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Pediatric Food Allergies

Dust, mites, pet dander, and ragweed are not the only allergic threats to your child. Food allergies and sensitivities may cause a wide range of adverse reactions to the skin, respiratory system, stomach, and other physiological functions of the body.

Determining what foods are the cause of an allergic reaction is key to treatment. Before you identify the culinary culprit you must consider what type of food allergy your child has. There are two types of food allergies. They are classified as:

  • Fixed food allergies: A fixed food allergy may be very apparent, such as the child whose lips swell and throat itches immediately in response to eating peanuts. The cause for this type of food allergy is similar to that of inhalant allergies, so the diagnosis is more easily reached. Blood testing (i.e., RAST test) is typically used to verify fixed food allergies. Approximately five to 15 percent of food allergies are of the fixed variety.
  • Cyclic food allergies: These allergies are far more common but less understood. Delayed food allergy symptoms can take up to three days to appear. This type of reaction is associated with the body’s immunoglobin G (IgG) or antibodies. Unlike fixed food allergies, this allergic response is cyclical in nature. As an example, a child may be IgG sensitive to milk. Consequently, symptoms might appear if the child increases the intake and/or frequency of milk consumption.

Both children and adults are susceptible to food allergies. The bad news for children is that they often have more skin reactions to foods, such as eczema, than do adults. But the good news for the young patient is that a child often outgrows his or her food sensitivities, even those that are positive on a RAST test, over time. Food allergies may fade, and then inhalant (e.g, dust, ragweed) allergies may begin to manifest.

Diagnosing and treating the cyclic food allergy

If your child is experiencing allergic reactions to food of unknown origin, you should ask yourself, “Are there any foods that my child craves or any food that I avoid offering?” These foods may be the ones that are causing difficulties for the young patient.

Your physician may also suggest the Elimination and Challenge Diet.

This dietary test consists of the following steps:

1. Keep a detailed food diary tracking what was eaten (including ingredients), when it was eaten, medications taken, and any symptoms which developed.   Be honest! Some well-meaning parents or caregivers often create a food diary to look healthier than it typically is. Your child can receive the best diagnosis if the diet records are accurate, timed precisely, and truthful. The diet diary can be evaluated by an ear, nose, and throat specialist to identify one or several food items that may be the culprits.

2. Conduct an unblinded elimination and challenge diet at home based upon your physician’s assessment of your child’s diet diary. It is best if you carefully maintain a new diet diary for your child during the period of elimination and challenge. During this elimination and challenge diet, your child must abstain from one, and only one, of the possible food culprits at a time for a period of four days. This can be difficult to carry out if the food is very common, such eggs or cereal, so you need to pay strict attention to your child’s diet during the elimination phase. Any “cheating” will invalidate the results.

3. On the fifth day, you will be asked to feed your child the suspected culprit food item. This is the challenge! Provide your child an average-sized portion of the food in question to be eaten in five minutes. In one hour the child should eat another 1/2 portion if no symptoms have developed. Any symptoms that develop are then timed and recorded. With a true cyclic food allergy, you would expect a significant worsening of the symptoms described in the original diet diary, although the challenge symptoms may vary as well. Fixed food allergies should never be deliberately challenged unless under the direct supervision of a physician. For minor, moderate discomfort from the testing, the patient may take: 1) a child’s laxative to decrease the transit time through the digestive system, 2) Alka Seltzer Gold, 3) Buffered Vitamin C (one gram).

If the Elimination and Challenge Diet confirms a cyclic food allergy, then you will be asked to abstain from feeding your child this food for a period of three to six months. After this time you can slowly reintroduce the food on a rotary basis; it is not to be eaten more

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Children

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that approximately 28 million Americans have lost some or all of their hearing, including 17 in 1,000 children under age 18. There are three types of hearing loss:

Conductive hearing loss:

This occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level, or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can be caused by middle ear infection, impacted earwax, or a benign tumor. This type of hearing loss can often be medically or surgically corrected.

Sensorineural hearing loss:

This hearing loss, caused by damage to the inner ear or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain, is permanent and cannot be medically or surgically corrected. Sensorineural hearing loss not only involves a reduction in sound level, or ability to hear faint sounds, but also affects speech understanding, or ability to hear clearly. Causes of this disorder include drugs that are toxic to the auditory system, and genetic syndromes. Sensorineural hearing loss may also occur as a result of noise exposure, viruses, head trauma, aging, and tumors.

Mixed hearing loss:

Hearing loss can be both conductive and sensorineural. For example, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Incidence of this disorder increases with age. For example, approximately 314 in 1,000 people over age 65 have hearing loss and 40 to 50 percent of people 75 and older have a hearing loss.

Although 10 million Americans suffer irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, with 30 million more exposed to dangerous noise levels each day, very little has been reported on children’s risk for this type of impairment.

This may soon change. Preteens are attending music concerts with increasing regularity. Additionally, the portable MP3 player, successor to transistor radios and the walkman, is a portable device that can provide up to 15,000 songs through headphones.

Should MP3 player use be limited?

Ear specialists say a whisper is 30 decibels and that a normal conversation is 60 decibels. The sound from an iPod Shuffle has been measured at 115 decibels. A survey sponsored by the Australian government found that about 25 percent of people using portable stereos had daily noise exposures high enough to cause hearing damage. And further research from the United Kingdom determined that young people, ages 18 to 24, were more likely than other adults to exceed safe listening limits.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital determined that listening to a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of its potential volume for one hour a day is relatively safe.

Why earplugs are important at concerts

Parents should be aware that various medical studies have found sound levels at rock concerts often to be significantly higher than 85 dBA, with some reports suggesting that sound intensity may reach 90 dBA to as high as 122 dBA.

To experience 85 dBA, listen to an electric shaver or a busy urban street. Experts agree that continued exposure to noise above 85 dBA over time will cause hearing loss. Clearly, if levels are maintained at values greater than 85 dBA for long periods of time, this may lead to a significant noise exposure and frequent concertgoers may experience some potentially irreversible hearing loss from this experience.

A research study, “Incidence of Spontaneous Hearing Threshold Shifts during Modern Concert Performances,” from the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis examined sound intensity throughout a well-known concert venue and the effectiveness of earplugs.

The findings, presented at the 2005 annual meeting stated that sound pressure levels appeared equally hazardous in all parts of the concert hall, regardless of the type of music played. Accordingly, you should use earplugs at every type of musical concert, regardless of your vicinity to the stage.

A good rule of thumb: When a child accompanies a parent to any activity or location with excessive noise, ear protection should be worn by the entire family.

Could My Child Have Sleep Apnea?

Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a common problem for adults leading to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and early death. Other consequences are bedroom disharmony, excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, poor performance at work, failing personal relationships, and increased risk for accidents, including motor vehicle accidents.

Sleep disordered breathing in children, from infancy through puberty, is in some ways a similar condition but has different causes, consequences, and treatments. A child with SDB does not necessarily have this condition as an adult.

Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea

The premiere symptom of sleep disordered breathing is snoring that is loud, present every night regardless of sleep position, and is ultimately interrupted by complete obstruction of breathing with gasping and snorting noises. Approximately 10 percent of children are reported to snore. Ten percent of these children (one percent of the total pediatric population) have obstructive sleep apnea.

When an individual, young or old, obstructs breathing during sleep, the body perceives this as a choking phenomenon. The heart rate slows, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused, and sleep is disrupted. In most cases a child’s vascular system can tolerate the changes in blood pressure and heart rate. However, a child’s brain does not tolerate the repeated interruptions to sleep, leading to a child that is sleep deprived, cranky, and ill behaved.

Consequences of untreated pediatric sleep disordered breathing

  • Snoring: A problem if a child shares a room with a sibling and during sleepovers.
  • Sleep deprivation: The child may become moody, inattentive, and disruptive both at home and at school. Classroom and athletic performance may decrease along with overall happiness. The child will lack energy, often preferring to sit in front of the television rather than participate in school and other activities. This may contribute to obesity.
  • Abnormal urine production: SDB also causes increased nighttime urine production, and in children, this may lead to bedwetting.
  • Growth: Growth hormone is secreted at night. Those with SDB may suffer interruptions in hormone secretion, resulting in slow growth or development.
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) / attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): There are research findings that identify sleep disordered breathing as a contributing factor to attention deficit disorders.

Diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing

The first diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing in children is made by the parent’s observation of snoring. Other observations may include obstructions to breathing, gasping, snorting, and thrashing in bed as well as unexplained bedwetting. Social symptoms are difficult to diagnose but include alteration in mood, misbehavior, and poor school performance. (Note: Every child who has sub par academic and social skills may not have SDB, but if a child is a serious snorer and is experiencing mood, behavior, and performance problems, sleep disordered breathing should be considered.)

A child with suspected SDB should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon. If the symptoms are significant and the tonsils are enlarged, the child is strongly recommended for T&A, or tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (removal of the tonsils and adenoids). Conversely, if the symptoms are mild, academic performance remains excellent, the tonsils are small, and puberty is eminent (tonsils and adenoids shrink at puberty), it may be recommended that SDB be treated only if matters worsen. The majority of cases fall somewhere in between, and physicians must evaluate each child on a case-by-case basis.

There are other pediatric sleep disorder diagnoses. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and apparent life threatening episode (ALTE) are considered forms of sleep disordered breathing. Children with these conditions warrant thorough evaluation by a pediatric sleep specialist. Children with craniofacial abnormalities, primarily abnormalities of the jaw bones, tongue, and associated structures, often have sleep disordered breathing. This must be managed and the deformities treated as the child grows.

The sleep test is the standard diagnostic test for sleep disordered breathing. This test can be performed in a sleep laboratory or at home. Sleep tests can produce inaccurate results, especially in children. Borderline or normal sleep test results may still result in a diagnosis of SDB based on parental observation and clinical evaluation.

Treatment for sleep disordered breathing

Enlarged tonsils are the most common cause for SDB, thus tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy is the most effective treatment for pediatric sleep disordered breathing. T&A achieves a 90 percent success rate for childhood SDB. Of the nearly 400,000 T&As performed in the U.S. each year, 75 percent are performed to treat sleep disordered breathing.

Not every child with snoring should undergo T&A. The procedure does have risks and possible complications. Aside from the mental anguish experienced by the parent and child, potential problems include: anesthesia risks, bleeding, and infection.

Cochlear-Meningitis Vaccination

What you should know

The CDC and FDA, in partnership with state health departments, have recently completed an investigation that found children with cochlear implants have a higher chance of getting bacterial meningitis than children without cochlear implants. Some children who are candidates for cochlear implants may have factors that increase their risk of meningitis even before they get a cochlear implant. However, this investigation was not designed to determine the risk of meningitis in children who are candidates for cochlear implants but don’t have them.

Because people with cochlear implants are at increased risk for meningitis, CDC recommends that people with cochlear implants follow recommendations for pneumococcal vaccinations that apply to members of other groups at increased risk. Recommendations for the timing and type of pneumococcal vaccination vary with age and vaccination history and should be discussed with a health care provider.

Recommendations for people with cochlear implants aged two years and older include the following:

  • Children who have cochlear implants, are aged 2 years and older, and have completed the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevnar ®) series should receive one dose of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax ® 23). If they have just received pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, they should wait at least two months before receiving pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.
  • Children who have cochlear implants are between 24 and 59 months of age, and have never received either pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine should receive two doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine two or more months apart and then receive one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine at least two months later.
  • Persons who are aged 5 years and older with cochlear implants should receive one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Additional facts

Worldwide, there are over 90 known reports of people getting meningitis after getting a cochlear implant. This is out of approximately 60,000 people who have cochlear implants.

Meningitis is an infection. The infection is in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. There are two main types of meningitis, viral and bacterial. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type. It is the type that has been reported in people with cochlear implants. Depending on the cause of the meningitis, the symptoms, treatment, and outcomes differ.

Bacterial meningitis can be caused by several different kinds of bacteria. Four vaccines protect against most of these bacteria. The vaccines are:

  • 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate (Prevnar®) (PCV-7)
  • 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide (Pneumovax® 23) (PPV-23)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate (Hib)
  • Quadrivalent A,C,Y,W-135 meningococcal polysaccharide (Menomune®).

Meningitis in people with cochlear implants is most commonly caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). Children with cochlear implants are more likely to get pneumococcal meningitis than children without cochlear implants.

None of the children in the investigation had meningococcal meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. There is no evidence that children with cochlear implants are more likely to get meningococcal meningitis than children without cochlear implants.

Child Screening

Why Is Early Childhood Hearing Screening Important For Your Child?

Approximately two to four of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing, making hearing loss the most common birth disorder. Many studies have shown that early diagnosis of hearing loss is crucial to the development of speech, language, cognitive, and psychosocial abilities. Treatment is most successful if hearing loss is identified early, preferably within the first month of life. Still, one in every four children born with serious hearing loss does not receive a diagnosis until age three or older.

When Should A Child’s Hearing Be Tested?

The first opportunity to test a child’s hearing is in the hospital shortly after birth. If your child’s hearing is not screened before leaving the hospital, it is recommended that screening be done within the first month of life. Should test results indicate a possible hearing loss, seek further evaluation as soon as possible; preferably within the first three to six months of life.

Is Early Hearing Screening Mandatory?

In recent years, health organizations across the country, including the AmericanAcademy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, have worked to highlight the importance of screening all newborns for hearing loss. These efforts are working. In 2003, more than 85 percent of all newborns in the United States were screened for hearing loss.  In fact, some 39 states have passed legislation requiring some form of hearing screening of newborns before they leave the hospital. This still leaves more than a million babies who are not screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital.

How Is Screening Done?

Two tests are used to screen infants and newborns for hearing loss. They are:

  • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) involves placement of a sponge earphone in the ear canal to measure whether the ear can respond properly to sound. In normal-hearing children, a measurable “echo” should be produced when sound is emitted through the earphone. If no echo is measured, it could indicate a hearing loss.
  • Auditory brain stem response (ABR) is a more complex test. Earphones are placed on the ears and electrodes are placed on the head and ears. Sound is emitted through the earphones while the electrodes measure how your child’s brain responds to the sound.

If either test indicates a potential hearing loss, your physician may suggest a follow-up evaluation by an otolaryngologist.

Signs Of Hearing Loss In Children

Hearing loss can also occur later childhood, after a newborn leaves the hospital. In these cases, parents, grandparents, and other caregivers are often the first to notice that something may be wrong with a young child’s hearing. Even if your child’s hearing was tested as a newborn, you should continue to watch for signs of hearing loss including:

  • Not reacting in any way to unexpected loud noises,
  • Not being awakened by loud noises,
  • Not turning his/her head in the direction of your voice,
  • Not being able to follow or understand directions,
  • Poor language development, or
  • Speaking loudly or not using age-appropriate language skills.

If your child exhibits any of these signs, report them to your doctor.

What Happens If My Child Has A Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss in children can be temporary or permanent. It is important to have hearing loss evaluated by a physician who can rule out medical problems that may be causing the hearing loss, such as otitis media (ear infection), excessive earwax congenital malformations, or a genetic hearing loss.

If it is determined that your child’s hearing loss is permanent, hearing aids may be recommended to amplify the sound reaching your child’s ear. Ear surgery may be able to restore or significantly improve hearing in some instances. For those with certain types of profound hearing loss who do not benefit sufficiently from hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be considered. Unlike a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve and allows the child to hear louder and clearer sound.

You will need to decide whether or not your deaf child will communicate primarily with oral speech and/or sign language, and seek early intervention to prevent language delays. Research indicates that habilitation of hearing loss by age six months will prevent subsequent language delays. Other communication strategies such as auditory verbal therapy, lip reading, and cued speech may also be used in conjunction with a hearing aid or cochlear implant, or independently.

Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is an especially common chronic nasal problem in adolescents and young adults. Allergies to inhalants like pollen, dust, and animal dander begin to cause sinus and nasal symptoms in early childhood. Infants and young children are especially susceptible to allergic sensitivity to foods and indoor allergens.

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis typically results from two conditions: family history/genetic predisposition to allergic disease and exposure to allergens. Allergens are substances that produce an allergic response.

Children are not born with allergies but develop symptoms upon repeated exposure to environmental allergens. The earliest exposure is through food—and infants may develop eczema, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and wheezing caused by one or more allergens (milk protein is the most common). Allergies can also contribute to repeated ear infections in children. In early childhood, indoor exposure to dust mites, animal dander, and mold spores may cause an allergic reaction, often lasting throughout the year. Outdoor allergens including pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds primarily cause seasonal symptoms.

The number of patients with allergic rhinitis has increased in the past decade, especially in urban areas. Before adolescence, twice as many boys as girls are affected; however, after adolescence, females are slightly more affected than males. Researchers have found that children born to a large family with several older siblings and day care attendance seem to have less likelihood of developing allergic disease later in life.

What are allergic rhinitis symptoms?

Symptoms can vary with the season and type of allergen and include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes and nose. A year-long exposure usually produces nasal congestion (chronic stuffy nose).

In children, allergen exposure and subsequent inflammation in the upper respiratory system cause nasal obstruction. This obstruction becomes worse with the gradual enlargement of the adenoid tissue and the tonsils inherent with age. Consequently, the young patient may have mouth-breathing, snoring, and sleep-disordered breathing such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep problems such as insomnia, bed-wetting, and sleepwalking may accompany these symptoms along with behavioral changes including short attention span, irritability, poor school performance, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

In these patients, upper respiratory infections such as colds and ear infections are more frequent and last longer. A child’s symptoms after exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke are usually amplified in the presence of ongoing allergic inflammation.

When should my child see a doctor?

If your child’s cold-like symptoms (sneezing and runny nose) persist for more than two weeks, it is appropriate to contact a physician.

Emergency treatment is rarely necessary except for upper airway obstruction causing severe sleep apnea or an anaphylactic reaction caused by exposure to a food allergen. Treatment of anaphylactic shock should be immediate and requires continued observation and care.

What happens during a physician visit?

The doctor will first obtain an extensive history about the child, the home environment, possible exposures, and progression of symptoms. Family history of atopic/allergic disease and the presence of other disorders such as eczema and asthma strongly support the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. The physician will seek a link between the symptoms and exposure to certain allergens.

The physician will examine the skin, eyes, face and facial structures, ears, nose, and throat. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy may be performed. If the history and the physical exam suggest allergic rhinitis, a screening allergy test is ordered. This can be a blood test or a skin prick test. In most children it is easier to obtain a blood test known as the RadioAllergoSorbent Test or RAST. This test measures the amount of specific Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in the blood responding to various environmental and food allergens.

The skin test results, often immediately available, may be affected by the recent use of antihistamines and other medications, dermatologic conditions, and age of the patient. The blood test is not affected by medication, and results are usually available in several days.

How is allergic rhinitis treated?

The most common treatment recommendation is to have the child avoid the allergens causing the allergic sensitivity. The physician will work with caregivers to develop an avoidance strategy based on the nature of the allergen, exposure, and availability of avoidance measures.

Cost and lifestyle are important factors to consider. For mild, seasonal allergies, avoidance could be the most effective course of action. If pet dander is the offender, consideration should be given to removing the pet from the child’s environment.

Severe symptoms, multiple allergens, year-long exposure, and limited resources for environmental control may call for additional treatment measures. Nasal saline irrigations, nasal steroid sprays, and non-sedating antihistamines are indicated for symptom control. Nasal steroids are the most effective in reducing nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis. A short burst of oral steroids may be appropriate for some patients with severe symptoms or to gain control during acute attacks.

If symptoms are severe and due to multiple allergens, the child is symptomatic more than six months in a year, and if all other measures fail, then immunotherapy (IT) (or desensitization) may be suggested. IT is delivered by injections of the allergen in doses that are increased incrementally to a maximum that is tolerated without a reaction. Maintenance injections can be delivered at increasing intervals starting from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly injections for up to three to five years. Children with pollen sensitivities benefit most from this treatment. IT is also effective in reducing the onset of pollen-induced asthma.

Child’s Hearing Loss

Your child with a hearing loss can succeed – in school, in work, and in life! It is important to keep this as your focus, whatever your child’s age or degree of hearing loss. While you will have the support of many professionals, ultimately you as parents will make many decisions about what is in the best interest of your child. As with all children, there is no magic formula for raising a child with a hearing loss. It helps to maintain a positive attitude, educate yourself about hearing loss, seek out the best resources, and take an active role in your child’s education. Most of all, keep in mind that your child is a child first, and a child with a hearing loss second.

This online booklet is written for parents of children of all ages and all degrees of hearing loss. With so much to cover, the information presented here is only a brief overview, supplemented with a variety of reference and resource materials so you can follow up on subjects more thoroughly. In addition, you are encouraged to join the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for access to a huge variety of resources, including educational programs for you and your child, a large inventory of books and other publications, video tapes, conferences, and a national support network.

Will your child have a “normal” life? While some mild-moderate losses can be surgically or medically corrected, most hearing loss is a permanent condition. Thus, your child’s life will have its challenges. However, these challenges sometimes turn into advantages. For example, the ability to work hard and concentrate more, coupled with the routines of audiologic and language therapy, frequently produces children who are self-disciplined and focused. Moreover, the outcomes for children with hearing loss have greatly improved in the last two decades due to major advances in technology and emphasis on programs of early detection and early intervention.

Emotional Impact of the Diagnosis: Parents can benefit from counseling and support after the diagnosis of hearing loss. Grief, anger, fear and denial are natural responses for hearing parents to feel when they find out their child has a hearing loss. Their expected “normal” child has a problem and this problem is going to present many challenges. We convey love through our words and tone of voice as well as through hugs and kisses. We soothe a child through the sound of our voice, or by singing a lullaby. We teach children that the objects in their room, their toys, their food, and the people around them all have names. We show children how to pronounce words by our example. We discipline and warn children of danger through words as well as actions. How are we going to do this now?

Deaf parents of deaf children are not necessarily prone to grief because they are already familiar with living in a world without sound. Deaf parents may feel more comfortable with a child who is deaf, because this seems natural. But this isn’t the case for most hearing parents, who probably know little or nothing about hearing loss and who may never have known a child with a hearing loss. Many deaf parents will teach their child sign language as naturally as hearing parents unconsciously teach their child to speak. But hearing parents must commit themselves to the goal of helping their child listen and speak in order to participate fully in a hearing world, or the equally arduous task of becoming fluent in sign language and learning about Deaf culture.

Grief is a common emotion and an honest expression of disappointment and fear of the unknown. Grief that is not acknowledged or dealt with can lead to denial of a child’s problem, which in turn can lead to procrastination in taking constructive action. Unacknowledged grief can lead to unfocused and displaced anger on the part of parents which can last a lifetime. Acknowledging grief, painful as it may be, will clear away anger and denial, allowing parents to most effectively nurture their child.

Skin Cancer

The skin is the largest organ in our body. It provides protection against heat, cold, light, and infection. The skin is made up of two major layers (epidermis and dermis) as well as various types of cells. The top (or outer) layer of the skin—the epidermis—is composed of three types of cells: flat, scaly cells on the surface called squamous cells; round cells called basal cells; and melanocytes, cells that provide skin its color and protect against skin damage. The inner layer of the skin—the dermis—is the layer that contains the nerves, blood vessels, and sweat glands.

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. There are several types of cancer that originate in the skin. The most common types are basal cell carcinoma (70 percent of all skin cancers) and squamous cell carcinoma (20 percent). These types are classified as nonmelanoma skin cancer. Melanoma (five percent of all skin cancers) is the third type of skin cancer. It is less common than basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, but potentially much more serious. Other types of skin cancer are rare.

Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It typically appears as a small raised bump that has a pearly appearance. It is most commonly seen on areas of the skin that have received excessive sun exposure. These cancers may spread to the skin around the cancer but rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is also seen on the areas of the body that have been exposed to excessive sun (nose, lower lip, hands, and forehead). Often this cancer appears as a firm red bump or ulceration of the skin that does not heal. Squamous cell carcinomas can spread to lymph nodes in the area.

Melanoma is a skin cancer (malignancy) that arises from the melanocytes in the skin. These cancers typically arise as pigmented (colored) lesions in the skin with an irregular shape, irregular border, and multiple colors. It is the most harmful of all the skin cancers, because it can spread to other sites in the body. Fortunately, most melanomas have a very high cure rate when identified and treated early.

Who Gets Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease that has shown a steady increase over the past 20 years. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, it remains a very curable disease. A variety of factors have been identified that place a person at a higher risk to develop skin cancer (see “Am I at risk?”).

How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?

The vast majority of skin cancers can be cured if diagnosed and treated early. Aside from protecting your skin from sun damage, it is important to recognize the early signs of skin cancer.

  • Skin sores that do not heal,
  • Bumps or nodules in the skin that are enlarging, and
  • Changes in existing moles (size, texture, color).

If you notice any of the factors listed above see your doctor right away. If you have a spot or lump on your skin, your doctor may remove the growth and examine the tissue under the microscope. This is called a biopsy. A biopsy can usually be done in the doctor’s office and usually involves numbing the skin with a local anesthetic. Examination of the biopsy under the microscope will tell the doctor if the skin lesion is a cancer (malignancy).

How Is Skin Cancer Treated?

There are varieties of treatments available, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, to treat skin cancer. Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type and size of cancer, your age, and your overall health.

Surgery is the most common form of treatment. It generally consists of an office or outpatient procedure to remove the lesion and check edges to make sure all the cancer was removed. In many cases, the site is then repaired with simple stitches. In larger skin cancers, your doctor may take some skin from another body site to cover the wound and promote healing. This is termed skin grafting. In more advanced cases of skin cancer, radiation therapy or chemotherapy (drugs that kill cancer cells) may be used with surgery to improve cure rates.

Am I At Risk For Skin Cancer?

People with any of the factors listed below have a higher risk of developing skin cancer and should be particularly careful about sun exposure.

  • long-term sun exposure
  • fair skin (typically blonde or red hair with freckles)
  • place of residence (increased risk in Southern climates)
  • presence of moles, particularly if there are irregular edges, uneven coloring, or an increase in the size of the mole
  • family history of skin cancer
  • use of indoor tanning devices
  • severe sunburns as a child
  • nonhealing ulcers or nodules in the skin .

Early identification of skin cancer can save your life.

How Can I Lower My Risk Of Skin Cancer?

The single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer is to avoid direct sun exposure. Sunlight produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can directly damage the cells (DNA) of our skin. People who work outdoors (farming, construction, boating, outdoor sports) are at the highest risk of developing a skin cancer. The sun’s rays are the most powerful between 10 am and 2 pm, so you must be particularly careful during those hours. If you must be out during the day, wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible, including a wide-brimmed hat to block the sun from your face, scalp, neck, and ears. In addition to protective clothing, the use of a sunscreen can reflect light away from the skin and provide protection against UV radiation. When selecting a sunscreen, choose one with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Sunscreen products do not completely block the damaging rays, but they do allow you to be in the sun longer without getting sunburn. In addition to being sun-smart, it is critical to recognize early signs of trouble on your skin. The best time to do self-examination is after a shower in front of a full-length mirror. Note any moles, birthmarks, and blemishes. Be on the alert for sores that do not heal or new nodules on the skin. Any mole that changes in size, color, or texture should be carefully examined. If you notice anything new or unusual, see your physician right away. Catching skin cancer early can save your life.

Ultraviolet Index: What You Need to Know

The new Ultraviolet (UV) Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities and avoid overexposure to the damaging rays of the sun. Developed by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency , the UV Index is issued daily as a national service.

The UV Index gives the next day’s amount of exposure to UV rays. The Index predicts UV levels on a 0-10+ scale (see chart).

Always take precautions against overexposure, and take special care when the UV Index predicts exposure levels of moderate to above (5 – 10+).

Index Number              Exposure Level

0 – 2

Minimal

3 – 4

Low

5 – 6

Moderate

7 – 9

High

10+

Very High

Second Hand Smoke and Children

Insight into effects and prevention

  • What is secondhand smoke?
  • Who is at risk?
  • and more…

Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), it can be recognized easily by its distinctive odor. ETS contaminates the air and is retained in clothing, curtains and furniture. Many people find ETS unpleasant, annoying, and irritating to the eyes and nose. More importantly, it represents a dangerous health hazard. Over 4,000 different chemicals have been identified in ETS, and at least 43 of these chemicals cause cancer.

Is exposure to ETS common?

Approximately 26 percent of adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes, and 50 to 67 percent of children under five years of age live in homes with at least one adult smoker.

Smoke’s effect on…

The fetus and newborn

Maternal, fetal, and placental blood flow change when pregnant women smoke, although the long-term health effects of these changes are not known. Some studies suggest that smoking during pregnancy causes birth defects such as cleft lip or palate. Smoking mothers produce less milk, and their babies have a lower birth weight. Maternal smoking also is associated with neonatal death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the major cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age.

Children’s lungs and respiratory tracts

Exposure to ETS decreases lung efficiency and impairs lung function in children of all ages. It increases both the frequency and severity of childhood asthma. Secondhand smoke can aggravate sinusitis, rhinitis, cystic fibrosis, and chronic respiratory problems such as cough and postnasal drip. It also increases the number of children’s colds and sore throats. In children under two years of age, ETS exposure increases the likelihood of bronchitis and pneumonia. In fact, a 1992 study by the Environmental Protection Agency says ETS causes 150 – 300 thousand lower respiratory tract infections each year in infants and children under 18 months of age. These illnesses result in as many as 15 thousand hospitalizations. Children of parents who smoke half a pack a day or more are at nearly double the risk of hospitalization for a respiratory illness.

The ears

Exposure to ETS increases both the number of ear infections a child will experience, and the duration of the illness. Inhaled smoke irritates the eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose with the middle ear. This causes swelling and obstruction which interferes with pressure equalization in the middle ear, leading to pain, fluid and infection. Ear infections are the most common cause of children’s hearing loss. When they do not respond to medical treatment, the surgical insertion of tubes into the ears is often required.

The brain

Children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to suffer behavioral problems such as hyperactivity than children of non-smoking mothers. Modest impairment in school performance and intellectual achievement have also been demonstrated.

Who is at risk?

Although ETS is dangerous to everyone, fetuses, infants and children are at most risk. This is because ETS can damage developing organs, such as the lungs and brain.

Secondhand smoke causes cancer

You have just read how ETS harms the development of your child, but did you know that your risk of developing cancer from ETS is about 100 times greater than from outdoor cancer-causing pollutants? Did you know that ETS causes more than 3,000 non-smokers to die of lung cancer each year? While these facts are quite alarming for everyone, you can stop your child’s exposure to secondhand smoke right now.

What can you do?

  • Stop smoking, if you do smoke. Consult your physician for help, if needed. There are many new pharmaceutical products available to help you quit.
  • If you have household members who smoke, help them stop. If it is not possible to stop their smoking, ask them, and visitors, to smoke outside of your home.
  • Do not allow smoking in your car.
  • Be certain that your children’s schools and day care facilities are smoke free.

Acknowledgment is made to the American Academy of Pediatric Otolaryngology for contributions to this content.

Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of a sarcoma, which means a cancer of the bone, soft tissues, or connective tissue. This cancer can occur anywhere in the body but is most often found in the head and neck region, followed by the organs associated with reproduction and urination, and the arms or legs.

More than 90 percent of rhabdomyosarcomas are diagnosed in people under 25 years old; about 60 percent of these cases are diagnosed in children under the age of 10. In the United States, rhabdomyosarcoma strikes approximately five in every one million children each year.

The cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is unknown. Some children with certain birth defects are at increased risk, and some families have a gene mutation that elevates risk. However, the vast majority of children with rhabdomyosarcoma do not have any known risk factors.

Rhabdomyosarcoma Symptoms Depend on Where the Tumor Develops:

The otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon is the medical specialist that will identify the symptoms of this cancer in the head and neck region. Specifically, when rhabdomyosarcoma affects the eye or eyelid, the result can be a bulging eye, a swollen eyelid or paralysis of the eye muscles. In the sinuses, rhabdomyosarcoma can cause a stuffy nose, and sometimes a nasal discharge that contains pus or blood. In other locations in the head and neck, the most common symptom of a rhabdomyosarcoma near the surface is a painless lump or swelling that gradually gets larger.

When rhabdomyosarcomas develops in the urogenital tract, the consequence can be tumors causing difficulty in urination, blood in the urine, constipation, a lump or mass inside the vagina, vaginal discharge that contains blood and mucus, or a painless enlargement of one side of the scrotum. Rhabdomyosarcoma appears as a lump or swelling, with or without pain, tenderness and redness. In physically active children, the swelling is sometimes mistaken for an injury related to sports or childhood play.

Call your doctor promptly if your child develops any of these symptoms.

What to Expect When you See the Doctor:

After reviewing your child’s symptoms, your doctor will examine your child. Depending on the results of this exam, your doctor may order a regular X-ray as the first test. Computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) might also be needed. If a tumor is found on any of these tests, a small piece of tissue is removed and examined in a laboratory (biopsy).

If the lab tests show signs of a cancerous tumor, your doctor will refer you to a medical center that has the facilities, personnel, and experience to treat childhood cancer. There your child will have more tests to check whether the cancer has spread to the lungs, bones, or elsewhere.

Diagnosis

Once childhood rhabdomyosarcoma is found, more tests will be done to find out if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. Your doctor needs to know how far the cancer has spread to plan treatment.

Treatments:

A rhabdomyosarcoma will continue to grow until it is treated. Without proper treatment, this cancer eventually may spread to the lungs, bone marrow, bones, or lymph nodes. There are treatments for all patients with childhood rhabdomyosarcoma. Three types of treatment are used, most often in combination with each other:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells)
  • Radiation therapy (using highenergy X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells)

Prognosis:

More than 70 percent of children with localized rhabdomyosarcoma enjoy long-term survival. Survival rates depend on initial tumor size, location, appearance under the microscope, how much of the tumor can be removed with surgery, and whether the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Sources:

emedicine, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute

Pediatric Thyroid Cancer

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located at the base of the throat. It has two lobes separated in the middle by a strip of tissue (the isthmus). The thyroid itself secretes three main hormones: (1) Thyroxine contains iodine, needed for growth and metabolism; (2) Triiodothyronine, similar in function to Thyroxine, effects body size, tissues growth, and function: and (3) Calcitonin, which decreases the concentration of calcium in the blood and increases calcium in the bones. All three of these hormones have an important role in your child’s growth.

Thyroid cancer is the third most common tumor malignancy in children. It occurs six times more often in females than males and shares several characteristics with adult thyroid cancer patients. Surgery is the preferred treatment for this cancer and although the procedure is often uncomplicated, one of the risks of thyroid surgery involves vocal cord paralysis. Consequently, an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon should be consulted.

Types of thyroid cancer in children:

Papillary: This form of thyroid cancer occurs in cells that produce thyroid hormones containing iodine. This type, the most common form of thyroid cancer in children, grows very slowly.

Follicular: This type of thyroid cancer also develops in cells that produce thyroid hormones containing iodine. The disease afflicts a slightly older age group and is less common in children. This type of thyroid cancer is more likely to spread to the neck via blood vessels causing the cancer to spread to other parts of the body, making the disease difficult to control.

Medullary: This rare form of thyroid cancer develops in cells that produce calcitonin, a hormone that does not contain iodine. This cancer tends to spread to other parts of the body and constitutes about 5-10 percent of all thyroid malignancies. Medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) in the pediatric population is usually associated with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), an inherited genetic form of the cancer.

Anaplastic: This is the fastest growing of the thyroid cancers, with extremely abnormal cells that grow and spread rapidly, especially locally in the head and neck region. This form of cancer usually is found in older patients.

Symptoms:

The symptoms of this disease vary. Your child may have a lump in the neck, continuous swollen lymph nodes, a tight or full feeling in the neck, and/or trouble with breathing or swallowing, hoarseness.

Diagnosis:

If any of these symptoms occur, consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis. The diagnosis could consist of a head and neck examination to determine if unusual lumps are present; a blood test to indicate how the thyroid is functioning; a sonography, which uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create an image of the thyroid gland; a radioactive iodine scan, which provides information about the thyroid shape and function, identifying areas in the thyroid that do no absorb iodine in the normal way; fine needle biopsy, removal for study of a small part of the tumor; and surgery, where a procedure known as a thyroid lobectomy, necessitates removal of the lobe of the thyroid gland that contains the tumor, for analysis.

Treatments for thyroid cancer:

If the tumor is found to be malignant then surgery is used to remove as much of the tumor as possible either by lobectomy or subtotal thyroidectomy (removal of at least one thyroid lobe and up to a near-total removal of the thyroid gland). If necessary, the otolaryngologist— head and neck surgeon may remove the entire thyroid, in a procedure called a total thyroidectomy. Surgery may be followed by radioactive iodine therapy which destroys cancer cells that are left after surgery and help prevent the disease from returning Thyroid hormone therapy may need to be administered throughout your child’s life when he/she has had surgery to remove the thyroid followed by radioactive iodine treatment to replace normal hormones and slow the growth of cancer cells. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy, the treatment of disease by means of chemical substances or drugs, may be given. This therapy interferes with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells and shrink tumors. In general, treatment outcomes for this type of cancer in children tend to be excellent. The best outcome is achieved with teenage girls, papillary type cancer, and a tumor localized to the thyroid gland.

Source: National Cancer Institute “Populationbased Outcomes for Pediatric Thyroid Carcinoma,” by Nina L. Shapiro MD, and Neil Bhattacharyya MD, Laryngoscope. 2005 Feb;115(2):337-40.

Common problems that can effect your voice

It may come as a surprise to you the variety of medical conditions that can lead to voice problems. The most common causes of hoarseness and vocal difficulties are outlined below. If you become hoarse frequently or notice voice change for an extended period of time, please see your Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor) for an evaluation.

Acute Laryngitis

Acute laryngitis is the most common cause of hoarseness and voice loss that starts suddenly. Most cases of acute laryngitis are caused by a viral infection that leads to swelling of the vocal cords. When the vocal cords swell, they vibrate differently, leading to hoarseness. The best treatment for this condition is to stay well hydrated and to rest or reduce your voice use. Serious injury to the vocal cords can result from strenuous voice use during an episode of acute laryngitis. Since most acute laryngitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Bacterial infections of the larynx are much rarer and often are associated with difficulty breathing. Any problems breathing during an illness warrants emergency evaluation.

Chronic Laryngitis

Chronic laryngitis is a non-specific term and an underlying cause should be identified. Chronic laryngitis can be caused by acid reflux disease, by exposure to irritating substances such as smoke, and by low grade infections such as yeast infections of the vocal cords in people using inhalers for asthma. Chemotherapy patients or others whose immune system is not working well can get these infections too.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LPRD)

Reflux of stomach juice into the throat can cause a variety of symptoms in the esophagus (swallowing tube) as well as in the throat. Hoarseness (chronic or intermittent), swallowing problems, a lump in the throat sensation, or throat pain are common symptoms of stomach acid irritation of the throat. Please be aware that LPRD can occur without any symptoms of frank heartburn and regurgitation that traditionally accompany gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Voice Misuse and Overuse

Speaking is a physical task that requires coordination of breathing with the use of several muscle groups. It should come as no surprise that, just like in any other physical task, there are efficient and inefficient ways of using your voice. Excessively loud, prolonged, and/or inefficient voice use can lead to vocal difficulties, just like improper lifting can lead to back injuries. Excessive tensionin the neck and laryngeal muscles, along with poor breathing technique during speech leads to vocal fatigue, increased vocal effort, and hoarseness. Voice misuse and overuse puts you at risk for developing benign vocal cord lesions (see below) or a vocal cord hemorrhage.

Common situations that are associated with voice misuse:

  • Speaking in noisy situations
  • Excessive cellular phone use
  • Telephone use with the handset cradled to the shoulder
  • Using inappropriate pitch (too high or too low) when speaking
  • Not using amplification when publicly speaking

Benign Vocal Cord Lesions

Benign non-cancerous growths on the vocal cords are most often caused by voice misuse or overuse, which causes trauma to the vocal cords. These lesions (or “bumps”) on the vocal cord(s) alter vocal cord vibration and lead to hoarseness. The most common vocal cord lesions are nodules, polyps, and cysts. Vocal nodules (also known as nodes or singer’s nodes) are similar to “calluses” of the vocal cords. They occur on both vocal cords opposite each other at the point of maximal wear and tear, and are usually treated with voice therapy to eliminate the vocal trauma that is causing them. Contrary to common myth, vocal nodules are highly treatable and intervention leads to improvement in most cases. Vocal cord polyps and cysts are the other common benign lesions. These are sometimes related to voice misuse or overuse, but can also occur in people who don’t use their voice improperly. These types of problems typically require microsurgical treatment for cure, with voice therapy employed in a combined treatment approach in some cases.

Vocal Cord Hemorrhage

If you experience sudden loss of voice following yelling, shouting, or other strenuous vocal tasks, you may have developed a vocal cord hemorrhage. Vocal cord hemorrhage results when one of the blood vessels on the surface of the vocal cord ruptures and the soft tissues of the vocal cord fill with blood. It is considered a vocal emergency and is treated with absolute voice rest until the hemorrhage resolves. If you lose your voice after strenuous voice use, see your Otolaryngologist as soon as possible.

Vocal Cord Paralysis and Paresis

Hoarseness and other problems can occur related to problems between the nerves and muscles within the voice box or larynx. The most common neurological condition that affects the larynx is a paralysis or weakness of one or both vocal cords. Involvement of both vocal cords is rareand is usually manifested by noisy breathing or difficulty getting enough air while breathing or talking. When one vocal cord is paralyzed or weak, voice is usually the problem rather than breathing. One vocal cord can become paralyzed or weakened (paresis) from a viral infection of the throat, after surgery in the neck or chest, from a tumor or growth along the laryngeal nerves, or for unknown reasons. Vocal cord paralysis typically presents with a soft and breathy voice. Many cases of vocal cord paralysis will recover within several months. In some cases however, the paralysis will be permanent, and may require active treatment to improve the voice. Treatment choice depends on the nature of the vocal cord paralysis, the degree of vocal impairment, and the patient’s vocal needs. While we are not able to make paralyzed vocal cords move again, there are good treatment options for improving the voice. One option includes surgery for unilateral vocal cord paralysis that repositions the vocal cord to improve contact and vibration of the paralyzed vocal cord with the non-paralyzed vocal cord. There are a variety of surgical techniques used to accomplish this. Voice therapy may be used before or after surgical treatment of the paralyzed vocal cords, or it can also be used as the sole treatment. (For more information, see Vocal Cord Paralysis Fact Sheet.)

Laryngeal Cancer

Throat cancer is a very serious condition requiring immediate medical attention. Chronic hoarseness warrants evaluation by an otolaryngologist to rule out laryngeal cancer. It is important to remember that prompt attention to changes in the voice facilitate early diagnosis. Remember to listen to your voice because it might be telling you something. Laryngeal cancer is highly curable if diagnosed in its early stages. (For more information, see Laryngeal Cancer Fact Sheet.)

Are We Through with Chew Yet?

As many as 20 percent of high school boys and two percent of high school girls continue to use smokeless tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite public education campaigns sponsored by medical societies, organized baseball, and individuals, 12 to 14 million American users, one third are under age 21, and more than half of those developed the habit before they were 13. Peer pressure is just one of the reasons for starting the habit. Serious users often graduate from brands that deliver less nicotine to stronger ones. With each use, you need a little more of the drug to get the same feeling.

There has been some progress. The organizer of America’s fastest growing sport, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has dropped its long-time affiliation with Winston tobacco. NASCAR president Mike Helton says a total tobacco ban is “an issue that’s on our radar for next year.”

And there have been setbacks in the fight against smoking tobacco. New marketing campaigns that feature flavored smokeless products have won over new young users. Journalistic coverage of Dr. Brad Rodu and his support of smokeless tobacco as a substitute for cigarettes has diluted the Academy’s “No Smokeless Tobacco Use” message that has been an official campaign for this Academy since 1989. In a November 10, 2005 study; “New Cigarette Brands with Flavors That Appeal to Youth: Tobacco Marketing Strategies; Health Affairs, November/December 2005, Volume 24, number 6, funded by the American Legacy Foundation and the National Cancer Institute noted that candy flavors were also added to smokeless tobacco products, cigars and cigarette rolling papers.

Gregory Connolly, senior author of the study and a professor of the practice of public health at the Harvard School of Pubic Health noted, “Tobacco companies are using candy-like flavors and high tech delivery devices to turn a blowtorch into a flavored popsicle, misleading millions of youngsters to try a deadly product. Although the study focuses primarily on cigarettes, it noted that the addiction to smokeless tobacco or “chew” is as strong if not stronger than to cigarettes. Additional research has shown that there continues to be substantial evidence that smokeless tobacco is deadly. A December 18, 2003 study by Patricia Richter, Ph.D and Francis Spierto, Ph.D, two CDC researchers released by the Center for the Advancement of Health reported that the most popular brands of smokeless tobacco contain the highest amounts of nicotine that can be readily absorbed by the body. According to Richter, “Consumers need to know that smokeless tobacco products, including loose-leaf and moist snuff, are not safe alternatives to smoking,” Richter says. “The amount of nicotine absorbed per dose from using smokeless tobacco is greater than the amount of nicotine absorbed from smoking one cigarette.

Kicking Tobacco Means Kicking It All

In November 11, 2005 Reuters story, “Oral Tocacco Not Safe Sbustiute for Smoking,” Dr. Stephen Hecht and colleagues from the University of Minnesota Cancer Center in Minneapolis related data from their current research that compared the levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines in popular smokeless tobacco products and medicinal nicotine products such as the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, and nicotine lozenges.

The results “clearly showed that the levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines are far higher in smokeless tobacco products than they are in medicinal nicotine products,” Hecht said during a press briefing. While smokeless tobacco has “demonstrably less carcinogens and toxins than cigarette smoke,” said Hecht, smokeless tobacco still has “remarkably high levels of carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines — levels that are 100 to 1,000 times higher than in any other consumer product that is designed for oral consumption.” In a separate study, the team evaluated carcinogen biomarker levels in individuals using these products. They had 54 users of popular US smokeless tobacco products use their usual brand for two weeks and then had them switch to either Swedish snus or a nicotine patch for four weeks.

The team found that carcinogen levels in urine were statistically significantly lower after the switch from US-made smokeless tobacco brands to snus or to the nicotine patch. When comparing snus users to patch users, levels of cancer- causing compounds were significantly lower in patch users, indicating that medicinal nicotine is safer than snus, Hecht said. These results conflict with some prior studies that suggested that smokeless tobacco including moist snuff may be a less harmful habit than cigarette smoking because many of the carcinogens in cigarette smoke are either reduced or absent in smokeless tobacco. The bottom line, Dr.Hecht said, is that “smokeless tobacco products are dangerous.”

“The evidence suggests,” he continued, “that smokeless products are in fact a cause of oral cancer and pancreatic cancer in humans. The current evidence does not support smokeless tobacco as a substitute for cigarette smoking.”

Head and Neck Cancer

Insight into recognizing symptoms for early detection

  • Early detection of head and neck cancer
  • Symptoms of head and neck cancer
  • and more…

More than 55,000 Americans will develop cancer of the head and neck (most of which is preventable) this year; nearly 13,000 of them will die from it.

