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.
Nosebleeds happen to most of us at some point during our lifetime. While it can be startling, nosebleeds are typically harmless and nothing to worry about. Of course, if you battle nosebleeds rather regularly you may be wondering what’s going on and whether you should turn to an otolaryngologist for an evaluation. Here’s what you should know about getting a nosebleed.
Common Causes of a Nosebleed
The blood vessels within our nose are very delicate, which means that they are prone to bursting and causing nosebleeds. Therefore, the two most common causes of nosebleeds are nose picking and dry air. Dry air can dry out the nasal passages, which leaves the area prone to infection and cracking.
Other causes include:
- Repeated nose blowing
- Broken nose
- Acute or chronic sinusitis (a sinus infection)
- Common cold
- Certain allergy medications (these medications can dry out the nose)
- Traumatic injury to the nose
- Deviated septum
- Bleeding disorders
- High altitude
- Excessive use of blood thinners or anti-inflammatory medications
There are two main types of nosebleeds: anterior and posterior. An anterior nosebleed is a bleed that originates in the septum of the nose (the wall that separates the two nasal passages). These nosebleeds are minor and can be treated with home care. If your child experiences nosebleeds an anterior nosebleed is usually the cause.
Posterior nosebleeds occur further back in the nose where the artery branches are located. This type of nosebleed is much heavier, occurs more often in adults and may require medical care. While rare, it is possible for a posterior nosebleed to be a sign of high blood pressure or a blood disorder (e.g. hemophilia).
When to See a Doctor
While most people will be able to treat a simple nosebleed on their own without having to seek medical care, it’s important to see a doctor right away if:
- Your nosebleed is affecting your ability to breath
- Bleeding lasts more than 20 minutes
- Your nosebleed is the result of a traumatic injury or accident
- There is a significant amount of blood
While it’s not considered an emergency situation, it is a good idea to talk with your ENT doctor if you or your child experiences nosebleeds often. During an evaluation an ear, nose and throat doctor can ask you questions about your symptoms, perform a quick examination of the nose and determine the underlying cause of your persistent nosebleeds.
If you are concerned about you or your child’s nosebleeds then it’s best to play it safe and to schedule an appointment with an otolaryngologist. Call our office today.
Cancer can grow anywhere in the body, even the head and neck. These cancers are twice as common among men and they are usually diagnosed in adults over 50 years old. The common types of head and neck cancer include:
- Oral cavity
- Oropharnygeal (in the throat or back of the mouth)
- Nasal cavity
- Paranasal sinus
- Laryngeal (in the voice box)
- Hypopharyngeal (behind or beside the voice box)
Most of the time people don’t find out that they have head and neck cancer until symptoms start to surface that warrant visiting the doctor. Sometimes a dentist may be able to pinpoint early changes during your routine dental cleanings; however, your doctor may send you to an otolaryngologist for a more comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
During your evaluation, an ENT doctor will ask you questions regarding your current health and any symptoms you are experiencing. From there, your doctor will determine the best tests to perform to detect head and neck cancer. These tests may include a physical examination of the head and neck, a CT or MRI scan, or a biopsy.
If you are diagnosed with head and neck cancer the first thing your doctor will want to do is determine what stage the cancer is (which simply means determining how far the cancer has spread). The stages let us know the extent of the cancer’s growth but also which organs have been affected or could soon be affected. Stages of cancer range from 0-4, with the lower stages indicating that the cancer hasn’t spread to other organs or isn’t spreading quickly.
Treating Head and Neck Cancer
Today, there are many treatment options for head and neck cancer and your doctor will be able to go through the different options to determine the right plan for you. The type of treatment or treatments you will receive will depend on the stage and location of your cancer.
Localized treatments such as surgery or radiation are used to treat only the cancer and do not affect the body as a whole, while systemic treatments such as chemo and targeted therapy drugs will affect the whole body. Systemic treatments are often used on patients with more advanced stages of cancer that have spread to other areas of the body.
