Do you feel like you’re constantly dealing with a stuffy nose? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. There are many people out there that feel like they can’t breathe properly due to nasal congestion. While this may be a frustrating problem and one that’s challenging to tackle on your own, an otolaryngologist can help you find the relief you need.
The two most common causes of persistent nasal congestion are chronic sinusitis and allergic rhinitis. ENT doctors are seeing more and more patients who are dealing with these conditions. In order to properly treat these conditions you should see an ear, nose and throat specialist who will be able to determine the cause of your symptoms so they can create an effective treatment plan.
What is allergic rhinitis?
If you are someone who is allergic to animal dander, dust or pollen then you may be dealing with allergic rhinitis. Being exposed to these common allergens can lead to inflammation of the nose and sinuses, which can make it difficult to breathe. Allergic rhinitis is a common condition affecting both children and adults in the US. Along with chronic nasal congestion you may also experience a runny nose, postnasal drip, coughing, itchy nose, or sneezing.
Some people experience symptoms all year round while for others their symptoms are seasonal. Seasonal allergies caused by pollen, dust mites, and cockroaches may flare up throughout the year with bouts of remission.
What is chronic sinusitis?
Most people will deal with sinusitis, or sinus infection, at least once during their lifetime; however, sometimes this condition doesn’t go away with simple at-home care and treatment. When symptoms persistent for more than 12 weeks and don’t respond to conservative care then this is considered chronic. The common symptoms of chronic sinusitis include nasal congestion or a blockage, nasal drainage, decreased sense of smell, and facial pressure.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between allergic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. This is why it’s a good idea to visit an otolaryngologist if you are dealing with persistent nasal congestion that doesn’t go away with at-home care. Both of these conditions can be controlled through lifestyle modifications, prescription medication, minimally invasive procedures, and allergy shots. Your doctor will be able to sit down with you and discuss the different treatment options available to you.
From outdoor allergies to asthma, there are many reasons why you or your child may be having trouble with your breathing. Breathing problems can be distressing and it’s important to understand when symptoms warrant seeing an otolaryngologist for a proper evaluation.
Common Causes of Breathing Problems
You may have trouble breathing if you are dealing with:
- Common cold
- Acute or chronic sinusitis
- Deviated septum
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Other upper respiratory infections (e.g. pneumonia)
While some conditions like the common cold will only cause mild and temporary symptoms, if you notice that your symptoms are serious, don’t respond to at-home care or are getting worse then it’s time to seek medical attention. After all, there are certain conditions such as sinusitis that can become chronic if not properly treated. An ENT doctor will know exactly what medications and treatments to offer to reduce sinus inflammation and to make breathing easier.
Chronic breathing problems, particularly those caused by allergies and asthma, may also be associated with:
- Chest tightness or congestion
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Coughing that gets worse at night
- Shallow breathing
Asthma symptoms are usually detected early in childhood; however, it is still possible for adults to be diagnosed later in life (known as adult-onset asthma). If you or your child are experiencing difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest made worse by cold air, stress, or exercise it’s important that you see an ENT doctor right away. While asthma cannot be cured it can be properly managed with long-term medication. Leaving asthma untreated could be harmful to your health.
Testing and Diagnosis
When you come into the office an otolaryngologist will have you fill out detailed information about your family and personal medical history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam. Pulmonary function tests are often used to test lung function in those suspected of having asthma. Of course, there are other breathing tests such as spirometry. Your doctor will also ask you questions about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing in order to rule out certain conditions or illnesses.
The treatment plan you receive will depend on the issue you are dealing with. For example, acute sinusitis can often be managed with over-the-counter nasal decongestants and antihistamines while chronic sinusitis may require more aggressive treatment such as prescription steroid sprays, oral corticosteroids, and endoscopic nasal surgery to remove the blockage or to repair the deviated septum. Your otolaryngologist can help you get your breathing problems under control.
You woke up with an intense and persistent pain in your ear. All sound is muffled and it feels like your ear is stuffed with cotton. These symptoms are likely due to an ear infection. While ear infections can happen to anyone, children are particularly prone to them. In fact, approximately three out of four children will deal with at least one ear infection by age 3.
An ear infection usually affects the middle ear. This is known as an infection of the otitis media, in which fluid and mucus block the tubes of the ears. This is why you’re having trouble hearing. While it’s easy to be able to describe symptoms you’re experiencing, it isn’t always easy for children, particularly little ones, to be able to tell you that their ear hurts.
So, how can you tell whether or not your child might have an ear infection? You’ll have to look out for:
- Tugging or pulling at the ear
- Increased crying, irritability, and fussiness
- Trouble sleeping
- Crying when lying down to sleep
- Balance issues
- Not hearing or responding to voices or sounds
If your child is displaying these symptoms it’s important to bring them in to see their otolaryngologist who will be able to examine the ear and determine whether there is an infection.