Early detection of head and neck cancer

Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of these deaths. In the United States, up to 200,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. The good news is that this figure has decreased due to the increasing number of Americans who have quit smoking. The bad news is that some of these smokers switched to smokeless or spit tobacco, assuming it is a safe alternative. This is untrue. By doing this, they are merely changing the site of the cancer risk from their lungs to their mouth. While lung cancer cases are down, cancers in the head and neck appear to be increasing. Cancer of the head and neck is curable if caught early. Fortunately, most head and neck cancers produce early symptoms. You should know the potential warning signs so you can alert your doctor as soon as possible. Remember—successful treatment of head and neck cancer can depend on early detection. Knowing and recognizing the signs of head and neck cancer can save your life.

Symptoms of head and neck cancer

A lump in the neck…Cancers that begin in the head or neck usually spread to lymph nodes in the neck before they spread elsewhere. A lump in the neck that lasts more than two weeks should be seen by a physician as soon as possible. Of course, not all lumps are cancer. But a lump (or lumps) in the neck can be the first sign of cancer of the mouth, throat, voicebox (larynx), thyroid gland, or of certain lymphomas or blood cancers. Such lumps are generally painless and continue to enlarge steadily.

Change in the voice…Most cancers in the larynx cause some changes in voice. Any hoarseness or other voice change lasting more than two weeks should alert you to see your physician. An otolaryngologist is a head and neck specialist who can examine your vocal cords easily and painlessly. While most voice changes are not caused by cancer, you shouldn’t take chances. If you are hoarse more than two weeks, see your doctor.

A growth in the mouth…Most cancers of the mouth or tongue cause a sore or swelling that doesn’t go away. These sores and swellings may be painless unless they become infected. Bleeding may occur, but often not until late in the disease. If an ulcer or swelling is accompanied by lumps in the neck, be concerned. Your dentist or doctor can determine if a biopsy (tissue sample test) is needed and can refer you to a head and neck surgeon to perform this procedure.

Bringing up blood…This is often caused by something other than cancer. However, tumors in the nose, mouth, throat, or lungs can cause bleeding. If blood appears in your saliva or phlegm for more than a few days, you should see your physician.

Swallowing problems…Cancer of the throat or esophagus (swallowing tube) may make swallowing solid foods difficult. Sometimes liquids can also be troublesome. The food may “stick” at a certain point and then either go through to the stomach or come back up. If you have trouble almost every time you try to swallow something, you should be examined by a physician. Usually a barium swallow x-ray or an esophagoscopy (direct examination of the swallowing tube with a telescope) will be performed to find the cause.

Changes in the skin…The most common head and neck cancer is basal cell cancer of the skin. Fortunately, this is rarely a major problem if treated early. Basal cell cancers appear most often on sun-exposed areas like the forehead, face, and ears, although they can occur almost anywhere on the skin. Basal cell cancer often begins as a small, pale patch that enlarges slowly, producing a central “dimple” and eventually an ulcer. Parts of the ulcer may heal, but the major portion remains ulcerated. Some basal cell cancers show color changes. Other kinds of cancer, including squamous cell cancer and malignant melanoma, also occur on the skin of the head and neck. Most squamous cell cancers occur on the lower lip and ear. They may look like basal cell cancers and, if caught early and properly treated, usually are not much more dangerous. If there is a sore on the lip, lower face, or ear that does not heal, consult a physician. Malignant melanoma classically produces dense blue-black or black discolorations of the skin. However, any mole that changes size, color, or begins to bleed may be trouble. A black or blue-black spot on the face or neck, particularly if it changes size or shape, should be seen as soon as possible by a dermatologist or other physician.

Persistent earache…Constant pain in or around the ear when you swallow can be a sign of infection or tumor growth in the throat. This is particularly serious if it is associated with difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness or a lump in the neck. These symptoms are best evaluated by an otolaryngologist.

Identifying high risk of head and neck cancer

As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers arise after prolonged exposure to specific factors. Use of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or snuff) and alcoholic beverages are closely linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and tongue. (In adults who neither smoke nor drink, cancer of the mouth and throat are nearly nonexistent.) Prolonged exposure to sunlight is linked with cancer of the lip and is also an established major cause of skin cancer.

What you should do…All of the symptoms and signs described here can occur with no cancer present. In fact, many times complaints of this type will be due to some other condition. But you can’t tell without an examination. So, if they do occur, see your doctor–and be sure.

Remember: When found early, most cancers in the head and neck can be cured with relatively little difficulty. Cure rates for these cancers could be greatly improved if people would seek medical advice as soon as possible. So play it safe. If you think you have one of the warning signs of head and neck cancer, see your doctor right away.

Be safe: See your doctor early! And practice health habits which will make these diseases unlikely to occur.

Thyroid Disorders and Surgery

Insight into complications and treatment

  • What is a thyroid disorder?
  • What treatment may be recommended?
  • What is thyroid surgery?
  • and more…

Your thyroid gland is one of the endocrine glands that makes hormones to regulate physiological functions in your body, like metabolism. Other endocrine glands are the pancreas, the pituitary, the adrenal glands, and the parathyroid glands.

The thyroid gland is located in the middle of the lower neck, below the larynx (voice box) and wraps around the front half of the trachea (windpipe). It is shaped like a bow tie, just above the collarbones, having two halves (lobes) which are joined by a small tissue bar (isthmus.). You can’t always feel a normal thyroid gland.

What is a thyroid disorder?

Diseases of the thyroid gland are very common, affecting millions of Americans. The most common thyroid problems are:

  • an overactive gland, called hyperthyroidism (e.g., Graves’ disease, toxic adenoma or toxic nodular goiter)
  • an underactive gland, called hypothyroidism (e.g., Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • thyroid enlargement due to overactivity (as in Graves’ disease) or from under-activity (as in hypothyroidism). An enlarged thyroid gland is often called a “goiter”.

Patients with a family history or who had radiation therapy to the head or neck as children for acne, adenoids, or other reasons are more prone to develop thyroid malignancy.

If you develop significant swelling in your neck or difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should call your surgeon or be seen in the emergency room.

What treatment may be recommended?

Depending on the nature of your condition, treatment may include the following:

Hypothyroidism treatment:

  • thyroid hormone replacement pills

Hyperthyroidism treatment:

  • medication to block the effects of excessive production of thyroid hormone
  • radioactive iodine to destroy the thyroid gland
  • surgical removal of the thyroid gland

Goiters (lumps):

If you experience this condition, your doctor will propose a treatment plan based on the examination and your test results. He may recommend:

A fine needle aspiration biopsy—a safe, relatively painless procedure. With this procedure, a hypodermic needle is passed into the lump, often after administration of local anesthesia into the skin, and tissue fluid samples containing cells are taken. Often several passes with the needle are required. Sometimes ultrasound may be used to guide the needle into the nodule. There is little pain afterward and very few complications from the procedure occur. This test gives the doctor more information on the nature of the lump in your thyroid gland and specifically may help to differentiate a benign from a malignant thyroid mass.

Thyroid surgery—may be required when:

  • the fine needle aspiration is reported as suspicious for or suggestive of cancer
  • the trachea (windpipe) or esophagus are compressed because both lobes are very large

Historically, some malignant thyroid nodules have shown a reduction in size with the administration of thyroid hormone. However, this treatment, known as medical “suppression” therapy, has proven to be an unreliable treatment method.

What is thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery is an operation to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. It is performed in the hospital, and general anesthesia is usually required. Typically the operation removes the lobe of the thyroid gland containing the lump and possibly the isthmus. A frozen section (an immediate microscopic reading) may or may not be used to determine if the rest of the thyroid gland should be removed.

Sometimes, based on the result of the frozen section, the surgeon may decide not to remove any additional thyroid tissue, or proceed to remove the entire thyroid gland, and/or other tissue in the neck. This is a decision usually made in the operating room by the surgeon, based on findings at the time of surgery. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you preoperatively.

There may be times when the definite microscopic answer cannot be determined until several days after surgery. If a malignancy is identified in this way, your surgeon may recommend that the remaining lobe of the thyroid be removed at a second procedure. If you have specific questions about thyroid surgery, ask your otolaryngologist and he or she will answer them in detail.

What happens after thyroid surgery?

During the first 24 hours:

After surgery, you may have a drain (a tiny piece of plastic tubing), which prevents fluid and blood from building up in the wound. This is removed after the fluid accumulation has stabilized, usually within 24 hours after surgery. Most patients are discharged later the same day or the day following the procedure.

Complications are rare but may include:

  • bleeding
  • a hoarse voice
  • difficulty swallowing
  • numbness of the skin on the neck
  • vocal cord paralysis
  • low blood calcium

At home:

Following the procedure, if it is determined that you need to take any medication, your surgeon will discuss this with you, prior to your discharge.

Medications may include:

  • thyroid hormone replacement
  • calcium and/or vitamin D replacement

Some symptoms may not become evident for two or three days after surgery. If you experience any of the following, call your surgeon:

  • numbness and tingling around the lips and hands
  • increasing pain
  • fever
  • swelling
  • wound discharge

If a malignancy is identified, thyroid replacement medication may be withheld for several weeks. This allows a radioactive scan to better detect any remaining microscopic thyroid tissue, or spread of malignant cells to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.

How is a diagnosis made?

The diagnosis of a thyroid function abnormality or a thyroid mass is made by taking a medical history and a physical examination. Specifically, your doctor will examine your neck and ask you to lift up your chin to make your thyroid gland more prominent. You may be asked to swallow during the examination, which helps to feel the thyroid and any mass in it. Other tests your doctor may order include:

  • evaluation of the larynx/vocal cords with a mirror or a fiberoptic telescope
  • an ultrasound examination of your neck and thyroid
  • blood tests of thyroid function
  • a radioactive thyroid scan
  • a fine needle aspiration biopsy
  • a chest X-ray
  • a CT or MRI scan

Fall Prevention

Insight into preventing injuries caused by falls

  • Why are falls more likely during the senior years?
  • How does lifestyle management affect fall prevention?
  • and more…

Today’s society is more active than ever, but inevitably every year more than two million Americans fall and sustain serious injury, costing the healthcare system in excess of $3 billion dollars. Hidden costs affecting the individual include pain, disability, lawsuits, loss of independence, deterioration in well-being, and the impact on other family members. Nonetheless, falls are predictable and preventable, even for older adults.

Why are falls more likely during the senior years?

Falls and the resulting injuries are among the elderly’s most serious health issues caused by the body’s deterioration through inactivity and the central nervous system (CNS)’s damaged through injuries. For example, the sensory cells in the ears’ balance system gradually decrease and cannot be replaced, as well as the nerves carrying sensory information to the brain to perform complex brain interconnections lose fiber and nerve cells. In addition, nerve endings loose their ability to generate the chemicals responsible for the transmission of information. This process accelerates after the age of 50.

Many diseases affect the CNS and sense organs too. Also, muscle strength gradually decreases with age, joint tendons and ligaments lose their flexibility and limit motion. The combined ravages of bone and joint injury, arthritis, and inactivity can result in a body that cannot carry out motion commands initiated by the brain. Hardening of the arteries is probably the worst. It is accelerated by high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes. Although artery hardening gradually increases during middle age, there is a point at which a slight additional decrease in blood flow causes serious vascular impairment such as stroke.

Head injuries, sometimes caused by falls, can damage the sense organs in the inner ears, or the brain itself. Therefore, physical activity is very important for injury recovery to the sensory systems. The general debility of aging can negatively affect recovery if it results in a decreased level of activity. Often, injuries to the knees, hips, and back do not completely heal, leaving some limitation of motion.

The worst disability occurs when both sense organs and CNS structures are damaged simultaneously, as is the case with Alzheimer’s Disease. Also, arthritis can cause permanent, crippling, nonreversible effects and osteoporosis can lead to bone weakness and increases the probability of serious injury from a fall or a spontaneous fracture that might lead to a fall.

How can medications affect my sensory functions?

In this time of specialization, it is possible for one patient to receive prescriptions from several physicians that might have additive side effects on the brain and sensory function. Therefore, patients should keep a complete list of all their medications and dosages, and make this list available to each physician they consult. Coordination of all medications through a single primary care physician would help avoid adverse drug reactions to the brain and sensory functions. The list should include:

  • Over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines, sleeping medications, analgesics, and cough suppressants.
  • Medications used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, allergy, insomnia, stomach acidity, and depression.
  • Medications listing alcohol as an ingredient since it affects movement and judgment and adversely interacts with many medications.

How can I recover from an injury caused by a fall?

Rehabilitation

  • A thorough and complete evaluation of sensory, CNS, muscles/joints, and balance function should be performed. This includes a search for causes of dizziness, such as inner ear diseases; an evaluation of the inner ear balance system, which might be adversely affected by certain drugs (such as a class of antibiotics known as aminoglycocides); trauma; and the aging process.
  • Tests of higher mental function are important since falling may be a sign of serious mental deterioration.
  • A careful review of all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) is very important. If medication for anxiety or depression is used, switching from a long acting drug to one that is more quickly passed from the body seems to decrease the risk of falling.
  • All correctable problems should be treated. Visual correction with proper eyeglasses, improvement of hearing by hearing aids, adjustment or elimination of medications, and any other disease, which could impair balance must be accomplished.

Rehabilitation includes increasing the range of motion as well as physical strength. A very important part of rehabilitation is overcoming the fear of falling and thus avoiding further injury. Walkers and canes can aid stability, while simple changes in the home, such as installing hand holds in bathrooms or along walls, could decrease the likelihood of falling and increase confidence. But keep in mind, drastically changing a familiar environment often hampers recovery. As soon as possible, rehabilitation should include family members and home support groups. Rapid return to physical activity and social interaction with family and community can often stop the vicious spiral into inactivity, reclusiveness, and progressive deterioration that falls and injuries cause.

How does lifestyle management affect fall prevention?

As many of the problems responsible for falling develop during early and middle age, initial efforts to prevent injuries should begin at a younger age. Many of the changes in muscle, bone, and the central nervous system are not inevitable results of aging, but are brought on by inactive lifestyles and self-inflicted damage from smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Although hardening of the arteries is occasionally hereditary, in most cases it can be reduced by diets low in cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, as well as regular physical exercise.

Tips to prevent falls among seniors

Health

  • Have hearing and vision check-ups regularly. If hearing and vision are impaired, important cues that help maintain balance can be lost.
  • Get up slowly. A momentary drop in blood pressure can cause dizziness when standing up too quickly.
  • Use a cane or walker to help maintain balance on uneven ground or slippery surfaces. Wear sturdy, low-heeled shoes with wide, nonslip soles.
  • Exercise to improve your strength, muscle tone, and coordination. Walking is a good form of exercise.

Home

  • Remove raised doorway thresholds in all rooms. Rearrange furniture to keep electrical cords and furniture out of walking paths. Fasten area rugs to the floor with tape or tacks.
  • Never stand on a chair. Use nonskid floor wax
    and wipe up spills immediately.
  • Be sure stairways have sturdy hand rails.
  • Install grab handles and nonskid mats inside and outside your shower and tub.
  • Use shower chairs and bath benches to minimize the risk of falling.
  • Put a light switch by the bedroom door and by your bed so you don’t have to walk across the room to turn on a light. Night lights in your bedrooms, halls, and bathroom are a good idea.

Sinusitis: Special Considerations for Aging Patients

sinusitis; for those 75 years and older, the rate declines to 13.5 percent.

Geriatric Rhinitis Complaints Are:

  • Constant need to clear the throat
  • A sense of nasal obstruction
  • Nasal crusting
  • Vague facial pressure
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste

For the most part, sinusitis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment are the same for the elderly as other adult age groups. However, there are special considerations for older Americans.

Changing Physiology:

With aging, the physiology and function of the nose changes. The nose lengthens, and the nasal tip begins to droop due to weakening of the supporting cartilage. This in turn causes a restriction of nasal airflow, particularly at the nasal valve region (where the upper and lower lateral cartilages meet). Narrowing in this area results in the complaint of nasal obstruction, often referred to as geriatric rhinitis.

Patients with geriatric rhinitis typically complain of constant “sinus drainage,” a chronic need to clear the throat or “hawk” mucus, and a sense of nasal obstruction, most often when they lie down. Other features include nasal crusting especially in the winter and in patients taking diuretics, vague facial pressure (attributed to “sinus trouble”), and a decreased sense of smell and taste.

However, it is a mistake to blame all upper respiratory problems on the aging process. Elderly patients with symptoms such as repeated sneezing, and watery eyes, nasal obstruction with clear profuse watery runny nose, and soft, pale turbinates (top-shaped bones in the nose) may have allergic rhinitis. Patients with this diagnosis will benefit from consultation with an otolaryngic allergist.

Patients with chronic sinusitis will have a long history of thick drainage that is often foul smelling and tasting and is associated with nasal obstruction, headaches, and facial pressure. These patients usually have pus drainage and nasal redness. In contrast, the geriatric rhinitis patient usually has a dry, irritated nose. The diagnosis of chronic sinusitis can be confirmed with a computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the sinuses.

Sinusitis or rhinosinusitis, which is it? In recent studies, otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeons have concluded that sinusitis is often preceded by rhinitis and rarely occurs without concurrent rhinitis. The symptoms, nasal obstruction/discharge and loss of smell, occur in both disorders. Symptoms associated with rhinosinusitis include nasal obstruction, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, nasal purulence, postnasal drip, facial pressure and pain, alteration in the sense of smell, cough, fever, halitosis, fatigue, dental pain, pharyngitis, otologic symptoms (e.g., ear fullness and clicking), and headache. Patients with documented chronic sinusitis unresponsive to medications should be referred to an otolaryngologist.

Osteoporosis:

Osteoporosis is a significant health problem in the United States affecting approximately 24 million Americans, 15 to 20 million of whom are women over 45 years of age. Because of the concerns regarding prolonged estrogen use in postmenopausal women, a nasal calcitonin spray is sometimes prescribed to prevent bone loss. The most common side effect reported with nasal calcitonin spray is a runny nose. Other symptoms that may occur include nasal crust, dryness, redness, irritation, sinusitis, nosebleeds, and headache. Sinusitis sufferers using a nasal calcitonin spray should inform their physicians.

Medications For Geriatric Rhinitis:

Treatment for this age group needs to be more individualized to meet the patient’s slower metabolism and the increasing potential for side effects. The majority (80 to 85 percent) of the nation’s elderly have chronic diseases and take multiple drugs including over-the-counter medications, Placing them at higher risk for drug interactions than other patients.

Surgery For Geriatric Rhinitis:

Nasal and sinus surgery is occasionally advised for older patients. Patients with structural abnormalities, such as a deviated septum or nasal valve collapse causing severe nasal problems, should be referred to an otolaryngologist for evaluation and possible surgical management.

Sources For Aging Patients:

Administration on Aging (AoA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Geriatrics.

Pediatric Head and Neck Tumors

Tumors or growths in the head and neck region may be divided into those that are benign (not cancerous) and malignant (ie., cancer).  Fortunately, most growths in the head and neck region in children are considered to be benign. These benign growths can be related to infection, inflammation, fluid collections, swellings, or neoplasms (tumors) that are non life-threatening.  The malignant growths, on the other hand, may be life-threatening and cause other problems related to their growth and spread.  Even the malignant growths in the head and neck are usually treatable.

Benign Tumors

It is very common for children to have enlarged tonsils and adenoids.  These are almost always from an infection or inflammation.  It is very rare that children develop a cancer, lymphoma, or sarcoma of these areas.  When the tonsils, adenoids, or other areas of the mouth or throat remain enlarged or are enlarged on only one side, it is important to have an evaluation by a specialist in ear, nose and throat or otolaryngology-head and neck surgery.

The lymph nodes of the neck region may become enlarged during childhood.  Most of the time, this is reactive in nature and related to inflammation or infection.  However, if the lymph nodes remain enlarged for a period of time without going away, it is important to have an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon evaluate the problem.

Other benign growths in the face and neck include cysts (fluid collection) such as branchial cleft cyst, thyroglossal duct cyst, cystic hygroma, and dermoid cysts.  These often require removal due to their continued growth and potential for infection.  Growths of blood vessels often are seen in the face and neck and these are often referred to as hemangiomas, vascular malformations, lymphatic and arteriovenous malformations (AVM).  Some of these may require removal or treatment depending upon the type and location.

Sinus and Nose Growths

Although most children have nose bleeds and occasional allergies and sinus infection, sometimes tumors of the nose and sinus present with similar symptoms.  It is generally recommended that a child with continuous sinus problems or nose bleeds be evaluated by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon to be sure it is not a tumor or other treatable condition.

Non-epithelial neoplasms constitute the majority of sinonasal (sinus) tumors in children and adolescents.  Among these, rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) or undifferentiated sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma account for the majority of cases. Among head and neck RMS 14 percent arise from the nasal cavity and 10 percent from the paranasal sinuses.  Nasopharyngeal carcinoma accounts for one third of the nasopharyngeal neoplasms in children.  As is the case in adult patients, it is associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection as demonstrated by EBV DNA presence in malignant cells.  Less frequently, Ewing’s sarcoma/PNET can present in this location. These tumors have also been described as secondary malignancies following treatment of retinoblastoma and other neoplasms. Esthesioneuroblastoma is a rare sinonasal tumor historically related to Ewing/PNET, although more recently comparative genomic hybridization analysis disputes this relation.  Other less common sinonasal tumors presenting in children include hemangioma and hemagiopericitoma, fibroma and fibrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, and desmoid fibromatosis.

Salivary Gland Tumors

There are three paired sets of salivary glands in the head and neck region.  These include the ones in front of the ears (parotid), below the jaw (submandibular), and underneath the tongue (sublingual).  Additionally, there are numerous very small salivary glands throughout the mouth and throat.  Although tumors can arise in these areas, they are rare.  Thus, any child with a growth in these areas should be seen by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon.

Thyroid Tumors

The thyroid gland is found in the front of the lower part of the neck just above the chest area but below the Adam’s apple on both sides.  Although tumors can arise in this area, they are rare.  Thus, any child with a growth in this area should be seen by an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

 

What is cleft lip and cleft palate?

We all start out life with a cleft lip and palate. During normal fetal development between the 6th and 11th week of pregnancy, the clefts in the lip and palate fuse together. In babies born with cleft lip or cleft palate, one or both of these splits failed to fuse.

A “cleft” means a split or separation; the palate is the “roof” of the mouth. A cleft palate or lip then is a split in the oral (mouth) structure. Physicians call clefting a “craniofacial anomaly.” A child can be born with both a cleft lip and cleft palate or a cleft in just one area. Oral clefts are one of the most common birth defects.

Clefts in the lip can range from a tiny notch in the upper lip to a split that extends into the nose. A cleft palate can range from a small malformation that results in minimal problems to a large separation of the palate that interferes with eating, speaking, and even breathing. Clefts are often referred to as unilateral, a split on one side, or bilateral, one split on each side. There are three primary types of clefts:

  • Cleft lip/palate refers to the condition when both the palate and lip are cleft. About one in 1,000 babies are born with cleft lip/palate.
    • About 50 percent of all clefts
    • More common in Asians and certain groups of American Indians
    • Occurs less frequently in African-Americans
    • Up to 13 percent of cases present with other birth defects
    • Occurs more often in male children
  • Isolated cleft palate is the term used when a cleft occurs only in the palate. About one in 2,000 babies are born with this type of cleft (the incidence of submucous cleft palate, a type of isolated cleft palate, is one in 1,200).
    • About 30 percent of all clefts
    • All racial groups have similar risk
    • Occurs more often in female children
  • Isolated cleft lip refers to a cleft in the lip only accounting for 20 percent of all clefts.

What causes clefts?

