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.
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.
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.
Cancer is a word that strikes fear in many people's hearts and for good reason. However, Dr. Gordon Siegel of Midwest ENT in Chicago wants you to know that cancer—particularly head and neck cancers—are preventable, detectable and treatable. Read these FAQs to learn more about keeping yourself cancer-free.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Head and Neck Cancer
1. How prevalent are head and neck cancers? Cancers of the squamous cells in the mouth, nose, and throat (voice box and esophagus) account for about four percent of all cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. That's around 65,000 people, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology or ASCO.
2. Are these cancers treatable? Yes, both are highly treatable, but as with any other cancer, early detection is the key to successful treatment.
3. How can I be screened for head and neck cancers? An annual physical should entail your physician examining your throat and ears. Also, they will feel your neck for any swellings or lumps, reviewing any symptoms you may have. Bi-annual dental examinations also screen for oral cancers.
4. What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer? There are many symptoms. However, some individuals show no signs at all; that's why routine screenings with your primary care physician and dentist are so vital. Symptoms may include:
- A lump, swelling, sore or patch that won’t heal.
- Sore throat.
- Hoarse voice.
- Jaw pain.
- Weight loss.
- Constant bad breath.
5. What are the treatment options? They are as varied as the cancers themselves. Much depends on location, overall health, and cancer staging, or how developed the lesion is and if it’s spread to other areas of the body. Surgical excision is a common treatment as is laser therapy, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Dr. Siegel fully coordinates care plans from initial diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care.
6. Can these cancers be prevented? The American Cancer Society states that a large percentage of these cancers are preventable. Avoid all forms of tobacco. Limit your sun exposure and alcohol intake. Additionally, research shows that exposure to HPV, the Human Papillomavirus, puts people at high risk for head and neck cancers.
To learn more, visit Midwest Ear, Nose, and Throat of Chicago, IL
If you have more questions about head and neck cancers, please contact Midwest Ear, Nose, and Throat for a consultation. You'll find compassionate, skilled care in our state-of-the-art facility. Call today for an appointment with Dr. Gordon Siegel: (312) 988-7777. Midwest ENT in Chicago is a proud member of Northwestern Private Practice, a group of independent physicians that provide top medical care to patients living in Chicagoland. Our goal is to provide patients with a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible, often within a week.
While swimmer’s ear may sound akin to having a lucky rabbit’s foot, the opposite is actually true. This painful condition, also known as acute otitis externa, causes infection and inflammation of the outer ear. As you may be able to guess from the name alone, this ear infection is often the result of too much water getting into the ears, whether you are an avid swimmer or you just drenched yourself in a hot shower for too long. Of course, there are other reasons why you may be prone to these infections.
Sure, this infection tends to be more common in children and teens, but if you happen to clean your ears regularly with cotton swabs, if you end up damaging or cutting the skin of the ear canal or if you’ve been diagnosed with eczema of the ear canal, then you too could be at risk for developing this type of ear infection.
Once the water is trapped inside the ear canal, it leaves the ear susceptible to bacteria and infection. If you have swimmer’s ear, you most likely know it because the inflammation causes pain. Since it is indeed an infection, it’s important that you turn to your otolaryngologist for proper medical attention. Not only will the treatment help eliminate your pain and discomfort but it will also stop the infection from spreading.
Besides pain, you may also notice that your ear feels as if there's fluid in it, which may also be drained. Since swimmer’s ear is an infection, you may also notice that the lymph nodes around the neck and ears are swollen. Some patients even report minor hearing loss. Of course, a young child can’t often describe their symptoms, but you may notice your little one tugging at their ear, unable to sleep, or more irritable and cranky. If you notice these symptoms then it’s time to take your child to the ENT doctor.
What can happen if swimmer’s ear isn’t treated properly? You may experience chronic or recurring infections. You may find that even if the condition clears up that your hearing loss has not fully returned. There may even be damage to the bones and cranial nerves.
When you come in to see your ENT specialist, they will most likely prescribe eardrops to treat the infection. They may also clean out the infected ear canal. These eardrops will serve to kill the bacteria and reduce pain and inflammation. Make sure to follow the instructions for your medication and continue to use it even once your symptoms have gone away, or according to what your physician has prescribed. This will ensure that all the bacteria are destroyed and that you won’t develop another infection.
Protect the health of your ears. If you think you may have swimmer’s ear, or if you are experiencing any kind of ear pain, it’s a good idea to play it safe and visit an ear, nose and throat specialist right away for care.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.