Nasal congestion, nasal blockages, facial pain, and pressure—these are all symptoms that arise when sinuses go rogue. Just like the rest of the body, these hollow cavities within the skull can also fall victim to a variety of conditions and problems. The most common sinus problems include:
Acute sinusitis (also known as a sinus infection)
Unfortunately, there are countless people around the world dealing with these problems, and these chronic sinus problems have even been linked to a higher rate of depression. This is why it’s so important to have an otolaryngologist by your side that can help you get to the bottom of your symptoms and improve how your sinuses feel and function.
Millions of Americans deal with acute sinus infections each year. While they can be a nuisance, they usually don’t cause much harm and will often just run their course without treatment. In the meantime, you can ease your symptoms by applying warm facial compresses, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, staying hydrated and using nasal sprays, if necessary. Symptoms of acute sinusitis usually go away within one month.
Unfortunately, there are some people who deal with chronic sinusitis, in which symptoms last more than three months and don’t seem to respond to at-home care. When this happens it’s important that you seek medical care from a qualified ENT doctor who can provide you with more aggressive options for handling the infection.
In the past, the only treatment option for severe or chronic sinus infections was t surgery; however, now ENT doctors offer a minimally invasive treatment known as balloon sinuplasty, which is quick and easy to perform, doesn’t require any incisions or bone removal, and boasts a very fast recovery period. Balloon sinuplasty can be a great alternative to traditional sinus surgery.
A lot of people have a deviated septum but might not even realize it. If it isn’t giving you any problems then it’s not something to worry about; however, if you are dealing with severe or chronic nasal congestion, particularly on one side, this could definitely be alerting you to the fact that you have a deviated septum. Those with a deviated septum are also more likely to develop nosebleeds or recurring sinus infections. Surgery is often required to repair the septum.
Allergies are another common issue that people deal with, particularly during certain times of the year. If you find yourself fighting back sneezing and congestion rather frequently then you could be allergic to pollen, pet dander, or dust mites. Other allergy symptoms include:
Runny or stuffy nose
There are a variety of medications and lifestyle modifications that can keep your allergies in check. It’s important that you seek the care of an ENT specialist, as untreated allergy symptoms can often get worse.
Do you find that certain times of the year it’s difficult to go outdoors without developing watery itchy eyes or sneezing your head off? Does coming in contact with your friends’ pets leave you dealing with red itchy welts on your skin and a runny nose? If you said “yes” to these questions, you could very well be dealing with allergies.
While there isn’t a cure for allergies, there are many ways to treat this issue. If you aren’t finding relief through over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays, and other allergy medications, it’s time to turn to an otolaryngologist for help. It’s important that you don’t just ignore your allergy symptoms, as they can often get worse if left untreated.
First and foremost, it’s important to figure out what is causing your allergy symptoms to flare-up. Everything from pollen, mold dust, dust mites, dander, and mildew could be causing your symptoms. The sooner you and your ENT doctor are able to get to the root of your flare-ups the easier it will be to treat your allergies.
While an otolaryngologist may choose to prescribe medication to help you better manage your symptoms, there are also a variety of lifestyle modifications you can incorporate into your daily routine to reduce flare-ups.
For starters, it’s important to reduce how often you come in contact with the offending allergen. This may require you to close your windows during the day, vacuum the carpets and furniture a few times a week, bathe your trusty pet regularly, use an air purifier with a HEPA filter in your bedroom, or place a protective covering over your mattress.
Even though some people may find relief from commercial allergy products, those dealing with persistent or moderate-to-severe allergies may require a more specific and stronger medication. There are a variety of prescription nasal sprays, eye drops, and other antihistamines that can reduce congestion, eye redness and itching, and other allergy complaints. Of course, if these lifestyle changes and medications aren’t enough to get your symptoms under control then your allergy specialist may discuss the pros and cons of getting allergy shots.
Don’t let allergies get the better of you. There are ways to get your allergies under control so they don’t control you. Don’t fight your allergy alone; turn to an ENT specialist for help.
Dander is a common allergen made up of tiny flakes and particles of skin from common household pets like cats, dogs, birds and rodents. Dander is harmless to adults and children who do not suffer from allergies, however people who sneeze and become congested around certain animals might be allergic. Pet allergies can range from mild to severe, with treatment options ranging from over the counter antihistamines, to prescription medication from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
What You Need to Know About Dander and Pet Allergies
In addition to their skin, fur and feathers, animals like cats and dogs can also trigger allergic reactions in humans through proteins found in their saliva, urine and dried feces. So even the owner of a short haired or hairless cat may still experience an allergic reaction while cleaning out the cat litter or removing soiled newspaper from a dog's crate. Although many domestic animal breeds are marketed as non-allergenic alternatives, ENT specialists advise highly allergic adults or parents of children with allergies to exercise caution, given that allergens are not exclusive to fur and can still be found in the pet's saliva, regardless of their coat.