No one knows exactly what causes clefts, but most believe they are caused by one or more of three main factors: an inherited characteristic (gene) from one or both parents, environment (poor early pregnancy health or exposure to toxins such as alcohol or cocaine), and genetic syndromes. A syndrome is an abnormality in genes on chromosomes that result in malformations or deformities that form a recognizable pattern. Cleft lip/palate is a part of more than 400 syndromes including Waardenburg, Pierre Robin, and Down syndromes. Approximately 30 percent of cleft deformities are associated with a syndrome, so a thorough medical evaluation and genetic counseling is recommended for cleft patients.

How is a cleft diagnosed?

Clefting of the lip and palate is usually visible during the baby’s first examination. One exception is a submucous cleft where the palate is cleft, but remains covered by smooth, unbroken lining of the mouth. A child with cleft lip or palate is often referred to a multidisciplinary team of experts for treatment. The team may include: an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), plastic surgeon, oral surgeon, speech pathologist, pediatric dentist, orthodontist, audiologist, geneticist, pediatrician, nutritionist, and psychologist/social worker.

How are clefts treated?

Treatment of clefts is highly individual, depending on the overall health of the child and the severity and location of the cleft(s). Multiple surgeries and long-term follow-up are often necessary. Because clefts can interfere with physical, language and psychological development, treatment is recommended as early as possible. Surgery to repair a cleft lip is usually done between 10 and 12 weeks of age. A cleft palate is repaired through a procedure called palatoplasy, which is done between nine and 18 months. Additional surgeries are often needed to achieve the best results. In addition to surgery, the child may receive follow-up care from members of the multidisciplinary team on issues of speech, hearing, growth, dental, and psychological development.

What are the complications of clefts?

The complications of cleft lip and cleft palate can vary greatly depending on the degree and location of the cleft. They can include all or some or all of the following:

  • Breathing: When the palate and jaw are malformed, breathing becomes difficult. Treatments include surgery and oral appliances.
  • Feeding: Problems with feeding are more common in cleft children. A nutritionist and speech therapist that specializes in swallowing may be helpful. Special feeding devices are also available.
  • Ear infections and hearing loss: Any malformation of the upper airway can affect the function of the Eustachian tube and increase the possibility of persistent fluid in the middle ear, which is a primary cause of repeat ear infections. Hearing loss can be a consequence of repeat ear infections and persistent middle ear fluid. Tubes can be inserted in the ear by an otolaryngologist to alleviate fluid build-up and restore hearing.
  • Speech and language delays: Normal development of the lips and palate are essential for a child to properly form sounds and speak clearly. Cleft surgery repairs these structures; speech therapy helps with language development.
  • Dental problems: Sometimes a cleft involves the gums and jaw, affecting the proper growth of teeth and alignment of the jaw. A pediatric dentist or orthodontist can assist with this problem.

Children and Facial Trauma

What is facial trauma?

The term facial trauma means any injury to the face or upper jaw bone.  Facial traumas include injuries to the skin covering, underlying skeleton, neck, nasal (sinuses), orbital socket, or oral lining, as well as the teeth and dental structures. Sometimes these types of injuries are called maxillofacial injury.  Facial trauma is often recognized by lacerations (breaks in the skin); bruising around the eyes, widening of the distance between the eyes (which may indicate injury to the bones between the eye sockets); movement of the upper jaw when the head is stabilized (which may indicate a fracture in this area); and abnormal sensations on the cheek.

In the U.S., about three million people are treated in emergency departments for facial trauma injuries each year. Of the pediatric patients, five percent have suffered facial fractures. In children less than three years old, the primary cause of these fractures is falls. In children more than five years old the primary cause for facial trauma is motor vehicle accidents.

Our fast paced world of ultra sports and increasing violence puts children at risk for facial injury.  But, children’s facial injuries require special attention.  A child’s future growth plays a big role in treatment for facial trauma. So, one of the most important issues as a care giver is to follow a physician’s treatment plan as closely as you can until your child is fully recovered.

Why is facial trauma different in children than adults?

Facial trauma can range between minor injury to disfigurement that lasts a lifetime. The face is critical in communicating with others, so it is important to get the best treatment possible. Pediatric facial trauma differs from adult injury because the face is not fully formed and future growth will be a factor in how the child heals and recovers. Certain types of trauma may cause a delay in the growth or further complicate recovery. Difficult cases require physicians with great skill to make a repair that will grow with your child.

Types of facial trauma

New technology, such as CT scans, have improved physicians ability to evaluate and manage facial trauma. In some cases, immediate surgery is needed to realign fractures before they heal incorrectly.  Other injuries will have better outcomes if repairs are done after cuts and swelling have improved. A new study has shown that even when injury does not require surgery, it is important to a child’s health and welfare to continue to follow up with a physicians care.

Soft tissue injuries

Injuries such as cuts (lacerations) may occur on the soft tissue of the face.  In combination with suturing the wound, the provider should take care to inspect and treat any injures to the facial nerves, glands, or ducts.

Bone injuries

When a fracture of the bones in the face occurs, the treatment process is similar to that of a fracture in other parts of the body.  Factors that affect how the fracture should be dealt with are the location of the fracture, the severity of the fracture, and the age and general health of the patient.  It is important during treatment of facial fractures to be careful that the patient’s facial appearance is minimally affected.

Injuries to the teeth and surrounding dental structures style

Isolated injuries to teeth are quite common and may require the expertise of various dental specialists.  Because of the specific needs of the dental structures, certain actions and precautions should be taken if a child has received an injury to his or her teeth or surrounding dental structures.

  • If a tooth is “knocked out”, it should be placed in salt water or milk. The sooner the tooth is re-inserted into the dental socket, the better chance it will survive. Therefore, the patient should see a dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible.
  • Never attempt to “wipe the tooth off” since remnants of the ligament which hold the tooth in the jaw are attached and are vital to the success of replanting the tooth.

References:

Stewart MG, Chen AY. Factors predictive of poor compliance with follow-up after Facial trauma: A prospective study. Otolaryn Head and Neck Surg 1997: 117:72-75

Kim MK, Buchman R, Szeremeta. Penetratin neck trauma in children: an urban hospital’s experience. Otolaryn Head and Neck Surg 2000: 123: 439-43

Facial Plastic Surgery

Insight into procedures

  • Why consider facial plastic surgery?
  • What kinds of problems are treated?
  • and more…

Facial expressions are a way to interact with others. How we look has an impact on how others perceive us, so most of us are concerned about our face’s appearance.

Some would like to change certain things about their face. Others are born with facial abnormalities such as a cleft lip, a birthmark, or other birth defects. Many of us notice the effects of aging, sun damage, or previous facial trauma. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be corrected through surgical procedures performed by a surgeon.

Why consider facial plastic surgery?

The range of conditions that otolaryngologists diagnose and treat are widely varied and can involve the whole face, nose, lips, ears, and neck. Facial plastic surgery treats a specific component of these conditions and can be divided into two types—reconstructive and cosmetic. Reconstructive plastic surgery is performed for patients with conditions that may be present from birth, such as birthmarks on the face, cleft lip and palate, protruding ears, and a crooked smile. Other conditions that are the result of accidents, trauma, burns, or previous surgery are also corrected with this type of surgery. In addition, some reconstructive procedures are required to treat existing diseases like skin cancer. Cosmetic facial plastic surgery is surgery performed to enhance visual appearance of the facial structures. Typical procedures include facelifts, eye lifts, rhinoplasty, and liposuction. An otolaryngologist surgeon is well trained to address all of these problems.

What training is necessary?

An otolaryngologist can receive up to 15 years of college and post-graduate training in plastic surgery, concentrating on procedures that reconstruct the elements of the face.

Post-graduate training includes a year of general surgery, four years of residency in otolaryngology (disorders of the ears, nose, and throat), and may also include one to two years in a fellowship dedicated to facial plastic surgery.

After passing a rigorous set of exams given by the American Board of Otolaryngology, otolaryngologists may become board-certified in the specialty of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. Because they study the complex anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the entire head and neck, these specialists (sometimes called ENTs) are uniquely qualified to perform the procedures that affect the whole face.

What kinds of problems are treated?

The following are examples of procedures:

Rhinoplasty/Septoplasty—Surgery of the external and internal nose in which cartilage and bone are restructured and reshaped to improve the appearance and function of the nose.

Blepharoplasty—Surgery of the upper and/or lower eyelids to improve the function and/or look of the eyes.

Rhytidectomy—Surgery of the skin of the face and neck to tighten the skin and remove excess wrinkles.

Browlift—Surgery to improve forehead wrinkles and droopy eyebrows.

Liposuction—Surgery to remove excess fat under the chin or in the neck.

Facial implants—Surgery to make certain structures of the face (cheek, lips, chin) more prominent and well defined.

Otoplasty—Surgery to reshape the cartilage of the ears so they protrude less.

Skin surface procedures—Surgery using lasers, chemical peels, or derma-abrasion to improve the smoothness of the skin.

Facial reconstruction—Surgery to reconstruct defects in facial skin as a result of prior surgery, injury, or disease. This includes reconstruction of defects resulting from cancer surgery, scar revision, repair of lacerations to the face from prior trauma, removal of birth marks, and correction of congenital abnormalities of the skull, palate, or lips.

Non-surgical procedures—Techniques such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and injectables. Injectables are medications that can be placed under the skin to improv the appearance of the face, such as botox, collagen, Restylane, and other fillers.

How do I find a surgeon?

The Academy can recommend a board-certified otolaryngologist in your area who has a specific interest in facial plastic surgery. A reputable surgeon will take a thorough patient history and advise you on the best procedure for you. Patients should also be cautious not to be swayed by doctors who have the latest equipment, but should instead focus on finding the provider who possesses the skills, expertise, and experience necessary to choose the right treatment method for each individual.

What should you know prior to facial plastic surgery?

Your surgeon should discuss the procedure, risks, and recovery with you. Knowing what to expect will put you more at ease. You should ask how many of the particular type of procedures the surgeon has performed, and how often. You should also know what sort of preparation plans you need to make, how long the procedure will take, and any associated risks. Your surgeon should advise you about any medications you should avoid before your surgery.

Some risks might include: nausea, numbness, bleeding, blood clots, infection, and adverse reactions to the anesthesia. Additionally, if you smoke, you should avoid doing so for two weeks before your surgery in order to optimize healing following your procedure.

You will also want to understand all associated costs and payment options before undergoing any procedure. Insurance will usually cover reconstructive plastic surgery, but check with your provider. If you will be paying for the procedure, find out what payment options are available and if there is a payment plan.

What will recovery be like?

Most plastic surgery will not require a long hospital stay. Depending on the extent of your surgery, some procedures can be completed on an outpatient basis, meaning you would not require a hospital stay. Other procedures may require a hospital stay overnight or for a day or two. Either way, before you are released from the hospital, your surgeon will discuss with you any special care to take while you’re recovering at home. You will be provided with gauze and other types of dressings to tend to your incision area. Permanent sutures and surgical staples will be removed in the office about a week after the procedure. Your surgeon should also explain any special diet you should follow, medications you should take or avoid, and any restriction on activities.

Following your surgery, generally, you should:

  • Avoid aerobic exercise for two weeks.
  • Refrain from weight lifting and contact sports for one month.
  • Talk with your surgeon about medication to manage pain and swelling.
  • Avoid aspirin because it can cause bleeding and make bruising worse.

Most patients feel comfortable returning to work one to two weeks following their surgery, when swelling and bruising are reduced and their appearance has improved.

Dizziness and Motion Sickness

Insight into causes and prevention

  • What is dizziness?
  • What causes dizziness?
  • How will my dizziness be treated?
  • and more…

Feeling unsteady or dizzy can happen due to poor circulation, vertigo, injury, infection, allergies, or neurological disease. Dizziness is treatable but it is important for your doctor to help you determine the cause so that the correct treatment is used. While each person will be affected differently, symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor include a high fever, severe headache, convulsions or ongoing vomiting, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, inability to move an arm or leg, a change in vision or speech, or hearing loss.

What is dizziness?

Dizziness can be described in many ways, such as feeling lightheaded, unsteady, or giddy. Vertigo is a type of dizziness experienced as an illusion of movement of self or the environment and is usually unpleasant. Others experience dizziness associated with motion sickness, a nauseating feeling brought on by the motion of riding in an airplane, on a roller coaster, or aboard a boat. Dizziness, vertigo, and motion sickness all relate to the sense of balance and equilibrium. Your sense of balance is maintained by a complex interaction of the following parts of the nervous system:

  • The inner ears (also called the labyrinth), which monitor the directions of motion, such as turning, rolling, forward-backward, side-to-side, and up-and-down motions.
  • The eyes, which monitor where the body is in space (i.e., upside down, right side up, etc.) and also directions of motion.
  • The skin pressure receptors in the joints and spine, which tell what part of the body is down and touching the ground.
  • The muscle and joint sensory receptors, which tell what parts of the body are moving. T
  • The central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which processes all the bits of information from the four other systems to make some coordinated sense out of it all.

The symptoms of motion sickness and dizziness appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the other four systems.

What causes dizziness?

  • Circulation: If your brain does not get enough blood flow, you feel lightheaded. Almost everyone has experienced this on occasion when standing up quickly from a lying down position. But some people have light-headedness from poor circulation on a frequent or chronic basis. This could be caused by arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, and it is commonly seen in patients who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high levels of blood fats (cholesterol). It is sometimes seen in patients with inadequate cardiac (heart) function, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or anemia (low iron). Certain drugs also decrease the blood flow to the brain, especially stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine. Excess salt in the diet also leads to poor circulation. Sometimes circulation is impaired by spasms in the arteries caused by emotional stress, anxiety, and tension. If the inner ear fails to receive enough blood flow, the more specific type of dizziness occurs, that is, vertigo. The inner ear is very sensitive to minor alterations of blood flow and all of the causes mentioned for poor circulation to the brain also apply specifically to the inner ear.
  • Vertigo: Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis, and Ménière’s syndrome (fluctuating hearing usually in one ear, pressure in the ear, ringing in one ear, and attacks of spinning), and some forms of migraine are all causes of vertigo. BPPV occurs when you change the position of your head (typically lying down or sitting up), while inner ear infections can cause labyrinthitis.
  • Injury: A skull fracture that damages the inner ear produces a profound and incapacitating vertigo with nausea and hearing loss. The dizziness will last for several weeks, and then slowly improve as the normal (other) side takes over.
  • Infection: Viruses can attack the inner ear and its nerve connections to the brain. This can result in severe vertigo, but hearing is usually spared. However, a bacterial infection such as mastoiditis that extends into the inner ear will completely destroy both the hearing and the equilibrium function of that ear. The severity of dizziness and recovery time will be similar to that of a skull fracture.
  • Allergy: Some people experience dizziness and/or vertigo attacks when they are exposed to foods or airborne particles (such as dust, molds, pollens, dander, etc.) to which they are allergic.
  • Neurological diseases: A number of diseases of the nerves can affect balance, such as multiple sclerosis, syphilis, tumors, etc. These are uncommon causes, but your doctor will think about them during the examination.

When should I seek medical attention?

Call 911 or go to an emergency room if you experience:

  • a head injury,
  • fever over 101°F, headache, or very stiff neck,
  • convulsions or ongoing vomiting,
  • chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, a severe headache, inability to move an arm or leg, or change in vision or speech, or
  • fainting and loss of consciousness for more than a few minutes.

Consult your doctor if you:

  • have never experienced dizziness before,
  • experience a difference in symptoms you have had in the past,
  • suspect that medication is causing your symptoms, or
  • experience hearing loss.

How will my dizziness be treated?

The doctor will ask you to describe your dizziness and answer questions about your general health. Along with these questions, your doctor will examine your ears, nose, and throat. Some routine tests will be performed to check your blood pressure, nerve and balance function, and hearing. Possible additional tests may include a CT or MRI scan of your head, special tests of eye motion after warm or cold water or air is used to stimulate the inner ear (ENG—electronystagmography or VNG—videonystagmography), and in some cases, blood tests or a cardiology (heart) evaluation. Your doctor will determine the best treatment based on your symptoms and the cause of them.

Prevention Tips:

  • Avoid rapid changes in position, especially from lying down to standing up or turning around from one side to the other.
  • Avoid extremes of head motion (especially looking up) or rapid head motion (especially turning or twisting).
  • Eliminate or decrease use of products that impair circulation, e.g. nicotine, caffeine, and salt.
  • Minimize your exposure to circumstances that precipitate your dizziness, such as stress and anxiety or substances to which you are allergic.
  • Avoid hazardous activities when you are dizzy, such as driving an automobile or operating dangerous equipment, or climbing a step ladder, etc.
  • Get enough fluids.
  • Treat infections, including ear infections, colds, flu, sinus congestion, and other respiratory infections.

If you are subject to motion sickness:

Always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body and inner ears feel, e.g. sit in the front seat of the car and look at the distant scenery; go up on the deck of the ship and watch the horizon; sit by the window of the airplane and look outside. In an airplane choose a seat over the wings where the motion is the least.

  • Do not read while traveling.
  • Do not sit in a seat facing backward.
  • Do not watch or talk to another traveler who is having motion sickness.
  • Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods immediately before and during your travel.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications.

Some of these medications can be purchased without a prescription (i.e., Dramamine®, Bonine®, Marezine®, etc.) Stronger medicines such as tranquilizers and nervous system depressants will require a prescription from your physician. Some are used in pill or suppository form.

Remember: Most cases of dizziness and motion sickness are mild and self-treatable disorders. But, severe cases and those that become progressively worse, deserve the attention of a physician with specialized skills in diseases of the ear, nose, throat, equilibrium, and neurological systems.

Children and Facial Paralysis

About 40,000 people in the United States develop facial paralysis each year with children comprising a small percentage of that population. There are more than 50 known causes of facial paralysis but the most common in children is “Bell’s palsy,” the cause of which is not certain. This disorder effects one side of the facial muscles due to dysfunction of the seventh cranial nerve, usually thought to stem from a viral infection; Bell’s palsy is found in 20 out of 100,000 Americans, with the incidence increasing with each decade of life.

What causes Bell’s palsy?

In Bell’s palsy, facial paralysis results from damage (e.g., possibly from viral infection) to the facial nerve. Adults and children will either wake up to find they have facial paralysis or palsy, or have symptoms such as a dry eye or tingling around their lips that progress to Bell’s palsy during that same day. Occasionally symptoms may take a few days to progress to facial weakness or paralysis. Physical trauma to the head and neck region at birth and during childhood may cause facial paralysis. Other causes are:

  • Chicken pox: Chicken pox and shingles are both caused by a single virus of the herpes family known as varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Varicella is the primary infection that causes chickenpox; Herpes zoster is the reactivation of the virus that causes shingles. Research studies suggest that Bell’s palsy may be due to a reactivation of herpes simplex virus (HSV). Between 75 percent and 90 percent of chickenpox cases occur in children under 10 years of age. According to a 2001 study, about 10 percent of children between ages five and nine and about two percent of 10 to 14 year olds get chicken pox each year.
  • Infectious mononucleosis: This condition, with a peak incidence in the 15- 17 age group, can be caused by several different viruses. The leading causes are the Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus, both members of the herpes virus family. The infection is transmitted by saliva, sexual contact, respiratory droplets, and blood transfusions.
  • Lyme disease: Lyme disease is an infection that’s spread by Ixodes ticks (black-legged or deer ticks in the eastern United States, and western black-legged ticks in the west). The second stage of Lyme disease usually appears two to three months after the tick bite, and may include facial palsy or paralysis among other symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Bell’s palsy in children?

Not all children react the same to this disorder. However, recorded symptoms include:

  • The child may complain of headache or pain behind or in front of the ear a few days prior to the onset of Bell’s palsy.
  • Swelling or drooping on one side of the face.
  • Drooling, excessive, or reduced production of saliva.
  • An inability to blink or completely close one eye.
  • The child has either excessive tears or marked dryness and inability to make tears in one eye.
  • Sounds seem louder than they really are.
  • The child is experiencing sensitivity to light.
  • Episodes of dizziness.

Treatments for Facial Paralysis:

If infection is the cause, then an antibiotic to fight bacteria (as in middle ear infections) or antiviral agents (to fight syndromes caused by viruses like herpes zoster (Ramsay Hunt Syndrome) may be used. The prognosis for children with facial paralysis is generally very good. The extent of nerve damage determines the extent of recovery. With or without treatment, studies indicate that most pediatric patients with the disorder begin to get better within two weeks after the initial onset of symptoms and recover completely within three to six months. Adults may find residual symptoms remaining for an indefinite period of time.

What happens during the diagnosis?

After an examination, the otolaryngologist- head and neck surgeon may conduct a hearing test to determine if the cause of damage to the nerve has involved the hearing nerve, inner ear, or delicate hearing mechanism. Additional tests in the physician’s office include a balance test and a tear test, to measure the eye’s ability to produce tears. Eye drops may be necessary to prevent drying of the surface of the eye cornea. In some circumstances, the physician may recommend a CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test to determine if there is infection, tumor, bone fracture, or other abnormality in the area of the facial nerve. An additional diagnostic tool is the Electro neuronography (ENOG), which stimulates the facial nerve to assess how badly the nerve is damaged. This test may have to be repeated at frequent intervals to see if the disease is progressing.

Sources:

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Bell’s Palsy Research Foundation

Bell’s Palsy

Insight into facial nerve disorders

  • How does the facial nerve affect facial expression?
  • What causes sudden facial paralysis?
  • How are facial nerve disorders treated?
  • and more…

Disorders of the facial nerve can occur to men, women, and children, but they are more prominent among men and women over 40 years of age, people with diabetes, upper respiratory ailments, weak immune systems, or pregnant women. Cases of facial paralysis can be permanent or temporary, but in all circumstances there are treatments designed to improve facial function.

What is the facial nerve?

The facial nerve resembles a telephone cable and contains 7,000 individual nerve fibers. Each fiber carries electrical impulses to a specific facial muscle. Information passing along the fibers of this nerve allows us to laugh, cry, smile, or frown, hence the name, “the nerve of facial expression.”

When half or more of these individual nerve fibers are interrupted, facial weakness occurs. If these nerve fibers are irritated, then movements of the facial muscles appear as spasms or twitching. The facial nerve not only carries nerve impulses to the muscles of the face, but also to the tear glands, to the saliva glands, and to the muscle of the stirrup bone in the middle ear (the stapes). It also transmits taste from the front of the tongue.

Since the function of the facial nerve is so complex, many symptoms may occur when the fibers of the facial nerve are disrupted. A disorder of the facial nerve may result in twitching, weakness, or paralysis of the face, dryness of the eye or the mouth, or disturbance of taste.

How does the facial nerve affect facial expression?

The facial nerve passes through the base of the skull in transit from the brain to the muscles that control facial expressions. After leaving the brain, the facial nerve enters the temporal bone through the internal auditory canal, a small bony tube, in very close association with the hearing and balance nerves. Along its inch-and-a-half course through a small canal within the temporal bone, the facial nerve winds around the three middle ear bones, in back of the eardrum, and then through the mastoid (the bony area behind the part of the ear that is visible).

After the facial nerve leaves the mastoid, it passes through the salivary or parotid gland and divides into many branches. The facial nerve has four components with several distinct functions: facial expression, taste sensation, skin sensation, and saliva and tear production.

What causes sudden facial paralysis?

Infections, injuries, or tumors can cause facial nerve disorders, but the most common cause of facial weakness is Bell’s palsy. This disorder, which often comes on suddenly and reaches its peak within 48 hours, is probably due to the body’s response to a virus. When there is a virus, the facial nerve within the ear (temporal bone) swells, and this pressure on the nerve in the bony canal damages it.

The paralysis is likely to affect only one side of the face, but in rare cases it affects both sides of the face at once. Bell’s palsy may last from two to three weeks or longer. An early sign of improvement, such as getting a sense of taste back, is often a good indication that there will be a complete recovery.

How are facial nerve disorders treated?