Surgery may be recommended if the cancer isn’t in a difficult location in which to operate. Surgery can be performed to remove lymph nodes from the neck or to remove part or all of a structure such as the voice box or jawbone.
If you are noticing changes in your voice, an oral sore or lesion that doesn’t heal, or a mass in the head or neck region it’s a good idea to see your ear, nose, and throat doctor right away for a thorough examination. The sooner head and neck cancer is detected the better.
According to the CDC, about 1 in 13 people, or 25 million people in the US have asthma. Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes the airways to swell and narrow, making it more difficult to breathe. As a result, someone with asthma may experience wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, or trouble breathing.
Asthma is serious and an attack can be deadly if left untreated. While there is no cure for asthma, it can be well managed with the proper medication. If you are having trouble breathing or experiencing other symptoms of asthma it’s time to see an otolaryngologist for a proper evaluation.
Even though asthma is often diagnosed in childhood it is possible for asthma to occur in adults, too. The cause of asthma is still not fully understood; however, it’s believed that it’s a combination of environmental triggers and genes. Therefore, if a family member has asthma you are more likely to develop asthma, too. Furthermore, allergies and certain childhood viral infections can also lead to the development of asthma. Some asthma triggers include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Dust mites
- Air pollution
- Cold air
- Respiratory infections
Sometimes asthma symptoms get overlooked or are misdiagnosed as a respiratory infection or cold; however, if you or your child is experiencing recurring colds it’s a good idea to see an ENT doctor to determine if it could be asthma. Leaving asthma untreated can be life threatening.
No matter when asthma develops, the treatment for both children and adults is relatively the same. Your asthma & allergy doctor will provide you with a regular maintenance medication that you will use everyday to help reduce airway inflammation and to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place.
Along with maintenance medication your doctor will also prescribe a fast-acting medication. This should only be used when asthma symptoms flare-up. The moment you notice chest tightness, wheezing or others symptoms it’s important that you use your quick-relief inhaler, which will immediately relax the muscles around the airways to make it easier to breathe.
Along with medication there are also lifestyle modifications that can reduce your exposure to asthma triggers. Your treatment plan will be tailored to your triggers, lifestyle, and health to reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
If you or your child is having trouble breathing it’s important to see your otolaryngologist right away to find out if asthma is to blame.
While a nose job may seem purely cosmetic it actually offers health benefits, as well.
When we hear the words “nose job” we automatically think about the cosmetic enhancement that many people want to improve the shape and overall appearance of their nose; however, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to a rhinoplasty. In fact, this procedure isn’t always cosmetic. Sometimes people need a rhinoplasty to improve their health. Find out when a rhinoplasty may be a necessity rather than just a cosmetic treatment.
Medical Reasons for a Rhinoplasty
One condition that may warrant getting a rhinoplasty is a birth defect known as a cleft lip or cleft palate. This congenital problem can make it challenging for children to eat or get the nutrients they require to grow up big and strong. Because of this, a rhinoplasty is often recommended by an otolaryngologist to correct the defect.
Of course, there are a multitude of conditions and injuries that may require rhinoplasty treatment. If someone has chronic nasal inflammation due to allergies and has severe breathing issues then a rhinoplasty may be the right procedure to improve their breathing.
Injuries or trauma to the nose (e.g. a broken nose) may also necessitate a rhinoplasty to correct the deformation.
Of course, no matter whether this procedure is cosmetic or medically necessary, there are two ways to perform this procedure: an open and a closed rhinoplasty. An open rhinoplasty is when the ENT doctor cuts into the septum to restructure the nose. When an incision is made into the nostrils and performed here this procedure is known as a closed rhinoplasty.
Whether you get an open or closed rhinoplasty will depend on several factors including the goals behind your treatment, any injuries or conditions you want to treat, and the thickness of the skin that we will be working on.
If you want to find out more about whether a rhinoplasty may alleviate your breathing problems then it’s time to talk to an ENT expert who can examine your nose and determine whether you are an ideal candidate.
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