A few facts about dander and pet allergens according to the American Lung Association:
- Americans are more than twice as likely to report allergies to cats than to dogs
- Female cats produce more of the protein (Fel d I) associated with cat allergies in humans
- Pet allergens tend to remain airborne longer than dust mites and other sources, and can remain in the home for weeks and months at a time, even if the animal is removed
- Pet allergens travel easily through dust and on clothes, and can also be found in buildings and homes without pets
- Pet allergens can trigger asthma in people with the condition
Symptoms of pet allergies:
- Congestion and runny nose
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Rashes and skin irritation like eczema
- Difficulty breathing
Cancers that are categorized as head and neck encompass the areas from the nasal passage and sinuses in the head, down to the opening of the esophagus at the base of the throat. Also known as squamous cell carcinomas, this type of cancer affects the mucous membranes lining the nose, mouth, and throat. Treatment for this form of cancer is managed by an otolaryngologist, or ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT).
Types of Head and Neck Cancers
- Oral Cavity - lips, tongue, gums, cheek lining, floor of the mouth, and the hard palette (roof) of the mouth
- Pharynx (throat) - nasopharynx (behind the nose), oropharynx (area made up of the soft palette, back third of the tongue, and the tonsils), hypopharynx (bottom or the pharynx, which connects to the esophagus)
- Larynx - (voice box, vocal cords)
- Sinuses and nasal cavity
- Salivary glands
A: Many of the symptoms for oral and throat cancers are similar to benign conditions. ENT doctors advise patients to pay attention to unexplained symptoms that persist beyond a few weeks, do not respond to treatment or clear up and then return frequently. The most common set of symptoms include:
- Sores in the mouth, gums or tongue that do not heal
- Chronic sore throat
- Hoarseness or changes in the voice
- Swelling and bleeding from the throat or nose
- Difficulty breathing, speaking or swallowing
- Chronic headaches or earaches
- Hearing impairment
- Chronic sinus infections that do not clear up with antibiotics
- Numbness and/or facial paralysis
A: While this type of cancer can technically affect anyone, it is more common in men over the age of 50.
Q: Are head and neck cancers preventable?
A: The most common cause of oral cancers is tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption. Abstaining from tobacco use (cigarettes and nicotine products) and avoiding or drinking alcohol in moderation is highly recommended. Good oral hygiene with daily flossing and brushing and regular dental check-ups, as well as a healthy diet can also lower the risk. Head and neck cancers can be treated successfully when caught early. Reporting suspicious symptoms to an ENT specialist as soon as possible is important for early detection.
Q: What are the treatment options for head and neck cancers?
A: Treatment varies from patient to patient depending on the type of cancer, location, stage at time of diagnosis and the patient's overall health. Most cancers are typically treated with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or targeted drug therapy.
Also known as canker sores and ulcers, mouth sores usually result from bite injuries or allergic reactions. They can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Unlike cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HS1 and HS2) and develop on the lips and the skin around the mouth, non-Herpes related mouth sores can form on the gums, tongue, lips, the lining of the cheeks and throat. Canker sores are not contagious, and usually clear up on their own. They tend to be painful and can be treated with topical over the counter analgesics, mouthwashes and rinses. If mouth sores do not resolve on their own and last longer than three weeks, it may be necessary to seek treatment from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
Common Causes of Mouth Ulcers and Canker Sores
Accidental biting is the most common cause, along with friction from toothbrushing, orthodontics or dentures. Diet can also play a role, in the form of food allergies to anything from coffee, chocolate and highly acidic foods and citrus fruits. Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals like folic acid, B12, iron, folate and zinc can also cause mouth ulcers. Sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste and oral bacteria like Helicobacter pylori (which is also responsible for stomach ulcers) can cause lesions in the mouth as well.
Lifestyle factors like smoking and elevated stress levels are another cause. Ulcers that persist for more than a few weeks, do not respond to self-care and over the counter treatments and are accompanied by additional symptoms like fever, excessive pain, swelling and difficulty eating and drinking, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Schedule an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- swollen lymph nodes
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
Is an Underlying Medical Condition Causing My Mouth Sores?
Persistent and chronic mouth sores can sometimes be a symptom of immune deficiencies or inflammatory conditions like lupus, Celiac, Behcet's and Chron's Disease. Contact an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) for more information on treatment options and symptom relief.
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