Since otolaryngologists—head and neck surgeons have special training and experience in managing facial nerve disorders, they are the most qualified physicians to perform an in-depth evaluation of abnormal movement or paralysis of the face. An evaluation will include an examination of the head, neck, and ears, as well as a series of tests.

Some of the most commonly used tests are:

  • Hearing Test—Determines if the cause of damage to the nerve has involved the hearing nerve, inner ear, or delicate hearing mechanism.
  • Balance Test—Evaluates balance nerve involvement.
  • Tear Test—Measures the eye’s ability to produce tears. Eye drops may be necessary to prevent drying of the surface of the eye (cornea).
  • Imaging CT (computerized tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)—Determines if there is an infection, tumor, bone fracture, or other abnormality in the area of the facial nerve.
  • Electrical Test—Stimulates the facial nerve to assess how badly the nerve is damaged. This test may have to be repeated at frequent intervals to see if the disease is progressing.

The results of diagnostic testing will determine treatment. The goal of the treatment is to eliminate the source of the nerve damage. Patients with less nerve damage have better chances of recovery. Medications are often used as part of the treatment:

  • If infection is the cause, then an antibiotic to fight bacteria (as in middle ear infections) or antiviral agents (to fight syndromes caused by viruses like Ramsay Hunt) may be used.
  • If swelling is believed to be responsible for the facial nerve disorder, then steroids are often prescribed.
  • In certain circumstances, surgical removal of the bone around the nerve (decompression surgery) may be appropriate.

What treatments are recommended for permanent facial paralysis?

Patients with a permanent facial paralysis may be rehabilitated through a variety of procedures including:

  • Eyelid weights or springs
  • Muscle transfers and nerve substitutions
  • A special form of physical therapy called facial retraining
  • Weakening the paralysis by chemical injection

How does the facial nerve affect the health of the eye?

Remember, when the facial nerve is paralyzed, considerable attention must be given to maintaining a healthy eye through a constant flow of tears. Tears are spread out over the eye by blinking. Since blinking is diminished or eliminated when facial nerve paralysis is present, special care must be given to prevent drying, erosion, and ulcer formation on the cornea which may result in possible loss of the eye.

What are the common signs or symptoms?

  • Twitching
  • Weakness or paralysis of face
  • Dryness of the eye or mouth
  • Disturbance or loss of taste
  • Drooping eyelid or corner of the mouth
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Dribbling when drinking or after cleaning teeth
  • Ear pain

Tips to help recovery

  • Exercise the facial muscles in front of a mirror.
  • Massage the face.
  • Apply gentle heat to reduce pain.
  • Using a finger, regularly close the eye to keep it moist.
  • Tape the eye closed for sleeping.
  • Use protective glasses or clear eye patches to keep the eye moist and to keep foreign materials from entering the eye.
  • Use doctor-recommended artificial tears or an ointment to keep the eye moist.

TMJ

Insight into causes and treatments

  • How does the Temporo-Mandibular Joint work?
  • What causes TMJ pain?
  • How is TMJ pain treated?
  • and more…

Open your jaw all the way and shut it. This simple movement would not be possible without the Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ). It connects the temporal bone (the bone that forms the side of the skull) and the mandible (the lower jaw). Even though it is only a small disc of cartilage, it separates the bones so that the mandible may slide easily whenever you talk, swallow, chew, kiss, etc. Therefore, damage to this complex, triangular structure in front of your ear, can cause considerable discomfort.

Where is the Temporo-Mandibular Joint?

You can locate this joint by putting your finger on the triangular structure in front of your ear. Then move your finger just slightly forward and press firmly while you open your jaw all the way and close it. You can also feel the joint motion in your ear canal.

How does the Temporo-Mandibular Joint work?

When you bite down hard, you put force on the object between your teeth and on the Temporo-Mandibular Joint. In terms of physics, the jaw is the lever and the TMJ is the fulcrum. Actually, more force is applied (per square foot) to the joint surface than to whatever is between your teeth because the cartilage between the bones provides a smooth surface, over which the joint can freely slide with minimal friction.

Therefore, the forces of chewing can be distributed over a wider surface in the joint space and minimize the risk of injury. In addition, several muscles contribute to opening and closing the jaw and aid in the function of the TMJ.

What causes TMJ pain?

In most patients, pain associated with the TMJ is a result of displacement of the cartilage disc that causes pressure and stretching of the associated sensory nerves. The popping or clicking occurs when the disk snaps into place when the jaw moves. In addition, the chewing muscles may spasm, not function efficiently, and cause pain and tenderness.

Damage to the TMJ is often caused by:

  • Major and minor trauma to the jaw
  • Teeth grinding
  • Excessive gum chewing
  • Stress and other psychological factors
  • Improper bite or malpositioned jaws
  • Arthritis

What are the symptoms?

  • Ear pain
  • Sore jaw muscles
  • Temple/cheek pain
  • Jaw popping/clicking
  • Locking of the jaw
  • Difficulty in opening the mouth fully
  • Frequent head/neck aches

The pain may be sharp and searing, occurring each time you swallow, yawn, talk, or chew, or it may be dull and constant. It hurts over the joint, immediately in front of the ear, but pain can also radiate elsewhere. It often causes spasms in the adjacent muscles that are attached to the bones of the skull, face, and jaws. Then, pain can be felt at the side of the head (the temple), the cheek, the lower jaw, and the teeth.

A very common focus of pain is in the ear. Many patients come to the ear specialist quite convinced their pain is from an ear infection. When the earache is not associated with a hearing loss and the eardrum looks normal, the doctor will consider the possibility that the pain comes from TMJ.

There are a few other symptoms besides pain that TMJ can cause. It can make popping, clicking, or grinding sounds when the jaws are opened widely. Or the jaw locks wide open (dislocated). At the other extreme, TMJ can prevent the jaws from fully opening. Some people get ringing in their ears from TMJ.

How is TMJ pain treated?

Because TMJ symptoms often develop in the head and neck, otolaryngologists are appropriately qualified to diagnose TMJ problems. Proper diagnosis of TMJ begins with a detailed history and physical, including careful assessment of the teeth occlusion and function of the jaw joints and muscles. An early diagnosis will likely respond to simple, self-remedies:

  • Rest the muscles and joints by eating soft foods.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Avoid clenching or tensing.
  • Relax muscles with moist heat (1/2 hour at least twice daily).

In cases of joint injury, apply ice packs soon after the injury to reduce swelling. Relaxation techniques and stress reduction, patient education, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants or other medications may also offer relief.

Other treatments for advanced cases may include fabrication of an occlusal splint to prevent wear and tear on the joint, improving the alignment of the upper and lower teeth, and surgery. After diagnosis, your otolaryngologist may suggest further consultation with your dentist and oral surgeon to facilitate effective management of TMJ pain.

Stuffy Nose

Insight into the many causes of nasal congestion

  • What are the causes of nasal congestion?
  • Are there any risks when treating congestion?
  • Where can I find out more?

Nasal congestion, stuffiness, or obstruction to nasal breathing is one of the oldest and most common human complaints. For some, it may only be a nuisance; for others, nasal congestion can be a source of considerable discomfort.

Medical writers have established four main causes of nasal obstruction: infection, structural abnormalities, allergic, and nonallercic (vasomotor) rhinitis. Patients often have a combination of these factors which vary from person to person.

What are the causes of nasal congestion?

Infection

An average adult suffers a “common cold” two to three times per year. These viral infections occur more often in childhood because immunity strengthens with age. A cold is caused by one of many different viruses, some of which are airborne, but most are transmitted by hand-to-nose contact. Once the virus is absorbed by the nose, it causes the body to release histamine, a chemical which dramatically increases blood flow to the nose and causes nasal tissue to swell. This inflames the nasal membranes which become congested with blood and produce excessive amounts of mucus that “stuffs up” the nasal airway. Antihistamines and decongestants help relieve the symptoms of a cold, but no medication can cure it. Ultimately, time is what is needed to get rid of the infection.

During a viral infection, the nose has poor resistance to bacteria, which is why infections of the nose and sinuses often follow a “cold.” When the nasal mucus turns from clear to yellow or green, it usually means that a bacterial infection has set in. In this case, a physician should be consulted.

Acute sinus infections produce nasal congestion and thick discharge. Pain may occur in cheeks and upper teeth, between and behind the eyes, or above the eyes and in the forehead, depending on which sinuses are involved.

Chronic sinus infections may or may not cause pain, but usually involve nasal obstruction and offensive nasal or postnasal discharge. Some people develop polyps (fleshy growths in the nose) from sinus infections, and the infection can spread to the lower airways, leading to a chronic cough, bronchitis, or asthma. Acute sinus infections generally respond to antibiotic treatment; chronic sinusitis may require surgery.

Structural abnormalities

These include deformities of the nose and nasal septum; the thin, flat cartilage and bone that divides the two sides of the nose and nostrils. These deformities are usually the result of an injury, sometimes having occurred in childhood. Seven percent of newborn babies suffer significant nasal injury in the birth process. Nasal injuries are common in both children and adults. If they obstruct breathing, surgical correction may be helpful.

One of the most common causes of nasal obstruction in children is enlargement of the adenoids. These are a tonsil-like tissue located in the back of the nose, behind the palate. Children with this problem may experience noisy breathing at night and may snore. Children who are chronic mouth breathers may develop a sagging face and dental deformities. In this case, surgery to remove the adenoids and/or tonsils may be advisable.

Other causes in this category include nasal tumors and foreign bodies. Children are often known to insert small objects into their noses. If a foul-smelling discharge is observed draining from one nostril, a physician should be consulted.

Allergies

Hay fever, rose fever, grass fever, and summertime colds are various names for allergic rhinitis. Allergy is an exaggerated inflammatory response to a substance which, in the case of a stuffy nose, is usually pollen, mold, animal dander, or some element in house dust. Pollen may cause problems during spring, summer, and fall, whereas house dust allergies are often most evident in the winter. Molds may cause symptoms year-round. In the allergic patient, the release of histamine and similar substances results in congestion and excess production of watery nasal mucus. Antihistamines help relieve the sneezing and runny nose of allergy. Typical antihistamines include Benadryl®, Chlortrimetron®, Claritin®, Teldrin®, Dimetane®, Hismanal®, Nolahist®, PBZ®, Polaramine®, Seldane®, Tavist®, Zyrtec®, Allegra®, and Alavert®, which are often available without a prescription and are available in several generic forms. Combinations of antihistamines with decongestants are also available.

Allergy shots are a specific and successful treatment method. SLIT skin tests and sometimes blood tests are used to make up vials of allergy-inducing substances specific to an individual patient’s profile. The physician determines the best concentration for the first treatment. Once injected, these treatments form blocking antibodies in the patient’s blood stream that interfere with the allergic reaction. Injections are typically given for a period of three to five years. Patients with allergies are more likely to need treatment for sinus infections.

Vasomotor Rhinitis

“Rhinitis” means inflammation of the nose and nasal membranes. “Vasomotor” means pertaining to the nerves that control the blood vessels. Membranes in the nose have an abundant supply of arteries, veins, and capillaries, which have the ability to expand and constrict. Normally these blood vessels are in a half-constricted or half-open state. But when a person exercises vigorously, hormone (adrenaline) levels increase. Adrenaline causes constriction of the nasal membranes so that the air passages open up and the person breathes freely.

The opposite takes place when an allergic attack or a cold develops. During a cold, blood vessels expand, membranes become congested, and the nose becomes stuffy, or blocked.

In addition to allergies and infections, certain circumstances can cause nasal blood vessels to expand, leading to vasomotor rhinitis. These include psychological stress, inadequate thyroid function, pregnancy, certain anti-high blood pressure drugs, prolonged overuse of decongesting nasal sprays, and exposure to irritants such as perfumes and tobacco smoke.

In the early stages of these disorders, nasal stuffiness is temporary and reversible. It usually improves when the primary cause is corrected. However, if the condition persists, the blood vessels lose their capacity to constrict, much like varicose veins. When the patient lies down on one side, the lower side becomes congested, which interferes with sleep. It is helpful to sleep with the head of the bed elevated two to four inches. Surgery is another option that can provide dramatic and long-time relief.

Are there any risks when treating congestion?

Patients who get sleepy from antihistamines should not drive an automobile or operate dangerous equipment after taking them. Decongestants increase pulse rate and elevate blood pressure and therefore should be avoided by those with high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, glaucoma, or difficulty urinating.

Pregnant patients should consult their obstetricians before taking any medicine.

Cortisone-like drugs (corticosteriods) are powerful decongestants, administered as nasal sprays to minimize the risk of serious side effects associated with other dosage forms. Patients using steroid nasal sprays should follow instructions carefully, and consult a physician immediately if they develop nasal bleeding, crusting, pain, or vision changes.

Where can I find out more?

Additional information and suggestions can be found in the AAO-HNS pamphlets, “Doctor, Please Explain Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Cold Remedies,” “Doctor, Please Explain Allergies & Hay Fever,” and “Doctor, Please Explain Sinusitis.”

Snoring

Insight into sleeping disorders and sleep apnea

  • What causes snoring?
  • Why is snoring serious?
  • What treatments are available?
  • and more…

Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons, and it usually grows worse with age. Snoring is an indication of obstructed breathing. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly. An otolaryngologist can help you to determine where the encumbrance may be and offer solutions for this noisy and often embarrassing behavior.

What causes snoring?

The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway (see illustration) where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing.

In children, snoring may be a sign of problems with the tonsils and adenoids. A chronically snoring child should be examined by an otolaryngologist, as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may be required to return the child to full health.

People who snore may suffer from:

  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and throat. When muscles are too relaxed, either from alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway or the throat muscles draw in from the sides into the airway. This can also happen during deep sleep.
  • Excessive bulkiness of throat tissue. Children with large tonsils and adenoids often snore. Overweight people have bulky neck tissue, too. Cysts or tumors can also cause bulk, but they are rare.
  • Long soft palate and/or uvula. A long palate narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, it acts as a noisy flutter valve during relaxed breathing. A long uvula makes matters even worse.
  • Obstructed nasal airways. A stuffy or blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, and pulls together the floppy tissues of the throat, and snoring results. So, snoring often occurs only during the hay fever season or with a cold or sinus infection.
  • Also, deformities of the nose or nasal septum, such as a deviated septum (a deformity of the wall that separates one nostril from the other) can cause such an obstruction.

Why is snoring serious?

Socially – It can make the snorer an object of ridicule and causes others sleepless nights and resentfulness.

Medically – It disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of appropriate rest. When snoring is severe, it can cause serious, long-term health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

When loud snoring is interrupted by frequent episodes of totally obstructed breathing, it is known as obstructive sleep apnea. Serious episodes last more than ten seconds each and occur more than seven times per hour. Apnea patients may experience 30 to 300 such events per night. These episodes can reduce blood oxygen levels, causing the heart to pump harder.

The immediate effect of sleep apnea is that the snorer must sleep lightly and keep his muscles tense in order to keep airflow to the lungs. Because the snorer does not get a good rest, he may be sleepy during the day, which impairs job performance and makes him a hazardous driver or equipment operator. After many years with this disorder, elevated blood pressure and heart enlargement may occur.

Is there a cure for heavy snoring?

Heavy snorers, those who snore in any position or are disruptive to the family, should seek medical advice to ensure that sleep apnea is not a problem. An otolaryngologist will provide a thorough examination of the nose, mouth, throat, palate, and neck. A sleep study in a laboratory environment may be necessary to determine how serious the snoring is and what effects it has on the snorer’s health.

What treatments are available?

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. An examination will reveal if the snoring is caused by nasal allergy, infection, deformity, or tonsils and adenoids.

Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea may respond to various treatments now offered by many otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeons:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is surgery for treating obstructive sleep apnea. It tightens flabby tissues in the throat and palate, and expands air passages.
  • Thermal Ablation Palatoplasty (TAP) refers to procedures and techniques that treat snoring and some of them also are used to treat various severities of obstructive sleep apnea. Different types of TAP include bipolar cautery, laser, and radiofrequency. Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP) treats snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea by removing the obstruction in the airway. A laser is used to shrink the uvula and tighten a specified portion of the palate in a series of small procedures in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Radiofrequency ablation—some with temperature control approved by the FDA—utilizes a needle electrode to emit energy to shrink excess tissue in the upper airway including the palate and uvula (for snoring), base of the tongue (for obstructive sleep apnea), and nasal turbinates (for chronic nasal obstruction).
  • Genioglossus and hyoid advancement is a surgical procedure for the treatment of sleep apnea. It prevents collapse of the lower throat and pulls the tongue muscles forward, thereby opening the obstructed airway.

If surgery is too risky or unwanted, the patient may sleep every night with a nasal mask that delivers air pressure into the throat; this is called continuous positive airway pressure or “CPAP”.

Do you recommend the use of over-the-counter devices?

More than 300 devices are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as cures for snoring. Some are variations on the old idea of sewing a sock that holds a tennis ball on the pajama back to force the snorer to sleep on his side since snoring is often worse when a person sleeps on his back. Some devices reposition the lower jaw forward; some open nasal air passages; a few others have been designed to condition a person not to snore by producing unpleasant stimuli when snoring occurs. But, if you snore, the truth is that it is not under your control. If anti-snoring devices work, it is probably because they keep you awake.

Self-help for the light snorer

  • Adults who suffer from mild or occasional snoring should try the following self-help remedies:
  • Adopt a healthy and athletic lifestyle to develop good muscle tone and lose weight.
  • Avoid tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least four hours and heavy meals or snacks for three hours before retiring.
  • Establish regular sleeping patterns
  • Sleep on your side rather than your back.
  • Tilt the head of your bed upwards four inches.

Smokeless Tobacco

Insight into its physical and mental effects

  • What chemicals are in smokeless tobacco?
  • Who uses smokeless tobacco?
  • How to break the habit?
  • and more…

Three percent of American adults are smokeless tobacco users. They run the same risks of gum disease, heart disease, and addiction as cigarette users, but an even greater risk of oral cancer. Each year about 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and pharyngeal cancers, and more than 8,000 people die of these diseases. Despite the health risks associated with tobacco use, consumers continue to demand the product. In 2001, the five largest tobacco manufacturers spent $236.7 million on smokeless tobacco advertising and promotion.

What is smokeless tobacco?

There are two forms of smokeless tobacco: chewing tobacco and snuff. Chewing tobacco is usually sold as leaf tobacco (packaged in a pouch) or plug tobacco (in brick form). Both are placed between the cheek and gum. Users keep chewing tobacco in their mouths for several hours to get a continuous high from the nicotine in the tobacco.

Snuff is a powdered tobacco (usually sold in cans) that is put between the lower lip and the gum. It is also referred to as “dipping.” Just a pinch is all that’s needed to release the nicotine, which is then swiftly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a quick high.

The chemicals contained in chew or snuff are poisonous and addictive. Every time smokeless tobacco is used, the body adjusts to the amount of tobacco needed to get a high. Consequently, the next time tobacco is used, the body will need a little more tobacco to get the same feeling. Holding an average-sized dip or chew in the mouth for 30 minutes gives the user as much nicotine as smoking four cigarettes.

Is smokeless tobacco less harmful than cigarettes?

In 1986, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that the use of smokeless tobacco “is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and a number of noncancerous conditions and can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.” Also since 1991, the National Cancer Institute has recommended that the public avoid the use of all tobacco products due to their high levels of nitrosamines.

In a recent study, cancer researchers found that oral tobacco products including lozenges and moist snuff are not a good alternative to smoking, since the levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines in smokeless tobacco and lozenges are very high. Some smokeless products contain the highest amounts of nicotine that can be readily absorbed by the body.

What are the ingredients in smokeless tobacco?

  • Polonium 210 (nuclear waste)
  • N-Nitrosamines (cancer-causing)
  • Formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
  • Nicotine (addictive drug)
  • Cadmium (used in batteries and nuclear reactor shields)
  • Cyanide ( poisonous compound)
  • Arsenic (poinsonous metallic element)
  • Benzene (used in insecticides and motor fuels)
  • Lead (nerve poison)

Who are the most common smokeless tobacco users?

According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, young adults between the ages of 18-25 are the most common smokeless tobacco users. This trend may be influenced by innovative marketing tactics targeted at a younger audience.

Smokeless tobacco manufacturers are marketing flavored smokeless tobacco. A 2005 American Legacy Foundation and National Cancer Institute study noted, “Tobacco companies are using candy-like flavors and high tech delivery devices to turn a blowtorch into a flavored popsicle, misleading millions of youngsters to try a deadly product.”

What are the physical and mental effects of smokeless tobacco use?

Cancer. Smokeless tobacco is a cancer-causing agent or carcinogen. Cancers are most likely to develop at the site where tobacco is held in the mouth, but it may also include the lips, tongue, cheek, and throat.

Leukoplakia. Smokeless tobacco users may develop a condition in which white spots form on the gums, inside of the cheeks and sometimes tongue. It can be caused by the irritation from the tobacco juice. The disorder can be considered pre-cancerous. Therefore, if a white patch does not heal within one week, a doctor should be consulted.

Heart disease. The stimulating effects of nicotine, an organic compound made out of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sometimes oxygen, increase the heart rate and blood pressure and may trigger irregular heart beats.

Gum and tooth disease. Smokeless tobacco permanently discolors teeth, causes halitosis (bad breath), and may contribute to tooth loss. Smokeless tobacco contains a lot of sugar which forms and acid that may eat away the tooth enamel causing cavities and mouth sores. Also, its direct and repeated contact with the gums may cause them to recede.

Social effects. Bad breath, discolored teeth.

What are some early warning signs of oral cancer?

  • A sore that bleeds easily and does not heal
  • A lump or thickening anywhere in the mouth or neck
  • Soreness or swelling that does not go away
  • A red or white patch that does not go away
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw

Tips to quit using smokeless tobacco for a lifetime

  • Write down a list of reasons to quit. For example:
    • Don’t want to risk getting cancer.
    • Family members find it offensive.
    • Don’t like having bad breath after chewing and dipping.
    • Don’t want stained teeth or no teeth.
    • Don’t like being addicted to nicotine.
    • Want to start leading a healthier life.
  • Pick a quit date and throw out all chewing tobacco and snuff.
  • Remember daily of the decision to stop chewing tobacco.
  • Ask friends and family to help stay committed to the decision to quit by giving support and encouragement.
  • Find alternatives to smokeless tobacco, such as sugarless gum, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, apple slices, raisins, or dried fruit.
  • Engage in recreational activities to keep the mind off of smokeless tobacco.
  • Develop a personalized plan that works best; set realistic goals.

Smell & Taste

Insight into important senses

  • How do smell and taste work?
  • What causes loss of smell and taste?
  • How are smell and taste loss diagnosed?
  • and more…

Problems with these senses have a big impact on our lives. Smell and taste contribute to our enjoyment of life by stimulating a desire to eat – which not only nourishes our bodies, but also enhances our social activities. When smell and taste become impaired, we eat poorly, socialize less, and feel worse. Smell and taste warn us of dangers, such as fire, poisonous fumes, and spoiled food. Loss of the sense of smell may indicate sinus disease, growths in the nasal passages, or, at times, brain tumors.

How do smell and taste work?

Smell and taste belong to our chemical sensing system (chemosensation). The complicated process of smelling and tasting begins when molecules released by the substances around us stimulate special nerve cells in the nose, mouth, or throat. These cells transmit messages to the brain, where specific smells or tastes are identified.

  • Olfactory (smell nerve) cells are stimulated by the odors around us—the fragrance from a rose, the smell of bread baking. These nerve cells are found in a tiny patch of tissue high up in the nose, and they connect directly to the brain.
  • Gustatory (taste nerve) cells are clustered in the taste buds of the mouth and throat. They react to food or drink mixed with saliva. Many of the small bumps that can be seen on the tongue contain taste buds. These surface cells send taste information to nearby nerve fibers, which send messages to the brain.

