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.
When you or a family member presents with a respiratory infection it’s rather difficult to be able to tell which one it is. This is because many of them share similar symptoms. So how do you know whether you are dealing with tonsillitis, the influenza virus, or strep throat? Turning to an otolaryngologist can give you the answers and the relief you’re looking for.
What is tonsillitis?
The two lymph nodes located on both sides of the back of the throat are known as tonsils. They are the body’s first defense against preventing infection; however, even tonsils can become infected and when they do this is known as tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can happen to anyone but is more common in children and teens. Tonsillitis is contagious, so it can easily spread if you come in contact with someone who is infected. There are three main types of tonsillitis: acute, chronic and recurrent. Most children will develop acute tonsillitis at least once during their lifetime.
What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?
Symptoms of tonsillitis may include:
- A severe sore throat
- Trouble or pain with swallowing
- Persistent bad breath
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes of the neck and jaw
- Red, swollen tonsils
- White or yellow spots on the tonsils
Symptoms of acute tonsillitis usually go away within 7-10 days; however, if symptoms keep coming back throughout the year then your child could very well be dealing with recurrent or chronic tonsillitis. It’s important that if symptoms of tonsillitis worsen or return that you see an ENT doctor.
Furthermore, it isn’t always easy to tell whether a sore throat is the result of a cold, tonsillitis or strep throat; however, sore throats caused by colds are usually mild and will get better within a couple of days. This type of sore throat will often be accompanied by other cold symptoms such as a runny nose.
If your sore throat is caused by tonsillitis or strep the pain will be severe and can make it difficult to swallow. Those with tonsillitis may experience pain located in the back of the throat, where the tonsils are located. In order to diagnose a strep throat your doctor will need to swab the back of the throat to look for bacteria.
How is tonsillitis treated?
Acute tonsillitis will go away on its own but rest and home care can go a long way to relieving symptoms; however, if tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection such as strep, your doctor will need to prescribe a round of antibiotics.
If your child is dealing with chronic or recurring tonsillitis then you may want to talk with your ear, nose and throat doctor about the benefits of having their tonsils removed (known as a tonsillectomy). This is a simple surgical procedure that can often be performed right in your otolaryngologist’s office.
If your child is dealing with severe throat pain and you’re worried that they could have tonsillitis then call your ENT specialist today for an immediate evaluation.
Just like breathing or blinking, swallowing is an involuntary habit that we don’t often think about; however, swallowing is an important part of everything from speaking and socializing to consuming delicious food. Unfortunately, there are disorders that can affect a person’s ability to swallow. A swallowing disorder can be uncomfortable and troublesome, and a visit to an otolaryngologist can give you the answers you’re looking for as to what’s going on.
Some people having pain when they swallow while others may have trouble swallowing certain foods or feel as if there is something stuck in their throat. As a result, they may have trouble getting the proper nutrients and calories they need. Swallowing disorders are more common as a person ages. Swallowing disorders usually fit into one of two categories: esophageal and oropharnygeal dysphagia.
People who often feel like they have something in their throats are often dealing with esophageal dysphagia as a result of:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
- Esophageal spasms
- Achalasia (esophageal sphincter dysfunction)
- Scar tissue of the esophagus
- Certain medications that can cause dry mouth
There are certain conditions that can also affect how the muscles in the throat function, which makes it more difficult to swallow food properly. Common causes include neurological disorders, nerve damage (spinal cord or brain injuries) and cancers of the head, neck, and throat.
Along with trouble swallowing, those with swallowing disorders may also experience:
- Coughing after swallowing
- The sensation of food being stuck in the throat
- Sore throat
- Chest discomfort
If you experience persistent issues swallowing or if you also experience vomiting, regurgitation, or unexpected weight loss along with swallowing difficulties then it’s time to see an otolaryngologist.
Diagnosing Swallowing Disorders
To determine the cause of a patient’s swallowing problems their ENT doctor will go through their medical history, ask questions about the symptoms they are experiencing and then perform a physical examination. Based on the patient’s answers, your doctor will then determine which testing is needed to make a diagnosis. Common diagnostic tests include:
- Esophageal muscle test (manometry)
- CT scan
- Dynamic swallowing study
- Barium esophagram
- 24-hour pH impedance (to evaluate acid reflux and regurgitation)
Treating Swallowing Disorders
As you can see from the list above, there are many conditions and causes that could result in swallowing disorders. Therefore, the treatment you receive will depend on the cause and severity of your symptoms. Your ENT specialist will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan to reduce symptoms. With chronic conditions, your doctor will find ways to help you manage the underlying condition to make swallowing easier.
Contrary to what you might think, earwax is actually beneficial for protecting your ear from infection. It lubricates and keeps the ear canals clean of bacteria and dirt. Ears are typically self-cleaning, so you shouldn’t have to clean your ears regularly (and in some cases ever); however, sometimes your ears can use a little help. If you are dealing with an earwax blockage, or you are prone to blockages, you will most certainly want to turn to an otolaryngologist to find out the cause of these recurring blockages and ways to keep your ears clean.
Most people use cotton swabs when they clean their ears. The problem with this is that it often serves the opposite purpose, and just pushes the wax further into the ear canal. Using a cotton swab inside the ear can also lead to damage to the ear canal or eardrum. Again, if earwax buildup is a common problem for you this is something you should talk to your ENT doctor about. A simple rule to follow: Cotton swabs should be off limits for cleaning your ears.
Cleaning Your Ears at Home
If you are dealing with a blockage you may be able to remove the earwax yourself with these gentle measures. First, you will want to soften the wax. There are over-the-counter products with a special glycerin solution that can help to breakdown the wax. You can also choose to fill an eyedropper with baby oil or hydrogen peroxide and apply a couple of drops into the ear.
You will want to leave the oil in your ear for up to two days before squirting warm water into the ear canal using a rubber syringe. Again, this syringe can be found as part of an over-the-counter wax removal kit at your local drugstore. Once you have rinsed out the ear make sure to use a towel to dry the outer part of the ear only. If you are prone to ear infections you may want to use a blow dryer to gently dry the ear.
Since everyone’s ears are shaped a little differently this means that the cleaning method that works well for one person might not work as well for another. If you have excess buildup of earwax you may notice:
- Ear pain
- Fullness or ringing in the ears
- Muffled hearing
If you wear a hearing aid you may be prone to earwax buildup, so it’s important that you talk with your ENT doctor about ways to reduce your chances for developing impacted earwax. In some cases, doctors may recommend coming in every six months or once a year so they can remove excess earwax safely and effectively without causing damage to the ears.
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