy, off-balance, or disoriented. Some of our patients at the Texas Ear and Vestibular Institute in McKinney also report feeling nauseated or being unable to walk properly. These symptoms can have a negative effect on your entire life; driving, sleeping, and interacting with other people can be a challenge to those with vestibular disorder.
What causes vestibular disorder?
Pinning down the cause of vestibular disorder can be complicated. An untreated ear infection can lead to dizziness and balance problems. Tiny calcium deposits in the ear canal is another common cause. Certain medications may produce side effects that cause vestibular disorder, and those who have had a traumatic brain injury may have lasting effects on their vestibular system. Discussing your medical history with your ENT will help determine what's causing your vestibular disorder.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Senchak or Dr. Stewart, contact Texas Ear and Vestibular Institute in McKinney, TX, at (469) 678-2211 for an evaluation today.
Dealing with an earache can be quite painful. Children are often more likely to develop ear infections than adults, which is why it’s important to understand why ear infections happen and how to spot the warning signs. After all, the majority of children will experience at least one ear infection by the time they turn three years old.
Causes of Ear Infections
Within the ears lie Eustachian tubes, which are small passages that connect the middle ear to the back of throat. Every time you yawn or swallow the Eustachian tubes open, which is why when an ear infection occurs this causes pain and pressure whenever you sneeze or swallow. During an infection, the Eustachian tube either swell or become blocked, which causes fluid buildup within the middle ear.
There are many things that can cause an ear infection but the most common causes include:
- Changes in air pressure
- Common cold
As we mentioned above, children are more likely to experience ear infections because they have narrower Eustachian tubes. Children are also more likely to develop ear infections if they are dealing with another illness or infection such as a cold, are exposed to smoke or experience changes in climate or altitude.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
Unfortunately, young children can’t always tell us when they are experiencing an ear infection; however, there are signs you can lookout for. A classic sign is pulling or tugging at the ear. You may also notice that your child is fussier than usual or cries when lying down. Your child may also become clingier.
If you notice pus draining from the ear or if your child is displaying sudden symptoms of hearing loss (e.g. not responding to vocal cues or sounds) then it’s time to bring them to an otolaryngologist as soon as possible. If your child’s ear infection is accompanied by a fever over 102 degrees F, it’s also important that you seek immediate medical care.
Of course, older children will be able to complain about pressure or pain in their ear, common signs of an infection. The pain may be dull and achy or it can be sharp and stabbing. Any ear pain warrants seeing an ENT doctor just to be on the safe side.
Treating Ear Infections
A simple ear exam is often all that’s needed to be able to diagnose an ear infection. While some ear infections will clear up on their own sometimes your ear, nose & throat doctor will provide you with antibiotic drops or even drops to help soothe pain. Children under 2 years old who have an ear infection will likely receive antibiotics.
Dealing with an ear infection? Think your child may have an infection? If so, an ENT doctor is the right person to turn to when these infections start brewing.
It’s normal to experience bouts of dizziness if we are stressed, taking certain medications or haven’t eaten in a while; however, what might be going on if your dizziness persists? Dizziness isn’t an uncommon symptom. In fact, most people will experience dizziness that is serious enough to warrant seeing a doctor. While you may visit a family physician to find out what’s going on, don’t be surprised if you end up being referred to an ear, nose & throat doctor.
What causes dizziness?
Dizziness refers to a serious of sensations that make you feel lightheaded, off balance, unsteady or feeling like the world around you is spinning (vertigo). Sometimes dizziness may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, particularly during more severe episodes. These symptoms can be unnerving but an otolaryngologist can often help.
The most common causes of dizziness that we see include:
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): This problem affects the inner ear and can lead to persistent episodes of vertigo. Symptoms usually last no more than a minute and will typically come and go. Unfortunately, there often is no cause of BPPV; however, sometimes migraines or inner ear damage may be to blame. Sometimes this condition will go away on its own but an ENT doctor can also provide you with treatment options such as physical therapy that can get rid of symptoms sooner.
Vestibular neuronitis: Inflammation of the eight cranial nerve, known as the vestibular nerve, results in severe vertigo episodes that may cause you to lose balance. This condition can also cause nausea and vomiting. Symptoms usually last anywhere from 7 to 10 days and become milder over the course of several months. A viral or bacterial infection is usually to blame for inflammation of the vestibular nerve.
There are certain medications that can be prescribed by an ENT specialist to help lessen the severity and duration of your symptoms. Sometimes a special type of physical therapy is performed to treat this condition.
Labyrinthitis: This inner ear disorder occurs when one of the two vestibular nerves becomes inflamed. Along with dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and nausea you may also lose hearing in one ear. Any changes to your hearing warrant immediate medical attention. Viral, respiratory, and bacterial infections can all cause this disorder.
Medications such as corticosteroids, sedatives and antihistamines may be prescribed to help with your symptoms. Just like with vestibular neuronitis, a type of physical therapy known as vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) may also be recommended.
Meniere disease: This progressive inner ear condition also causes similar symptoms to labyrinthitis including tinnitus, hearing loss, pressure in the ears, and dizziness. Symptoms will gradually get worse over time, and these attacks may also cause a rapid pulse, blurry vision and anxiety.
While there is no cure, there are treatment options that can effectively manage your dizziness and also reduce fluid in the ear. Medications such as steroids, motion sickness medicines, and diuretics are often used, as well as rehabilitation, therapy, hearing aids, and sometimes surgery.
If you are dealing with dizziness or any other warning signs of an ear problem it’s a good time to turn to an ENT doctor who can help you find the right treatment to get you back on two steady feet again.
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