Our body’s ability to sense chemicals is another chemosensory mechanism that contributes to our senses of smell and taste. In this system, thousands of free nerve endings—especially on the moist surfaces of the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat—identify sensations like the sting of ammonia, the coolness of menthol, and the “heat” of chili peppers.

What causes loss of smell and taste?

Scientists have found that the sense of smell is most accurate between the ages of 30 and 60 years. It begins to decline after age 60, and a large proportion of elderly persons lose their smelling ability. Women of all ages are generally more accurate than men in identifying odors.

Some people are born with a poor sense of smell or taste. Upper respiratory infections are blamed for some losses, and injury to the head can also cause smell or taste problems.

Loss of smell and taste may result from polyps in the nasal or sinus cavities, hormonal disturbances, or dental problems. They can also be caused by prolonged exposure to certain chemicals such as insecticides, and by some medicines.

Tobacco smoking is the most concentrated form of pollution that most people are exposed to. It impairs the ability to identify odors and diminishes the sense of taste. Quitting smoking improves the smell function.

Radiation therapy patients with cancers of the head and neck often complain of lost smell and taste. These senses can also be lost in the course of some diseases of the nervous system.

Patients who have lost their larynx (voice box) commonly complain of poor ability to smell and taste. Laryngectomy patients can use a special “bypass” tube to breathe through the nose again. The enhanced air flow through the nose helps smell and taste sensations to be re-established.

How are smell and taste loss diagnosed?

The extent of loss of smell or taste can be tested using the lowest concentration of a chemical that a person can detect and recognize. A patient may also be asked to compare the smells or tastes of different chemicals, and how the intensities of smells and tastes grow when a chemical concentration is increased.

  • Smell—Scientists have developed an easily administered “scratch-and-sniff” test to evaluate the sense of smell.
  • Taste—Patients react to different chemical concentrations in taste testing; this may involve a simple “sip, spit, and rinse” test, or chemicals may be applied directly to specific areas of the tongue.

Can these disorders be treated?

Sometimes certain medications are the cause of smell or taste disorders, and improvement occurs when that medicine is stopped or changed. Although certain medications can cause chemosensory problems, others—particularly anti-allergy drugs—seem to improve the senses of taste and smell. Some patients, notably those with serious respiratory infections or seasonal allergies, regain their smell or taste simply by waiting for their illness to run its course. In many cases, nasal obstructions, such as polyps, can be removed to restore airflow to the receptor area and can correct the loss of smell and taste. Occasionally, chemosenses return to normal just as spontaneously as they disappeared.

How do you cope with smell or taste problems?

If you experience problems in smelling or tasting, try to identify and record the circumstances surrounding it. When did you first become aware of it? Did you have a cold or flu then? A head injury? Were you exposed to air pollutants, pollens, danders, or dust to which you might be allergic? Is this a recurring problem? Does it come in any special season, like hayfever time?

Bring all this information with you when you visit a physician who deals with diseases of the nose and throat (an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon). Proper diagnosis by a trained professional can provide reassurance that your illness is not imaginary. You may even be surprised by the results. For example, what you may think is a taste problem could actually be a smell problem, because much of what you taste is really caused by smell.

Diagnosis may also lead to treatment of an underlying cause for the disturbance. Remember, many types of smell and taste disorders are reversible.

Flavor

Four commonly identified taste sensations:

  • sweet
  • sour
  • bitter
  • salty

Certain tastes combine with texture, temperature, and odor to produce a flavor that allows us to identify what we are eating.

Many flavors are recognized through the sense of smell. If you hold your nose while eating chocolate, for example, you will have trouble identifying the chocolate flavor, even though you can distinguish the food’s sweetness or bitterness. This is because the familiar flavor of chocolate is sensed largely by odor. So is the well known flavor of coffee. This is why a person who wishes to fully savor a delicious flavor (e.g., an expert chef testing his own creation) will exhale through his nose after each swallow.

Taste and smell cells are the only cells in the nervous system that are replaced when they become old or damaged. Scientists are examining this phenomenon while studying ways to replace other damaged nerve cells.

Post-Nasal Drip

Insight into treating a runny nose

  • What is post-nasal drip?
  • How is swallowing affected?
  • How is it treated?
  • and more…

Glands in your nose and throat continually produce mucus (one to two quarts a day). Mucus moistens and cleans the nasal membranes, humidifies air, traps and clears inhaled foreign matter, and fights infection. Although it is normally swallowed unconsciously, the feeling of it accumulating in the throat or dripping from the back of your nose is called post-nasal drip. This sensation can be caused by excessively thick secretions or by throat muscle and swallowing disorders.

What causes abnormal secretions?

Thin secretions:

Increased thin clear secretions can be due to colds and flu, allergies, cold temperatures, bright lights, certain foods/spices, pregnancy, and other hormonal changes. Various drugs (including birth control pills and high blood pressure medications) and structural abnormalities can also produce increased secretions. These abnormalities might include a deviated or irregular nasal septum (the cartilage and bony dividing wall that separates the two nostrils).

Thick secretions:

Increased thick secretions in the winter often result from dryness in heated buildings and homes. They can also result from sinus or nose infections and allergies, especially to foods such as dairy products. If thin secretions become thick, and turn green or yellow, it is likely that a bacterial sinus infection is developing. In children, thick secretions from one side of the nose can mean that something is stuck in the nose such as a bean, wadded paper, or piece of toy. If these symptoms are observed, seek a physician for examination.

How is swallowing affected?

Swallowing problems may result in accumulation of solids or liquids in the throat that may complicate or feel like post-nasal drip. When the nerves and muscles in the mouth, throat, and food passage (esophagus) aren’t interacting properly, overflow secretions can spill into the voice box (larynx) and breathing passages (trachea and bronchi), causing hoarseness, throat clearing, or coughing.

Several factors contribute to swallowing problems:

  • With age, swallowing muscles often lose strength and coordination, making it difficult for even normal secretions to pass smoothly into the stomach.
  • During sleep, swallowing occurs much less frequently, and secretions may gather. Coughing and vigorous throat clearing are often needed upon waking.
  • When nervous or under stress, throat muscles can trigger spasms that make it feel as if there is a lump in the throat. Frequent throat clearing, which usually produces little or no mucus, can make the problem worse by increasing irritation.
  • Growths or swelling in the food passage can slow or prevent the movement of liquids and/or solids.

Swallowing problems may also be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is a backup of stomach contents and acid into the esophagus or throat. Heartburn, indigestion, and sore throat are common symptoms. GERD may be aggravated by lying down, especially following eating. Hiatal hernia, a pouch-like tissue mass where the esophagus meets the stomach, often contributes to the reflux.

How is the throat affected?

Post-nasal drip often leads to a sore, irritated throat. Although there is usually no infection, the tonsils and other tissues in the throat may swell. This can cause discomfort or a feeling that there is a lump in the throat. Successful treatment of the post-nasal drip will usually clear up these throat symptoms.

How is it treated?

A correct diagnosis requires a detailed ear, nose, and throat exam, and possibly laboratory, endoscopic (procedures that use a tube to look inside the body), and x-ray studies. Treatment varies according to the following causes:

  • Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. These drugs may only provide temporary relief. In cases of chronic sinusitis, surgery to open the blocked sinuses may be required.
  • Allergies are managed by avoiding the causes. Antihistamines and decongestants, cromolyn and steroid (cortisone type) nasal sprays, and other forms of steroids may offer relief. Immunotherapy, either by shots or sublingual (under the tongue drops) may also be helpful. However, some older, sedating antihistamines may dry and thicken post-nasal secretions even more; newer nonsedating antihistamines, available by prescription only, do not have this effect. Decongestants can aggravate high blood pressure, heart, and thyroid disease. Steroid sprays may be used safely under medical supervision. Oral and injectable steroids rarely produce serious complications in short-term use. Because significant side-effects can occur, steroids must be monitored carefully when used for more than one week.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux is treated by elevating the head of the bed six to eight inches, avoiding foods and beverages for two to three hours before bedtime, and eliminating alcohol and caffeine from the daily diet. Antacids such as Maalox®, Mylanta®, Gaviscon®, and drugs that block stomach acid production such as Zantac®, Tagamet®, or Pepcid®) may be prescribed. If these are not successful, stronger medications can be prescribed. Trial treatments are usually suggested before x-rays and other diagnostic studies are performed.

General measures that allow mucus secretions to pass more easily may be recommended when it is not possible to determine the cause. Many people, especially older persons, need more fluids to thin out secretions. Drinking more water, eliminating caffeine, and avoiding diuretics (medications that increase urination) will help. Mucous-thinning agents such as guaifenesin (Humibid®, Robitussin®) may also thin secretions. Nasal irrigations may alleviate thickened secretions. These can be performed two to four times a day either with a nasal douche device or a Water Pik® with a nasal irrigation nozzle. Warm water with baking soda or salt (½ to 1 tsp. to the pint) or Alkalol®, a nonprescription irrigating solution (full strength or diluted by half warm water), may be helpful. Finally, use of simple saline (salt) nonprescription nasal sprays (e.g., Ocean®, Ayr®, or Nasal®) to moisten the nose is often very beneficial.

Sinus Conditions

Sinuses are air-filled cavities in the skull. They drain into the nose through small openings. Blockages in the openings from swelling due to colds, flu, or allergies may lead to acute sinus infection. A viral cold that persists for 10 days or more may have become a bacterial sinus infection. This infection may increase post-nasal drip. If you suspect that you have a sinus infection, you should see your physician to see if it needs antibiotic treatment.

Chronic sinusitis occurs when sinus blockages persist, causing the lining of the sinuses to swell further. Polyps (growths in the nose) may develop with chronic sinusitis. Patients with polyps tend to have irritating, persistent post-nasal drip. Evaluation by an otolaryngologist may include an exam of the interior of the nose with a fiberoptic scope and CAT scan x-rays. If medication does not relieve the problem, surgery may be recommended.

Vasomotor Rhinitis describes a nonallergic “hyperirritable nose” that feels congested, blocked, or wet.

Nosebleeds

Insight into care and prevention of nosebleeds

  • Why is the nose prone to bleeding?
  • How can nosebleeds be prevented?
  • How to stop a nosebleed?
  • and more…

The nose is an area of the body that contains many tiny blood vessels or arterioles that can break easily. In the United States, one of every seven people will develop a nosebleed some time in their lifetime. Nosebleeds can occur at any age but are most common in children aged 2-10 years and adults aged 50-80 years. Nosebleeds are divided into two types, depending on whether the bleeding is coming from the front or back of the nose.

What is an anterior nosebleed?

Most nosebleeds or epistaxes begin in the lower part of the septum, the semi-rigid wall that separates the two nostrils of the nose. The septum contains blood vessels that can be broken by a blow to the nose or the edge of a sharp fingernail. Nosebleed coming from the front of the nose or anterior nosebleeds often begin with a flow of blood out one nostril when the patient is sitting or standing.

Anterior nosebleeds are common in dry climates or during the winter months when dry, heated indoor air dehydrates the nasal membranes. Dryness may result in crusting, cracking, and bleeding. This can be prevented by placing a light coating of petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment on the end of a fingertip and then rub it inside the nose, especially on the middle portion of the nose (the septum).

How to stop an anterior nosebleed?

  • Stay calm, or help a young child stay calm. A person who is agitated may bleed more profusely than someone who’s been reassured and supported.
  • Keep head higher than the level of the heart. Sit up.
  • Lean slightly forward so the blood won’t drain in the back of the throat.
  • Using the thumb and index finger, pinch all the soft parts of the nose or place a cotton ball soaked with Afrin, Neo-Synephrine, or Dura-Vent spray into the nostril and apply preassure. The area where pressure should be applied is located between the end of the nose and the hard, bony ridge that forms the bridge of the nose. Do not pack the inside of the nose with gauze or cotton.
  • Apply ice—crushed in a plastic bag or washcloth—to nose and cheeks.
  • Hold the position for five minutes. If it’s still bleeding, hold it again for an additional 10 minutes.

What is a posterior nosebleed?

More rarely, a nosebleed can begin high and deep within the nose and flow down the back of the mouth and throat even if the patient is sitting or standing.

Obviously, when lying down, even anterior (front of nasal cavity) nosebleeds may seem to flow toward the back of the throat especially if coughing or blowing the nose. It is important to try to make the distinction between the anterior and posterior nosebleed, since posterior nosebleeds are often more severe and almost always require a physician’s care. Posterior nosebleeds are more likely to occur in older people, persons with high blood pressure, and in cases of injury to the nose or face.

What are the causes of recurring nosebleeds?

  • Allergies, infections, or dryness that cause itching and lead to picking of the nose.
  • Vigorous nose blowing that ruptures superficial blood vessels.
  • Clotting disorders that run in families or are due to medications.
  • Drugs (such as anticoagulants or anti-inflammatories).
  • Fractures of the nose or the base of the skull. Head injuries that cause nosebleeds should be regarded seriously.
  • Hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, a disorder involving a blood vessel growth similar to a birthmark in the back of the nose.
  • Tumors, both malignant and nonmalignant, have to be considered, particularly in the older patient or in smokers.

When should an otolaryngologist be consulted?

If frequent nosebleeds are a problem, it is important to consult an otolaryngologist. An ear, nose, and throat specialist will carefully examine the nose using an endoscope, a tube with a light for seeing inside the nose, prior to making a treatment recommendation. Two of the most common treatments are cautery and packing the nose. Cautery is a technique in which the blood vessel is burned with an electric current, silver nitrate, or a laser. Sometimes, a doctor may just pack the nose with a special gauze or an inflatable latex balloon to put pressure on the blood vessel.

Tips to prevent a nosebleed

  • Keep the lining of the nose moist by gently applying a light coating of petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment with a cotton swab three times daily, including at bedtime. Commonly used products include Bacitracin, A and D Ointment, Eucerin, Polysporin, and Vaseline.
  • Keep children’s fingernails short to discourage nose picking.
  • Counteract the effects of dry air by using a humidifier.
  • Use a saline nasal spray to moisten dry nasal membranes.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking dries out the nose and irritates it.

Tips to prevent rebleeding after initial bleeding has stopped

  • Do not pick or blow nose.
  • Do not strain or bend down to lift anything heavy.
  • Keep head higher than the heart.

If rebleeding occurs:

  • Attempt to clear nose of all blood clots.
  • Spray nose four times in the bleeding nostril(s) with a decongestant spray such as Afrin or Neo-Synephrine.
  • Repeat the steps to stop an anterior nosebleed.

Call a doctor if bleeding persists after 30 minutes or if nosebleed occurs after an injury to the head.

Nose Surgery

Improving Form And Function Of The Nose

Each year thousands of people undergo surgery of the nose. Nasal surgery may be performed for cosmetic purposes, or a combination procedure to improve both form and function. It also may alleviate or cure nasal breathing problems, correct deformities from birth or injury, or support an aging, drooping nose.

Patients who are considering nasal surgery for any reason should seek a doctor who is a specialist in nasal airway function, as well as plastic surgery. This will ensure that efficient breathing is as high a priority as appearance.

Can Cosmetic Nasal Surgery Create A “Perfect” Nose?

Aesthetic nasal surgery (rhinoplasty) refines the shape of the nose, bringing it into balance with the other features of the face. Because the nose is the most prominent facial feature, even a slight alteration can greatly improve appearance. (Some patients elect chin augmentation in conjunction with rhinoplasty to better balance their features.) Rhinoplasty alone cannot give you a perfect profile, make you look like someone else, or improve your personal life. Before surgery, it is very important that the patient have a clear, realistic understanding of what change is possible as well as the limitations and risks of the procedure.

Skin type, ethnic background, and age will be among the factors considered preoperatively by the surgeon. Except in cases of severe breathing impairment, young patients usually are not candidates until their noses are fully grown, at 15 or 16 years of age. The surgeon will also discuss risk factors, which are generally minor, as well as where the surgery will be performed-in a hospital, freestanding outpatient surgical center, or a certified office operating room.

To reshape the nose, the skin is lifted, allowing the surgeon to remove or rearrange the bone and cartilage. The skin is then redraped and sutured over the new frame. A nasal splint on the outside of the nose helps retain the new shape during healing. If soft, absorbent material is placed inside the nose to stabilize the septum, it will normally be removed the morning after surgery. External nasal dressings and splints are usually removed five to seven days after surgery.

When Should Surgery Be Considered to Correct a Chronically Stuffy Nose?

Millions of Americans perennially suffer the discomfort of nasal stuffiness. This may be indicative of chronic breathing problems that don’t respond well to ordinary treatment. The blockage may be related to structural abnormalities inside the nose or to swelling caused by allergies or viruses.

There are numerous causes of nasal obstruction. A deviated septum (the partition between the nostrils) can be crooked or bent as the result of abnormal growth or injury. This can partially or completely close one or both nasal passages. The deviated septum can be corrected with a surgical procedure called septoplasty. Cosmetic changes to the nose are often performed at the same time, in a combination procedure called septorhinoplasty.

Overgrowth of the turbinates is yet another cause of stuffiness. (The turbinates are the tissues that line the inside of the nasal passages.) Sometimes the turbinates need treatment to make them smaller and expand the nasal passages. Treatments include injection, freezing, and partial removal. Allergies, too, can cause internal nasal swelling, and allergy evaluation and therapy may be necessary.

Can Surgery Correct a Stuffy, Aging Nose?

Aging is a common cause of nasal obstruction. This occurs when cartilage in the nose and its tip are weakened by age and droop because of gravity, causing the sides of the nose to collapse inward, obstructing air flow. Mouth breathing or noisy and restricted breathing are common.

Try lifting the tip of your nose to see if you breathe better. If so, the external adhesive nasal strips that athletes have popularized may help. Or talk to a facial plastic surgeon/otolaryngolgist about septoplasty, which will involve trimming, reshaping or repositioning portions of septal cartilage and bone. (This is an ideal time to make other cosmetic improvements as well.) Internal splints or soft packing may be placed in the nostrils to hold the septum in its new position. Usually, patients experience some swelling for a week or two. However, after the packing is removed, most people enjoy a dramatic improvement in breathing.

What Treatment Is Needed for a Broken Nose?

Bruises around the eyes and/or a slightly crooked nose following injury usually indicate a fractured nose. If the bones are pushed over or out to one side, immediate medical attention is ideal. But once soft tissue swelling distorts the nose, waiting 48-72 hours for a doctor’s appointment may actually help the doctor in evaluating your injury as the swelling recedes. (Apply ice while waiting to see the doctor.) What’s most important is whether the nasal bones have been displaced, rather than just fractured or broken.

For markedly displaced bones, surgeons often attempt to return the nasal bones to a straighter position under local or general anesthesia. This is usually done within seven to ten days after injury, so that the bones don’t heal in a displaced position. Because so many fractures are irregular and won’t “pop” back into place, the procedure is successful only half the time. Displacement due to injury often results in compromised breathing so corrective nasal surgery, typically septorhinoplasty, may then be elected. This procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis, and patients usually plan to avoid appearing in public for about a week due to swelling and bruising.

Will Insurance Cover Nasal Surgery?

Insurance usually does not cover cosmetic surgery. However, surgery to correct or improve breathing function, major deformity, or injury is frequently covered in whole or in part. Patients should obtain cost information from their surgeons and discuss with their insurance carrier prior to surgery.

Nasal Fractures

Insight into diagnosis and treatment

  • What is a nasal fracture?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • and more…

Projecting prominently from the central part of the face, it is no surprise that the nose is the most commonly broken bone on the head. A broken nose (nasal fracture) can significantly alter your appearance. It can also make it much harder to breathe through the nose.

What is a nasal fracture?

Getting struck on the nose, whether by another person, a door, or the floor is not pleasant. Your nose will hurt—usually a lot. You’ll likely have a nose bleed and soon find it difficult to breathe through your nose. Swelling develops both inside and outside the nose, and you may get dark bruises around your eyes (“black eyes”).

Nasal fractures can affect both bone and cartilage. A collection of blood (called a “septal hematoma”) can sometimes form on the nasal septum (a wall made of bone and cartilage inside the nose that separates the sides of the nose).

What causes a nasal fracture?

Nasal fractures, or broken noses, result from facial injuries in contact sports or falls. Injuries affecting the teeth and mouth may also affect the nose.

How can I prevent a broken nose?

  • Wear protective gear to shield your face when participating in contact sports
  • Avoid fist fights

When should I see a doctor?

If you’ve been struck in the nose, it’s important to see a physician to check for septal hematoma. Seeing your primary doctor or an emergency room physician is usually adequate to determine if you have a septal hematoma or other associated problems from your accident. If a septal hematoma is present, it must be treated promptly to prevent worse problems from developing in the nose. If you suspect your nose may be broken, see an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon within one week of the injury. If you are seen within one to two weeks, it may be possible to repair your nose immediately. If you wait longer than two weeks (one week for children) you will likely need to wait several months before your nose can be surgically straightened and fixed.

If left untreated, a broken nose can leave you with an undesirable appearance as well as permanent difficulty in trying to breathe.

How will my doctor determine if I have a broken nose?

Your doctor will ask you several questions and will examine your nose and face. You will be asked to explain how the fracture occurred, the state of your general health, and how your nose looked before the injury. The doctor will examine not only your nose, but also the surrounding areas including your eyes, jaw, and teeth, and will look for bruising, lacerations, and swelling.

Sometimes your physician will recommend an x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan. These can help to identify other facial fractures but are not always helpful in determining if you have a broken nose. The best way to determine that your nose is broken is if it looks very different or is harder to breathe through.

What are my treatment options?

If your nose is broken but not out of position, you may need no treatment other than rest and being careful not to bump your nose.

If your nose is broken so badly that it needs to be repositioned, you have several options. You can have your nose repaired in the office in some situations. Your doctor can give you some local anesthesia, reposition the broken bones into place, and then hold them in the right location with a “cast” made of plastic, plaster, or metal. This cast will then stay in place for a week. In the first two weeks after the injury, your doctor may offer you this kind of repair, or a similar approach using general anesthesia in the operating room.

What if I need surgery?

If more than two weeks have passed since the time of your injury, you may need to wait a while before having your nose straightened surgically. It may be necessary to wait two to three months before a good repair can be done, by which time there will be less swelling and your nose will have begun to heal. Reduced swelling will allow the surgeon to get a more accurate picture of how your nose originally looked. This type of surgery is considered reconstructive plastic surgery, as its goal is to restore your appearance to the way it was prior to injury. If your repair is done within two weeks of the injury, restoring prior appearance is the only possible goal. If you have waited several months for the repair, it is often possible to change the appearance of your nose as you desire. Should you be interested in this kind of appearance change as well as repair, you can feel confident that your otolaryngologist is a specialist in all surgery of the nose. No other specialty has more training in surgery on the nose, and some otolaryngologists focus exclusively on plastic surgery of the face.

Fungal Sinusitis

What Is A Fungus? 

Fungi are plant-like organisms that lack chlorophyll. Since they do not have chlorophyll, fungi must absorb food from dead organic matter. Fungi share with bacteria the important ability to break down complex organic substances of almost every type (cellulose) and are essential to the recycling of carbon and other elements in the cycle of life. Fungi are supposed to “eat” only dead things, but sometimes they start eating when the organism is still alive. This is the cause of fungal infections; the treatment selected has to eradicate the fungus to be effective.

In the past 30 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of recorded fungal infections. This can be attributed to increased public awareness, new immunosuppressive therapies (medications such as cyclosporine that “fool” the body’s immune system to prevent organ rejection) and overuse of antibiotics (anti-infectives).
When the body’s immune system is suppressed, fungi find an opportunity to invade the body and a number of side effects occur. Because these organisms do not require light for food production, they can live in a damp and dark environment. The sinuses, consisting of moist, dark cavities, are a natural home to the invading fungi. When this occurs, fungal sinusitis results.