The good news is that many ear infections will go away on their own; however, our ENT doctors understand that sometimes the pain can be severe and unbearable, and you may need something to ease the pain until the infection goes away. We can certainly prescribe the right pain reliever if over-the-counter options aren’t working. In some cases, we may need to prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Even though you may want to wait out an ear infection before bringing your child in, it’s important that you do visit your child’s otolaryngologist as soon as possible if their ear infection is accompanied by:
- Loss of hearing
- Discharge or blood coming from the ear
- High fever
- Severe drowsiness
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
If your child is under 6 months old it’s important that you bring them in right away if you suspect that they have an ear infection. Otherwise, children dealing with minor symptoms that are over the age of 6 months old can often be treated with simple at-home care.
If you are unsure whether or not you should bring yourself or your child into the office, give our ENT practice a call and let us know the symptoms. We will be able to determine whether you will need immediate care or whether we should wait a couple days to see if the infection gets better on its own.
Do you have breathing problems such as wheezing, shortness of breath, a chronically stuffed nose, or throat tightness? If so, you should seek a consultation with your local ENT physician. These doctors have numerous ways to diagnose and treat your breathing problems associated with the nose and upper airway so you can function well and get on with your daily life.
The symptoms of breathing problems
Breathing problems associated with asthma, pneumonia, COPD, or bronchitis usually differ from those stemming from the nasal passages, larynx, or trachea. For respiratory difficulty associated with the lungs, patients see a pulmonary specialist. For the upper airway, people see an otolaryngologist.
What are the symptoms of upper airway breathing problems? You may experience some or all of the following:
- Wheezing which is noticeable to other people
- Persistent coughing
- Mouth breathing
- Voice hoarseness
- Fatigue to the extreme, particularly on exertion
- Throat tightness
- Constant nasal congestion and frequent nose blowing
What could be the cause?
According to Michigan Medicine, chronic or acute sinusitis (aka sinus infection) affects millions of people in the US. If left untreated, sinusitis leaves patients feeling fatigued due to the increased symptoms of coughing, congestion, and nose blowing.
Common causes for acute sinusitis include inflammation from allergies and exposure to viruses and bacteria from environmental pollution. Chronic sinusitis may stem from exposure to tobacco smoke, although it arises more commonly from nasal polyps, inflamed sinus turbinates, and deviated septums.
Diagnosing and treating breathing problems
As related to the upper airway, your ENT will ask you to describe your symptoms. Then, your nasal passages and sinuses will be examined with an endoscope, a thin, lighted tube which contains a small camera.
The otolaryngologist takes images of structures which could be obstructing your airway and causing your symptoms. Precise CT scanning gives the doctor more views of what's happening inside the air-filled cavities that we call sinuses.
Common treatments include steroidal sprays, oral steroids, antibiotics, allergy testing, pain treatment, and sinus surgery (a last resort option). Additionally, simple nasal irrigation with a Neti pot can flush out excess mucus, open passages, and reduce breathing difficulties.
Tackle your breathing problems
Your ENT doctor can help relieve your discomfort by listening to your symptoms, carefully performing a full assessment, and curating a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Make the call today!
Situated in the middle of the lower neck, the thyroid is a small glad whose primary function is to regulate the body’s metabolism. When operating correctly, the thyroid continuously replenishes the hormones needed to properly convert consumed materials into energy. However, when this function becomes impaired, it can cause immense problems for your overall health. Read on to learn about some of the most common thyroid disorders and how treatment from your local ENT can help treat them!
This condition occurs when the thyroid gland becomes unable to produce the necessary amount of thyroid hormone to correctly regulate the body’s metabolism. As you might expect, when the body experiences this shortage of hormones, the metabolism slows, an effect which can cause fatigue, weight gain, muscle, joint pain, and slowed heart rate.
Treatment: Hypothyroidism is treated through the prescription of levothyroxine, a synthetic hormone which effectively assumes the role of metabolism regulation. Under the careful eye of an ENT doctor, this treatment helps return you back to a healthy lifestyle!
While Hypothyroidism reduces the development of hormones, Hyperthyroidism increases it. With an overactive thyroid, the metabolism becomes accelerated, often causing weight loss, irregular heartbeat, increased appetite, and anxiety.
Treatment: Much like Hypothyroidism, medication is often the preferred method in treating Hyperthyroidism. However, unlike Hypothyroidism, there are a number of different medication routes to take, the choice of which depends on factors such as a patient’s age, physical condition, and underlying Hyperthyroidism cause. Some of these medications include thyroxine, methimazole, propylithiouracil, and beta-blockers. If prescription drugs are not a possibility, thyroid removal surgery can prove necessary.
Nodules are small lumps that can form along the thyroid. Coming in both solid and fluid-filled forms, the great majority of nodules thankfully turn out to be innocuous and nonthreatening. However, some nodules grow to be so large that they become visibly noticeable and make both swallowing and breathing difficult. Additionally, a small percentage of thyroid nodules turn out to be cancerous.
Treatment: The proper route of treatment is totally dependent on the unique specifics of the nodule in question. For enlarged, yet benign nodules, either hormone suppression therapy or surgery are the best choices. Surgery is also the usual treatment option for cancerous nodules.
Concerned? Call Your Local ENT!
Thyroid issues can have immense consequences for your body if they are left unchecked. If you suspect that you may have a thyroid issue, set up a consultation with your local ENT physician as soon as you can!
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