Visiting the Right Specialist: 10 Ailments That Call for an ENT Doctors

By on January 24, 2020
ENT Doctors

Otolaryngologists, better known as ear-nose-throat or simply ENT doctors, treat conditions that affect the head and neck. All ENT doctors receive at least five years of training in addition to their first four years of medical school, and many receive an additional one to two years of training in an ENT subspecialty like laryngology, otology, neurotology, or another specialized area.

Those who believe they may be experiencing life-threatening symptoms affecting the ear, nose, and throat should learn about the ENT vs ER How to Know Where to Go. Patients who are not experiencing medical emergencies can read on to find out about ten of the most common conditions treated by ENT doctors to determine whether these specialists might be able to help.

Ear Infections

Ear infections occur when the Eustachian tube, the canal leading from the ear into the back of the throat, becomes clogged by fluid or mucus, allowing bacteria to enter the ear. Symptoms of ear infections include pain, pressure, fever, balance issues, hearing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, and fluid discharge. They are more common in infants and children but can occur at any age.

Strep Throat

Strep throat occurs when the throat becomes infected with streptococci bacteria. Symptoms include sore throat, swallowing problems, enlarged tonsils and lymph nodes, white patches in the back of the throat, fever, aches, and fatigue. Unlike other infections with similar symptoms, strep throat does not cause a runny nose or cough. ENTs diagnose strep throat using throat cultures.

Acute and Chronic Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an infection of the hollow recesses surrounding the eyes and nose. Acute sinusitis is often caused by colds, while chronic sinusitis, in which symptoms occur for more than three months, is typically the result of either untreated allergies or bronchial asthma. Head to an ENT when symptoms of sinusitis such as headache, cough, nasal discharge, congestion, fever, fatigue, and toothaches occur.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to stop breathing for short periods while they are asleep. Symptoms may include daytime drowsiness, mood swings, depression, dry throat, morning headaches, and frequently waking up in the middle of the night. Sleep apnea increases the risk of developing other serious health complications like hypertension, coronary artery disease, and strokes, so don’t put off visiting an ENT.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

Vocal cord paralysis affects the nerve impulses in the larynx or voice box. It affects patients’ abilities to speak, breathe, eat, and drink normally and can be caused by viral infections, nerve damage during surgery, and certain types of cancer. Treatment for vocal cord paralysis typically requires a combination of surgery and voice therapy.

Nonallergic Rhinitis

The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to those of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. Common symptoms include stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, postnasal drip, and cough but do not typically include itchy nose, eyes, or throat. Every patient’s nonallergic rhinitis triggers are different but most include exposure to odors or irritants, sensitivity to weather changes, medications, foods, or chronic health conditions.

Hyposmia and Anosmia

The partial loss of smell, or hyposmia, and full loss of smell, anosmia, can dramatically impact patients’ quality of life, preventing them from noticing potential dangers like smoke or spoiled food and causing many people to lose interest in eating. Temporary hyposmia and anosmia can be caused by colds, nasal polyps, and nasal fractures, while the permanent loss of smell is more commonly caused by damage to the nerves or the brain. Patients should see an ENT doctor if their loss of smell lasts more than a few days.

Head and Neck Cancers

ENT doctors treat cancers affecting the head and neck, including lip and mouth cancer, nasal or paranasal tumors, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, pituitary or salivary glad tumors, throat, tongue, tonsil, and thyroid cancer, soft palate cancer, and skin cancer. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. After receiving treatment, many patients must continue to work with ENT doctors and rehabilitation specialists to treat secondary symptoms like hearing loss, thyroid issues, and difficulty with breathing, speaking or eating normally.

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Cystic Fibrosis

This inherited disorder causes damage to the lungs, digestive system, and other organs that produce mucus, sweat, or digestive fluids. It causes these fluids, which are normally thin and slippery, to thicken and become sticky. The secretions then plug up passageways in the body, causing serious breathing problems like damaged airways, repeated lung infections, and respiratory failure and digestive symptoms like poor weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, intestinal blockages, and severe constipation.

Although cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disorder with no known cure, it can be managed much more successfully today than in decades past. With the help of an ENT and other specialists, many patients with cystic fibrosis can now live fulfilling lives well into middle-age.

Hearing Loss

There are three types of hearing loss treated by ENT doctors: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss. Except for hearing loss caused by excessive earwax, most forms of this disorder cannot be reversed, but a specialist can help patients cope with it by prescribing hearing aids. Anyone who has found that his or her hearing loss is interfering with daily life should make an appointment with an ENT to discuss options.

Most forms of hearing loss occur gradually, so it can be difficult for patients to determine whether they need to see a specialist. As a general rule of thumb, patients should see an ENT doctor if their hearing loss is causing them to avoid social settings or interfering with their abilities to communicate with friends and family. Anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss should seek immediate medical attention.

The Bottom Line

The conditions listed above are just ten of the dozens of illnesses and disorders treated by ENT doctors. Some are chronic while others are acute, and some can be cured while others can only be managed. What they all have in common is that they are best treated by a specialist with plenty of training and experience helping patients with similar problems. Anyone struggling with head or neck disorders should schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist today.

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Visiting the Right Specialist: 10 Ailments That Call for an ENT Doctors