There Are Four Types Of Fungal Sinusitis:

Mycetoma Fungal Sinusitis produces clumps of spores, a “fungal ball,” within a sinus cavity, most frequently the maxillary sinuses. The patient usually maintains an effective immune system, but may have experienced trauma or injury to the affected sinus(es). Generally, the fungus does not cause a significant inflammatory response, but sinus discomfort occurs. The noninvasive nature of this disorder requires a treatment consisting of simple scraping of the infected sinus. An anti-fungal therapy is generally not prescribed.

Allergic Fungal Sinusitis (AFS) is now believed to be an allergic reaction to environmental fungi that is finely dispersed into the air. This condition usually occurs in patients with an immunocompetent host (possessing the ability to mount a normal immune response). Patients diagnosed with AFS have a history of allergic rhinitis, and the onset of AFS development is difficult to determine. Thick fungal debris and mucin (a secretion containing carbohydrate-rich glycoproteins) are developed in the sinus cavities and must be surgically removed so that the inciting allergen is no longer present. Recurrence is not uncommon once the disease is removed. Anti-inflammatory medical therapy and immunotherapy are typically prescribed to prevent AFS recurrence.

Note: A 1999 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings asserts that allergic fungal sinusitis is present in a significant majority of patients diagnosed with chronic rhinosinusitis. The study found 96 percent of the study subjects with chronic rhinosinusitis to have a fungus in cultures of their nasal secretions. In sensitive individuals, the presence of fungus results in a disease process in which the body’s immune system sends eosinophils (white blood cells distinguished by their lobulated nuclei and the presence of large granules that attract the reddish-orange eosin stain) to attack fungi, and the eosinophils irritate the membranes in the nose. As long as fungi remain, so will the irritation.

Chronic Indolent Sinusitis is an invasive form of fungal sinusitis in patients without an identifiable immune deficiency. This form is generally found outside the US, most commonly in the Sudan and northern India. The disease progresses from months to years and presents symptoms that include chronic headache and progressive facial swelling that can cause visual impairment. Microscopically, chronic indolent sinusitis is characterized by a granulomatous inflammatory infiltrate (nodular shaped inflammatory lesions). A decreased immune system can place patients at risk for this invasive disease.

Fulminant Sinusitis is usually seen in the immunocompromised patient (an individual whose immunologic mechanism is deficient either because of an immunodeficiency disorder or because it has been rendered so by immunosuppressive agents). The disease leads to progressive destruction of the sinuses and can invade the bony cavities containing the eyeball and brain.

The recommended therapies for both chronic indolent and fulminant sinusitis are aggressive surgical removal of the fungal material and intravenous anti-fungal therapy.

Your Nose, the Guardian of Your Lungs

You might not think your nose is a “vital organ,” but indeed it is! To understand its importance, all that most people need to experience is a bad cold. Nasal congestion and a runny nose have a noticeable effect on quality of life, energy level, ability to breathe, ability to sleep, and ability to function in general.

Why Is Your Nose So Important?

It processes the air that you breathe before it enters your lungs. Most of this activity takes place in and on the turbinates, located on the sides of the nasal passages. In an adult, 18,000 to 20,000 liters of air pass through the nose each day.

Your Nose Protects Your Health By:

  • Filtering all that air and retaining particles as small as a pollen grain with 100% efficiency.
  • Humidifiing the air that you breathe, adding moisture to the air to prevent dryness of the lining of the lungs and bronchial tubes.
  • Warming cold air to body temperature before it arrives in your lungs.

For these and many other reasons, normal nasal function is essential. Do your lungs a favor; take care of your nose.

TIP: Keep a list of all your medications; know all the potential side effects; and discuss possible interactions with your doctors.

Because the connection between the nose and lungs is so important, paying attention to problems in the nose–allergic rhinitis for instance – can reduce or avoid problems in the lungs such as bronchitis and asthma. Ignoring nasal symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, runny nose, or thick nasal discharge can aggravate lung problems and lead to other problems:

  • Nasal congestion reduces the sense of smell.
  • Mouth breathing causes dry mouth, which increases the risk of mouth and throat infections and reduces the sense of taste. Mouth breathing also pulls all pollution and germs directly into the lungs; dry cold air in the lungs makes the secretions thick, slows the cleaning cilia, and slows down the passage of oxygen into the blood stream.
  • Ignoring nasal allergies increases the chance that you will develop asthma; it also makes asthma worse if you already have it.

So, it is important to treat nasal symptoms promptly to prevent worsening of lung problems.

Tips To Improve The Health Of Your Nose And Lungs:

If your nose is dry, its various functions will be impaired. Try over-the-counter salt-water (saline) nasal mists and sprays to help maintain nasal health. These can be used liberally and at your discretion.

Beware of over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays; prolonged use of these sprays may damage the cilia that clear the nose and sinuses. Decongestants can become addictive and actually cause nasal congestion to get worse.

Think of your nose when you’re traveling. Air-conditioned cruise ships may have high levels of mold in the cabins. Airplane air is very dry and contains a lot of recirculated particles and germs; a dry nose is more susceptible to germs. Use saline nasal mist frequently during the flight, and drink lots of water.

Medications Prescribed To Treat Nasal Problems:

Be aware of the nasal effects of other medications

  • Diuretic blood pressure medications cause dryness in the nose and throat, making them more susceptible to germs and pollens.
  • Many anti-anxiety medications also have a drying effect on the nose and throat.
  • Birth control pills, blood pressure medicines called beta-blockers, and Viagra can cause increased nasal congestion.
  • Eye drops can aggravate nasal symptoms when they drain into the nose with tears.

Be sure you understand their purpose. Each one is important and plays a separate role in treating nasal symptoms.

The foundation of the treatment of chronic nasal conditions is the regular use of an anti-inflammatory prescription nasal spray, which address all types of nose and sinus inflammation. These sprays should be used only as directed by your doctor. This is in contrast to medications that are inhaled by mouth into the lungs, which often have high levels of absorption into the blood stream. Always aim nasal sprays to the side of the nose; spraying into the center of the nose can cause too much dryness.

Antihistamines effectively relieve sneezing, itching and runny nose, but they have no effect on nasal congestion at least in the short term. Over-the-counter antihistamines cause drowsiness, slow the cleaning function of the cilia, and increase the stickiness of nasal mucus–causing germs and pollens to stay in the nose longer. There are prescription antihistamines that do not have any of these side effects. To achieve this safety, the relief is often slower starting, so patience is required.

Decongestants help to unclog stopped up noses but do very little for runny noses and sneezing. They work much faster to unclog the nose, but to achieve this quick action, there are often side-effects such as dry mouth, nervousness, and insomnia. The correct dose often has to be customized to get the benefit without the side-effects.

Be aware of medication side effects; no medicine works well for all people, and all medications can cause side effects.

Tips for Sinus Sufferers

Symptoms Of Sinusitis:
  • symptoms of upper respiratory infection lasting ten days or more
  • facial pressure or pain
  • nasal discharge that is yellow or green
  • post-nasal drip
  • coug
At-Home Treatments For Sinusitis:
  • saline nasal sprays that moisturize the nasal cavity, reduce dryness, and help clear thick or crusty mucus
  • humidification (moisturizing the air) of living spaces in dry climates will to aid the movement of mucus through the sinuses
A Physician Visit For Your Sinus Pain Will:
  • determine if you have an infection requiring an appropriate antibiotic
  • discover if you require intensive medical treatment for a condition such as a nasal obstructions, necessitating sinus surgery

Sinus Surgery

The ear, nose, and throat specialist will prescribe many medications (antibiotics, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, antihistamines) and procedures (flushing) for treating acute sinusitis. There are occasions when physician and patient find that the infections are recurrent and/or non-responsive to the medication. When this occurs, surgery to enlarge the openings that drain the sinuses is an option.

A recommendation for sinus surgery in the early 20th century would easily alarm the patient. In that era, the surgeon would have to perform an invasive procedure, reaching the sinuses by entering through the cheek area, often resulting in scarring and possible disfigurement. Today, these concerns have been eradicated with the latest advances in medicine. A trained surgeon can now treat sinusitis with minimal discomfort, a brief convalescence, and few complications.

A clinical history of the patient will be created before any surgery is performed. A careful diagnostic workup is necessary to identify the underlying cause of acute or chronic sinusitis, which is often found in the anterior ethmoid area, where the maxillary and frontal sinuses connect with the nose. This may necessitate a sinus computed tomography (CT) scan (without contrast), nasal physiology (rhinomanometry and nasal cytology), smell testing, and selected blood tests to determine an operative strategy. Note: Sinus X–rays have limited utility in the diagnosis of acute sinusitis and are of no value in the evaluation of chronic sinusitis.

Sinus Surgical Options Include:

Functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS): Developed in the 1950s, the nasal endoscope has revolutionized sinusitis surgery. In the past, the surgical strategy was to remove all sinus mucosa from the major sinuses. The use of an endoscope is linked to the theory that the best way to obtain normal healthy sinuses is to open the natural pathways to the sinuses. Once an improved drainage system is achieved, the diseased sinus mucosa has an opportunity to return to normal.

FESS involves the insertion of the endoscope, a very thin fiber-optic tube, into the nose for a direct visual examination of the openings into the sinuses. With state of the art micro-telescopes and instruments, abnormal and obstructive tissues are then removed. In the majority of cases, the surgical procedure is performed entirely through the nostrils, leaving no external scars. There is little swelling and only mild discomfort.

The advantage of the procedure is that the surgery is less extensive, there is often less removal of normal tissues, and can frequently be performed on an outpatient basis. After the operation, the patient will sometimes have nasal packing. Ten days after the procedure, nasal irrigation may be recommended to prevent crusting.

Image guided surgery: The sinuses are physically close to the brain, the eye, and major arteries, always areas of concern when a fiber optic tube is inserted into the sinus region. The growing use of a new technology, image guided endoscopic surgery, is alleviating that concern. This type of surgery may be recommended for severe forms of chronic sinusitis, in cases when previous sinus surgery has altered anatomical landmarks, or where a patient’s sinus anatomy is very unusual, making typical surgery difficult.

Image guidance is a near-three-dimensional mapping system that combines computed tomography (CT) scans and real-time information about the exact position of surgical instruments using infrared signals. In this way, surgeons can navigate their surgical instruments through complex sinus passages and provide surgical relief more precisely. Image guidance uses some of the same stealth principles used by the United States armed forces to guide bombs to their target.

Caldwell Luc operation: Another option is the Caldwell-Luc operation, which relieves chronic sinusitis by improving the drainage of the maxillary sinus, one of the cavities beneath the eye. The maxillary sinus is entered through the upper jaw above one of the second molar teeth. A “window” is created to connect the maxillary sinus with the nose, thus improving drainage. The operation is named after American physician George Caldwell and French laryngologist Henry Luc and is most often performed when a malignancy is present in the sinus cavity.

Sinus Pain: Can Over-the-Counter Medications Help?

Why Do We Suffer From Nasal And Sinus Discomfort?

The body’s nasal and sinus membranes have similar responses to viruses, allergic insults, and common bacterial infections. Membranes become swollen and congested. This congestion causes pain and pressure; mucus production increases during inflammation, resulting in a drippy, runny nose. These secretions may thicken over time, may slow in their drainage, and may predispose to future bacterial infection of the sinuses.

Congestion of the nasal membranes may even block the eustachian tube leading to the ear, resulting in a feeling of blockage in the ear or fluid behind the eardrum. Additionally, nasal airway congestion causes the individual to breathe through the mouth.

Each year, more than 37 million Americans suffer from sinusitis, which typically includes nasal congestion, thick yellow-green nasal discharge, facial pain, and pressure. Many do not understand the nature of their illness or what produces their symptoms. Consequently, before visiting a physician, they seek relief for their nasal and sinus discomfort by taking non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

What Is The Role Of OTC Medication For Sinus Pain?

There are many different OTC medications available to relieve the common complaints of sinus pain and pressure, allergy problems, and nasal congestion. Most of these medications are combination products that associate either a pain reliever such as acetaminophen with a decongestant or an antihistamine. Knowledge of these products and of the probable cause of symptoms will help the consumer to decide which product is best suited to relieve the common symptoms associated with nasal or sinus inflammation.

OTC nasal medications are designed to reduce symptoms produced by the inflammation of nasal membranes and sinuses. The goals of OTC medications are to: (1) reopen to nasal passages; (2) reduce nasal congestion; (3) relieve pain and pressure symptoms; and (4) reduce potential for complications. The medications come in several forms.

Nasal Saline Sprays: Non-Medicated Nasal Sprays Nasal saline is an invaluable addition to the list of over-the-counter medications. It is ideal for all types of nasal problems. The added moisture produced by the saline reduces thick secretions and assists in the removal of infectious agents. There is no risk of becoming “addicted” to nasal saline. It should be applied as a mist to the nose up to six times per day. Nasal saline can also be made at home: contact your otolaryngologist for details.

Nasal Decongestant Sprays: Medicated Nasal Sprays

Afrin nasal spray, Neo-Synephrine, Otrivin, Dristan nasal spray, and other brands decongest the swollen nasal membranes. They clear nasal passages almost immediately and are useful in treating the initial stages of a common cold or viral infection. Nasal decongestant sprays are safe to use, especially appropriate for preventing eustachian tube problems when flying, and to halt progression of sinus infections following colds. However, they should only be utilized for 3-5 days because prolonged use leads to rebound congestion or “getting hooked on nasal sprays.” The patient with nasal swelling caused by seasonal allergy problems should use a cromolyn sodium nasal spray. The spray must be used frequently (four times a day) during allergy season to prevent the release of histamine from the tissues, which starts the allergic reaction. It works best before symptoms become established by stabilizing the nasal membranes and has few side effects.

Decongestant Medications

Pressure and congestion are common symptoms of nasal passage swelling. Decongestant medications are OTC products that relieve nasal swelling, pressure, and congestion but do not treat the cause of the inflammation. They reduce blood flow to the nasal membranes leading to improved airflow, less breathing through the mouth, decreased pressure in the sinuses and head, and subsequently less discomfort. Decongestants do not relieve drippy noses. Their side effects may include light headedness or giddiness and increased blood pressure and heart rate. (Patients with high blood pressure or heart problems should consult a physician before use.) In addition, other medications may interact with oral decongestants causing side effects. Both of these are available as single products or in combination with a pain reliever or an antihistamine. They are labeled as “non-drowsy” due to a side effect of stimulation of the nervous system.

Decongestant-Combination Products

Some medications are combined to reduce the number of pills. Tylenol® Sinus or Advil Cold and Sinus® exemplify products that join a pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprophen) with a decongestant (pseudoephedrine). These products relieve both sinus and cold/flu symptoms yet retain all the attributes of the individual drug including side effects.

Antihistamine Medications

Antihistamines combat allergic problems leading to nasal congestion. OTC antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl®), or clemastine (Tavist®) may be used for relieving allergic symptoms of itching, sneezing, and nasal congestion. They relieve the drainage associated with the allergic inflammation but not obstruction or congestion. Antihistamines have a potential for sedation causing grogginess and dryness after use. Newer non-sedating antihistamines are available.

Antihistamine-Decongestant Combination Products Antihistamines and decongestant products are often combined to relieve multiple symptoms of congestion and drainage and reduce the side effects of both products. Antihistamines produce sedation; decongestants are added to make them “non-drowsy.” The combined allergy product then relieves congestion and a runny nose.

Sinus Headaches

Not every headache is the consequence of sinus and nasal passage problems. For example, many patients visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist to seek treatment for a sinus headache and learn they actually have a migraine or tension headache. The confusion is common, a migraine can cause irritation of the trigeminal or fifth cranial nerve (with branches in the forehead, cheeks and jaw). This may produce pain at the lower-end branches of the nerve, in or near the sinus cavity.

Symptoms Of Sinusitis

Pain in the sinus area does not automatically mean that you have a sinus disorder. On the other hand, sinus and nasal passages can become inflamed leading to a headache. Headache is one of the key symptoms of patients diagnosed with acute or chronic sinusitis. In addition to a headache, sinusitis patients often complain of:

  • Pain and pressure around the eyes, across the cheeks and the forehead
  • Achy feeling in the upper teeth
  • Fever and chills
  • Facial swelling
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Yellow or green discharge

However, it is important to note that there are some cases of headaches related to chronic sinusitis without other upper respiratory symptoms. This suggests that an examination for sinusitis be considered when treatment for a migraine or other headache disorder is unsuccessful.

Treatment For A Sinus Headache

Sinus headaches are associated with a swelling of the membranes lining the sinuses (spaces adjacent to the nasal passages). Pain occurs in the affected region – the result of air, pus, and mucus being trapped within the obstructed sinuses. The discomfort often occurs under the eye and in the upper teeth (disguised as a headache or toothache). Sinus headaches tend to worsen as you bend forward or lie down. The key to relieving the symptoms is to reduce sinus swelling and inflammation and facilitate mucous drainage from the sinuses.

There are several at-home steps that help prevent sinus headache or alleviate its pain. They include:

  • Breathe moist air: Relief for a sinus headache can be achieved by humidifying the dry air environment. This can be done by using a steam vaporizer or cool-mist humidifier, steam from a basin of hot water, or steam from a hot shower.
  • Alternate hot and cold compresses: Place a hot compress across your sinuses for three minutes, and then a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat this procedure three times per treatment, two to six times a day.
  • Nasal irrigation: Some believe that when nasal irrigation or rinse is performed, mucus, allergy creating particles and irritants such as pollens, dust particles, pollutants and bacteria are washed away, reducing the inflammation of the mucous membrane. Normal mucosa will fight infections and allergies better and will reduce the symptoms. Nasal irrigation helps shrink the sinus membranes and thus increases drainage. There are several over-the-counter nasal rinse products available. Consult your ear, nose, and throat specialist for directions on making a home nasal rinse or irrigation solution.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are highly effective in reducing sinus headache pain. The primary ingredient in most OTC pain relievers is aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, or a combination of them. The best way to choose a pain reliever is by determining which of these ingredients works best for you.
  • Decongestants: Sinus pressure headaches caused by allergies are usually treated with decongestants and antihistamines. In difficult cases, nasal steroid sprays may be recommended.
  • Alternative medicine: Chinese herbalists use Magnolia Flower as a remedy for clogged sinus and nasal passages. In conjunction with other herbs, such as angelica, mint, and chrysanthemum, it is often recommended for upper respiratory tract infections and sinus headaches, although its effectiveness for these problems has not been scientifically confirmed.

If none of these preventative measures or treatments is effective, a visit to an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be warranted. During the examination, a CT scan of the sinuses may be ordered to determine the extent of blockage caused by chronic sinusitis. If no chronic sinusitis were found, treatment might then include allergy testing and desensitization (allergy shots). Acute sinusitis is treated with antibiotics and decongestants. If antibiotics fail to relieve the chronic sinusitis and accompanying headaches, endoscopic or image-guided surgery may be the recommended treatment.

Injection Snoreplasty

What Is Injection Snoreplasty?

Injection snoreplasty is a nonsurgical treatment for snoring that involves the injection of a hardening agent into the upper palate. Army researchers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center introduced this procedure at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.Their early findings indicate that this treatment may reduce the loudness and incidence of primary snoring (snoring without apnea, or cessation of breath).The Academy neither endorses nor discourages the use of injection snoreplasty for the treatment of snoring.

Those seeking injection snoreplasty to reduce snoring should first be screened for obstructive sleep apnea or OSA (frequent cessation of breathing due to upper airway obstruction) by undergoing a sleep test. If sleep apnea is confirmed, other treatment may be recommended.

Treatment For Injection Snoreplasty

Injection snoreplasty is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia. After numbing the upper palate with topical anesthetic, a hardening agent is injected just under the skin on the top of the mouth in front of the uvula (upper palate), creating a small blister. Within a couple of days the blister hardens, forms scar tissue, and pulls the floppy uvula forward to eliminate or reduce the palatal flutter that causes snoring.

In some patients, the treatment needs to be repeated for optimum benefits. If snoring occurs from vibrations beyond the palate and uvula and/or obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, further testing and alternative treatment options may be advised. A thorough examination by an ear, nose and throat specialist is recommended to diagnose the source and type of snoring, and determine whether injection snoreplasty may be helpful.

Post-Treatment Follow-Up For Injections Snoreplasty

After injection of the hardening agent, patients are observed in the otolaryngologist’s office and then sent home. Tylenol and throat lozenges or spray are suggested for pain management. Patients can return to work the next day. Though snoring may continue for a few days, it should eventually lessen. A post-procedure sleep test may be administered to fully evaluate the effects of the procedure.

Possible Side Effects Of Injection Snoreplasty

A residual sore throat or feeling that something is “stuck” in the back of the mouth may occur. Suggestions for treatment of sore throat include Tylenol and/or throat lozenges or spray.

Statement On The Use Of Sotradecol

Sotradecol, a trade name for sodium tetradecyl sulfate, is the most common hardening agent used in injection snoreplasty. This agent is indicated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for “intravenous use only” and “for small uncomplicated varicose veins of the lower extremities that show simple dilation with competent valves.” Warnings include: 1) “severe adverse local effects including tissue necrosis,” and 2) “allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, have been reported that led to death.”

Snoring Is A Problem

Forty-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers.Thirty percent of adults over age 30 are snorers. By middle age, that number reaches 40 percent. Clearly, snoring is a dilemma affecting spouses, family members and sometimes neighbors.

Snoring sounds are caused when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose.This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula. When these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing, snoring results.

Treatment For Snoring

Snoring can be diagnosed as primary snoring (simple snoring) or obstructive sleep apnea. Primary snoring is characterized by loud upper airway breathing sounds during sleep without episodes of apnea (cessation of breath).Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition where individuals have frequent episodes of apnea during sleep, contributing to an overall lack of restful sleep and severe health risks including heart attack and stroke.

Various methods are used to alleviate primary snoring. They include behavior modification (such as weight loss), surgical and non-surgical treatments, and dental devices.

Surgical treatments for primary snoring include: laser assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP), an outpatient treatment for primary snoring and mild OSA that involves use of a laser under local anesthesia to make vertical incisions in the upper palate, shortening the uvula and lessening airway obstruction; and radiofrequency volumetric reduction of the palate, a relatively new procedure performed in an otolaryngologist’s office that utilizes targeted radio waves to heat and shrink tissue in the upper palate.

Do I Have Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation of the lining membrane of any sinus. Take the following quiz to see if you have sinusitis.

Choose “yes” if you have any of the following symptoms for ten days or longer; otherwise, choose “no.”

1. Facial pressure/pain?

yes         no

2. Headache pain?

yes         no

3. Congestion or stuffy nose?

yes         no

4. Thick, yellow-green nasal discharge?

yes         no

5. Low fever (99-100°)?

yes         no

6. Bad breath?

yes         no

7. Pain in the upper teeth?

yes         no

If you answered “Yes” to three or more of the symptoms listed above, you may have a sinus infection resulting from allergies, bacteria, or a response to fungi. An examination by an ear, nose, and throat specialist may be warranted.

Deviated Septum

The shape of your nasal cavity could be the cause of chronic sinusitis. The nasal septum is the wall dividing the nasal cavity into halves; it is composed of a central supporting skeleton covered on each side by mucous membrane. The front portion of this natural partition is a firm but bendable structure made mostly of cartilage and is covered by skin that has a substantial supply of blood vessels. The ideal nasal septum is exactly midline, separating the left and right sides of the nose into passageways of equal size.

Estimates are that 80 percent of all nasal septums are off-center, a condition that is generally not noticed. A “deviated septum” occurs when the septum is severely shifted away from the midline. The most common symptom from a badly deviated or crooked septum is difficulty breathing through the nose. The symptoms are usually worse on one side, and sometimes actually occur on the side opposite the bend. In some cases the crooked septum can interfere with the drainage of the sinuses, resulting in repeated sinus infections.

Septoplasty is the preferred surgical treatment to correct a deviated septum. This procedure is not generally performed on minors, because the cartilaginous septum grows until around age 18. Septal deviations commonly occur due to nasal trauma.

A deviated septum may cause one or more of the following:

  • Blockage of one or both nostrils
  • Nasal congestion, sometimes one-sided
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Frequent sinus infections
  • At times, facial pain, headaches, postnasal drip
  • Noisy breathing during sleep (in infants and young children)

In some cases, a person with a mildly deviated septum has symptoms only when he or she also has a “cold” (an upper respiratory tract infection). In these individuals, the respiratory infection triggers nasal inflammation that temporarily amplifies any mild airflow problems related to the deviated septum. Once the “cold” resolves, and the nasal inflammation subsides, symptoms of a deviated septum often resolve, too.

Diagnosis Of A Deviated Septum:

Patients with chronic sinusitis often have nasal congestion, and many have nasal septal deviations. However, for those with this debilitating condition, there may be additional reasons for the nasal airway obstruction. The problem may result from a septal deviation, reactive edema (swelling) from the infected areas, allergic problems, mucosal hypertrophy (increase in size), other anatomic abnormalities, or combinations thereof. A trained specialist in diagnosing and treating ear, nose, and throat disorders can determine the cause of your chronic sinusitis and nasal obstruction.

Your First Visit:

After discussing your symptoms, the primary care physician or specialist will inquire if you have ever incurred severe trauma to your nose and if you have had previous nasal surgery. Next, an examination of the general appearance of your nose will occur, including the position of your nasal septum. This will entail the use of a bright light and a nasal speculum (an instrument that gently spreads open your nostril) to inspect the inside surface of each nostril.

Surgery may be the recommended treatment if the deviated septum is causing troublesome nosebleeds or recurrent sinus infections. Additional testing may be required in some circumstances.

Septoplasty:

Septoplasty is a surgical procedure performed entirely through the nostrils, accordingly, no bruising or external signs occur. The surgery might be combined with a rhinoplasty, in which case the external appearance of the nose is altered and swelling/bruising of the face is evident. Septoplasty may also be combined with sinus surgery.

The time required for the operation averages about one to one and a half hours, depending on the deviation. It can be done with a local or a general anesthetic, and is usually done on an outpatient basis. After the surgery, nasal packing is inserted to prevent excessive postoperative bleeding. During the surgery, badly deviated portions of the septum may be removed entirely, or they may be readjusted and reinserted into the nose.

If a deviated nasal septum is the sole cause for your chronic sinusitis, relief from this severe disorder will be achieved.

Antibiotics and Sinusitis

An antibiotic is a soluble substance derived from a mold or bacterium that inhibits the growth of other microorganisms.

The first antibiotic was Penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929, but it was not until World War II that the effectiveness of antibiotics was acknowledged, and large-scale fermentation processes were developed for their production.

Acute sinusitis is one of many medical disorders that can be caused by a bacterial infection. However, it is important to remember that colds, allergies, and environmental irritants, which are more common than bacterial sinusitis, can also cause sinus problems. Antibiotics are effective only against sinus problems caused by a bacterial infection.

The following symptoms may indicate the presence of a bacterial infection in your sinuses:

  • Pain in your cheeks or upper back teeth
  • A lot of bright yellow or green drainage from your nose for more than 10 days
  • No relief from decongestants, and/or
  • Symptoms that get worse instead of better after your cold is gone.

Most patients with a clinical diagnosis of acute sinusitis caused by a bacterial infection improve without antibiotic treatment. The specialist will initially offer appropriate doses of analgesics (pain-relievers), antipyretics (fever reducers), and decongestants. However if symptoms persist, a treatment consisting of antibiotics may be recommended.

Antibiotic Treatment For Sinusitis

Antibiotics are labeled as narrow-spectrum drugs when they work against only a few types of bacteria. On the other hand, broad-spectrum antibiotics are more effective by attacking a wide range of bacteria, but are more likely to promote antibiotic resistance. For that reason, your ear, nose, and throat specialist will most likely prescribe narrow-spectrum antibiotics, which often cost less. He/she may recommend broad-spectrum antibiotics for infections that do not respond to treatment with narrow-spectrum drugs.

Acute Sinusitis

In most cases, antibiotics are prescribed for patients with specific findings of persistent purulent nasal discharge and facial pain or tenderness who are not improving after seven days or those with severe symptoms of rhinosinusitis, regardless of duration. On the basis of clinical trials, amoxicillin, doxycycline, or trimethoprim–sulfamethoxazole are preferred antibiotics.

Chronic Sinusitis

Even with a long regimen of antibiotics, chronic sinusitis symptoms can be difficult to treat. In general, however, treating chronic sinusitis, such as with antibiotics and decongestants, is similar to treating acute sinusitis. When antibiotic treatment fails, allergy testing, desensitization, and/or surgery may be recommended as the most effective means for treating chronic sinusitis. Research studies suggest that the vast majority of people who undergo surgery have fewer symptoms and better quality of life.

Pediatric Sinusitis

Antibiotics that are unlikely to be effective in children who do not improve with amoxicillin include trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) and erythromycin-sulfisoxazole (Pediazole), because many bacteria are resistant to these older antibiotics. For children who do not respond to two courses of traditional antibiotics, the dose and length of antibiotic treatment is often expanded, or treatment with intravenous cefotaxime or ceftriaxone and/or a referral to an ENT specialist is recommended.

Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Rhinosinusitis

Inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane is called rhinitis. The symptoms include sneezing and runny and/or itchy nose, caused by irritation and congestion in the nose. There are two types: allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis.

Allergic Rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune system over-responds to specific, non-infectious particles such as plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal hair, industrial chemicals (including tobacco smoke), foods, medicines, and insect venom. During an allergic attack, antibodies, primarily immunoglobin E (IgE), attach to mast cells (cells that release histamine) in the lungs, skin, and mucous membranes. Once IgE connects with the mast cells, a number of chemicals are released. One of the chemicals, histamine, opens the blood vessels and causes skin redness and swollen membranes. When this occurs in the nose, sneezing and congestion are the result.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis or hayfever occurs in late summer or spring. Hypersensitivity to ragweed, not hay, is the primary cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis in 75 percent of all Americans who suffer from this seasonal disorder. People with sensitivity to tree pollen have symptoms in late March or early April; an allergic reaction to mold spores occurs in October and November as a consequence of falling leaves.

Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs year-round and can result from sensitivity to pet hair, mold on wallpaper, houseplants, carpeting, and upholstery. Some studies suggest that air pollution such as automobile engine emissions can aggravate allergic rhinitis. Although bacteria is not the cause of allergic rhinitis, one medical study found a significant number of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus in the nasal passages of patients with year-round allergic rhinitis, concluding that the allergic condition may lead to higher bacterial levels, thereby creating a condition that worsens the allergies.

Patients who suffer from recurring bouts of allergic rhinitis should observe their symptoms on a continuous basis. If facial pain or a greenish-yellow nasal discharge occurs, a qualified ear, nose, and throat specialist can provide appropriate sinusitis treatment.

Non-Allergic Rhinitis does not depend on the presence of IgE and is not due to an allergic reaction. The symptoms can be triggered by cigarette smoke and other pollutants as well as strong odors, alcoholic beverages, and cold. Other causes may include blockages in the nose, a deviated septum, infections, and over-use of medications such as decongestants.

Rhinosinusitis: Clarifying The Relationship Between The Sinuses And Rhinitis

Recent studies by otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeons have better defined the association between rhinitis and sinusitis. They have concluded that sinusitis is often preceded by rhinitis and rarely occurs without concurrent rhinitis. The symptoms, nasal obstruction/discharge and loss of smell, occur in both disorders. Most importantly, computed tomography (CT scan) findings have established that the mucosal linings of the nose and sinuses are simultaneously involved in the common cold (previously, thought to affect only the nasal passages). Otolaryngologists, acknowledging the inter-relationship between the nasal and sinus passages, now refer to sinusitis as rhinosinusitis.

The catalyst relating the two disorders is thought to involve nasal sinus overflow obstruction, followed by bacterial colonization and infection leading to acute, recurrent, or chronic sinusitis. Likewise, chronic inflammation due to allergies can lead to obstruction and subsequent sinusitis.

Other medical research has supported the close relationship between allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. In a retrospective study on sinus abnormalities in 1,120 patients (from two to 87 years of age), thickening of the sinus mucosa was more commonly found in sinusitis patients during July, August, September, and December, months in which pollen, mold, and viral epidemics are prominent. A review of patients (four to 83 years of age) who had surgery to treat their chronic sinus conditions revealed that those with seasonal allergy and nasal polyps are more likely to experience a recurrence of their sinusitis.

Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is an especially common chronic nasal problem in adolescents and young adults. Allergies to inhalants like pollen, dust, and animal dander begin to cause sinus and nasal symptoms in early childhood. Infants and young children are especially susceptible to allergic sensitivity to foods and indoor allergens.

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis typically results from two conditions: family history/genetic predisposition to allergic disease and exposure to allergens. Allergens are substances that produce an allergic response.

Children are not born with allergies but develop symptoms upon repeated exposure to environmental allergens. The earliest exposure is through food—and infants may develop eczema, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, and wheezing caused by one or more allergens (milk protein is the most common). Allergies can also contribute to repeated ear infections in children. In early childhood, indoor exposure to dust mites, animal dander, and mold spores may cause an allergic reaction, often lasting throughout the year. Outdoor allergens including pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds primarily cause seasonal symptoms.

The number of patients with allergic rhinitis has increased in the past decade, especially in urban areas. Before adolescence, twice as many boys as girls are affected; however, after adolescence, females are slightly more affected than males. Researchers have found that children born to a large family with several older siblings and day care attendance seem to have less likelihood of developing allergic disease later in life.

What are allergic rhinitis symptoms?

Symptoms can vary with the season and type of allergen and include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes and nose. A year-long exposure usually produces nasal congestion (chronic stuffy nose).

In children, allergen exposure and subsequent inflammation in the upper respiratory system cause nasal obstruction. This obstruction becomes worse with the gradual enlargement of the adenoid tissue and the tonsils inherent with age. Consequently, the young patient may have mouth-breathing, snoring, and sleep-disordered breathing such as obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep problems such as insomnia, bed-wetting, and sleepwalking may accompany these symptoms along with behavioral changes including short attention span, irritability, poor school performance, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

In these patients, upper respiratory infections such as colds and ear infections are more frequent and last longer. A child’s symptoms after exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke are usually amplified in the presence of ongoing allergic inflammation.

When should my child see a doctor?

If your child’s cold-like symptoms (sneezing and runny nose) persist for more than two weeks, it is appropriate to contact a physician.

Emergency treatment is rarely necessary except for upper airway obstruction causing severe sleep apnea or an anaphylactic reaction caused by exposure to a food allergen. Treatment of anaphylactic shock should be immediate and requires continued observation and care.

What happens during a physician visit?

The doctor will first obtain an extensive history about the child, the home environment, possible exposures, and progression of symptoms. Family history of atopic/allergic disease and the presence of other disorders such as eczema and asthma strongly support the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. The physician will seek a link between the symptoms and exposure to certain allergens.

The physician will examine the skin, eyes, face and facial structures, ears, nose, and throat. In some cases, a nasal endoscopy may be performed. If the history and the physical exam suggest allergic rhinitis, a screening allergy test is ordered. This can be a blood test or a skin prick test. In most children it is easier to obtain a blood test known as the RadioAllergoSorbent Test or RAST. This test measures the amount of specific Immunoglobulin E antibodies (IgE) in the blood responding to various environmental and food allergens.

The skin test results, often immediately available, may be affected by the recent use of antihistamines and other medications, dermatologic conditions, and age of the patient. The blood test is not affected by medication, and results are usually available in several days.

How is allergic rhinitis treated?

The most common treatment recommendation is to have the child avoid the allergens causing the allergic sensitivity. The physician will work with caregivers to develop an avoidance strategy based on the nature of the allergen, exposure, and availability of avoidance measures.

Cost and lifestyle are important factors to consider. For mild, seasonal allergies, avoidance could be the most effective course of action. If pet dander is the offender, consideration should be given to removing the pet from the child’s environment.

Severe symptoms, multiple allergens, year-long exposure, and limited resources for environmental control may call for additional treatment measures. Nasal saline irrigations, nasal steroid sprays, and non-sedating antihistamines are indicated for symptom control. Nasal steroids are the most effective in reducing nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis. A short burst of oral steroids may be appropriate for some patients with severe symptoms or to gain control during acute attacks.

If symptoms are severe and due to multiple allergens, the child is symptomatic more than six months in a year, and if all other measures fail, then immunotherapy (IT) (or desensitization) may be suggested. IT is delivered by injections of the allergen in doses that are increased incrementally to a maximum that is tolerated without a reaction. Maintenance injections can be delivered at increasing intervals starting from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly injections for up to three to five years. Children with pollen sensitivities benefit most from this treatment. IT is also effective in reducing the onset of pollen-induced asthma.

20 Questions About Your Sinuses

Q. How common is sinusitis?

A. More than 37 million Americans suffer from at least one episode of acute sinusitis each year. The prevalence of sinusitis has soared in the last decade possibly due to increased pollution, urban sprawl, and increased resistance to antibiotics.

Q. What is sinusitis?

A. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the membrane lining of any sinus, especially one of the paranasal sinuses. Acute sinusitis is a short-term condition that responds well to antibiotics and decongestants; chronic sinusitis is characterized by at least four recurrences of acute sinusitis. Either medication or surgery is a possible treatment.

Q. What are the signs and symptoms of acute sinusitis?

A. For acute sinusitis, symptoms include facial pain/pressure, nasal obstruction, nasal discharge, diminished sense of smell, and cough not due to asthma (in children). Additionally, sufferers of this disorder could incur fever, bad breath, fatigue, dental pain, and cough.

Acute sinusitis can last four weeks or more. This condition may be present when the patient has two or more symptoms and/or the presence of thick, green or yellow nasal discharge. Acute bacterial infection might be present when symptoms worsen after five days, persist after ten days, or the severity of symptoms is out of proportion to those normally associated with a viral infection.

Q. How is acute sinusitis treated?

A. Acute sinusitis is generally treated with ten to 14 days of antibiotic care. With treatment, the symptoms disappear, and antibiotics are no longer required for that episode. Oral and topical decongestants also may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms.

Q. What are the signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis?

A. Victims of chronic sinusitis may have the following symptoms for 12 weeks or more: facial pain/pressure, facial congestion/fullness, nasal obstruction/blockage, thick nasal discharge/discolored post-nasal drainage, pus in the nasal cavity, and at times, fever. They may also have headache, bad breath, and fatigue.

Q. What measures can be taken at home to relieve sinus pain?

A. Warm moist air may alleviate sinus congestion. Experts recommend a vaporizer or steam from a pan of boiled water (removed from the heat). Humidifiers should be used only when a clean filter is in place to preclude spraying bacteria or fungal spores into the air. Warm compresses are useful in relieving pain in the nose and sinuses. Saline nose drops are also helpful in moisturizing nasal passages.

Q. How effective are non-prescription nose drops or sprays?

A. Use of nonprescription drops or sprays might help control symptoms. However, extended use of non-prescription decongestant nasal sprays could aggravate symptoms and should not be used beyond their label recommendation. Saline nasal sprays or drops are safe for continuous use.

Q. How does a physician determine the best treatment for acute or chronic sinusitis?

A. To obtain the best treatment option, the physician needs to properly assess the patient’ s history and symptoms and then progress through a structured physical examination.

Q. What should one expect during the physical examination for sinusitis?

A. At a specialist’ s office, the patient will receive a thorough ear, nose, and throat examination. During that physical examination, the physician will explore the facial features where swelling and erythema (redness of the skin) over the cheekbone exist. Facial swelling and redness are generally worse in the morning; as the patient remains upright, the symptoms gradually improve. The physician may feel and press the sinuses for tenderness. Additionally, the physician may tap the teeth to help identify an inflamed paranasal sinus.

Q. What other diagnostic procedures might be taken?

A. Other diagnostic tests may include a study of a mucous culture, endoscopy, x-rays, allergy testing, or CT scan of the sinuses.

Q. What is nasal endoscopy?

A. An endoscope is a special fiber optic instrument for the examination of the interior of a canal or hollow viscus. It allows a visual examination of the nose and sinus drainage areas.

Q. Why does an ear, nose, and throat specialist perform nasal endoscopy?

A. Nasal endoscopy offers the physician specialist a reliable, visual view of all the accessible areas of the sinus drainage pathways. First, the patient’ s nasal cavity is anesthetized; a rigid or flexible endoscope is then placed in a position to view the nasal cavity. The procedure is utilized to observe signs of obstruction as well as detect nasal polyps hidden from routine nasal examination. During the endoscopic examination, the physician specialist also looks for pus as well as polyp formation and structural abnormalities that may cause recurrent sinusitis.

Q. What course of treatment will the physician recommend?

A. To reduce congestion, the physician may prescribe nasal sprays, nose drops, or oral decongestants. Antibiotics will be prescribed for any bacterial infection found in the sinuses (antibiotics are not effective against a viral infection). Antihistamines may be recommended for the treatment of allergies.

Q. Will any changes in lifestyle be suggested during treatment?

A. Smoking is never condoned, but if one has the habit, it is important to refrain during treatment for sinus problems. A special diet is not required, but drinking extra fluids helps to thin mucus.

Q. When is sinus surgery necessary?

A. Mucus is developed by the body to act as a lubricant. In the sinus cavities, the lubricant is moved across mucous membrane linings toward the opening of each sinus by millions of cilia (a mobile extension of a cell). Inflammation from allergy causes membrane swelling and the sinus opening to narrow, thereby blocking mucus movement. If antibiotics are not effective, sinus surgery can correct the problem.

Q. What does the surgical procedure entail?

A. The basic endoscopic surgical procedure is performed under local or general anesthesia. The patient returns to normal activities within four days; full recovery takes about four weeks.

Q. What does sinus surgery accomplish?

A. The surgery should enlarge the natural opening to the sinuses, leaving as many cilia in place as possible. Otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeons have found endoscopic surgery to be highly effective in restoring normal function to the sinuses. The procedure removes areas of obstruction, resulting in the normal flow of mucus.

Q. What are the consequences of not treating infected sinuses?

A. Not seeking treatment for sinusitis will result in unnecessary pain and discomfort. In rare circumstances, meningitis or brain abscess and infection of the bone or bone marrow can occur.

Q. Where should sinus pain sufferers seek treatment?

A. If you suffer from severe sinus pain, you should seek treatment from an otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeon, a specialist who can treat your condition with medical and/or surgical remedies.

Facial Sports Injuries

Playing catch, shooting hoops, bicycling on a scenic path or just kicking around a soccer ball have more in common than you may think. On the up side, these activities are good exercise and are enjoyed by thousands of Americans. On the down side, they can result in a variety of injuries to the face.

Many injuries are preventable by wearing the proper protective gear, and your attitude toward safety can make a big difference. However, even the most careful person can get hurt. When an accident happens, it’s your response that can make the difference between a temporary inconvenience and permanent injury.

When Someone Gets Hurt:

What First Aid Supplies Should You Have on Hand in Case of An Emergency?

  • sterile cloth or pads
  • scissors
  • ice pack
  • tape
  • sterile bandages
  • cotton tipped swabs
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • nose drops
  • antibiotic ointment
  • eye pads
  • cotton balls
  • butterfly bandages
  • Ask “Are you all right?” Determine whether the injured person is breathing and knows who and where they are.

  • Be certain the person can see, hear and maintain balance. Watch for subtle changes in behavior or speech, such as slurring or stuttering. Any abnormal response requires medical attention.

  • Note weakness or loss of movement in the forehead, eyelids, cheeks and mouth.

  • Look at the eyes to make sure they move in the same direction and that both pupils are the same size.

  • If any doubts exist, seek immediate medical attention.

When Medical Attention Is Required, What Can You Do?

  • Call for medical assistance (911).

  • Do not move the victim, or remove helmets or protective gear.

  • Do not give food, drink or medication until the extent of the injury has been determined.

  • Remember HIV…be very careful around body fluids. In an emergency protect your hands with plastic bags.

  • Apply pressure to bleeding wounds with a clean cloth or pad, unless the eye or eyelid is affected or a loose bone can be felt in a head injury. In these cases, do not apply pressure but gently cover the wound with a clean cloth.

  • Apply ice or a cold pack to areas that have suffered a blow (such as a bump on the head) to help control swelling and pain.

  • Remember to advise your doctor if the patient has HIV or hepatitis.

Facial Fractures

Sports injuries can cause potentially serious broken bones or fractures of the face. Common symptoms of facial fractures include:

  • swelling and bruising, such as a black eye

  • pain or numbness in the face, cheeks or lips

  • double or blurred vision

  • nosebleeds

  • changes in teeth structure or ability to close mouth properly

It is important to pay attention to swelling because it may be masking a more serious injury. Applying ice packs and keeping the head elevated may reduce early swelling.

If any of these symptoms occur, be sure to visit the emergency room or the office of a facial plastic surgeon (such as an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon) where x-rays may be taken to determine if there is a fracture.

Upper Face

When you are hit in the upper face (by a ball for example) it can fracture the delicate bones around the sinuses, eye sockets, bridge of the nose or cheek bones. A direct blow to the eye may cause a fracture, as well as blurred or double vision. All eye injuries should be examined by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).

Lower Face

When your jaw or lower face is injured, it may change the way your teeth fit together. To restore a normal bite, surgeries often can be performed from inside the mouth to prevent visible scarring of the face; and broken jaws often can be repaired without being wired shut for long periods. Your doctor will explain your treatment options and the latest treatment techniques.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Bruises cuts and scrapes often result from high speed or contact sports, such as boxing, football, soccer, ice hockey, bicycling skiing, and snowmobiling. Most can be treated at home, but some require medical attention.

You should get immediate medical care when you have:

  • deep skin cuts

  • obvious deformity or fracture

  • loss of facial movement

  • persistent bleeding

  • change in vision

  • problems breathing and/or swallowing

  • alterations in consciousness or facial movement

Bruises

Also called contusions, bruises result from bleeding underneath the skin. Applying pressure, elevating the bruised area above the heart and using an ice pack for the first 24 to 48 hours minimizes discoloration and swelling. After two days, a heat pack or hot water bottle may help more. Most of the swelling and bruising should disappear in one to two weeks.

Cuts and Scrapes

The external bleeding that results from cuts and scrapes can be stopped by immediately applying pressure with gauze or a clean cloth. When the bleeding is uncontrollable, you should go to the emergency room.

Scrapes should be washed with soap and water to remove any foreign material that could cause infection and discoloration of the skin. Scrapes or abrasions can be treated at home by cleaning with 3% hydrogen peroxide and covering with an antibiotic ointment or cream until the skin is healed. Cuts or lacerations, unless very small, should be examined by a physician. Stitches may be necessary, and deeper cuts may have serious effects. Following stitches, cuts should be kept clean and free of scabs with hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic ointment. Bandages may be needed to protect the area from pressure or irritation from clothes. You may experience numbness around the cut for several months. Healing will continue for 6 to 12 months. The application of sunscreen is important during the healing process to prevent pigment changes. Scars that look too obvious after this time should be seen by a facial plastic surgeon.

Nasal Injuries

The nose is one of the most injured areas on the face. Early treatment of a nose injury consists of applying a cold compress and keeping the head higher than the rest of the body. You should seek medical attention in the case of:

  • breathing difficulties

  • deformity of the nose

  • persistent bleeding

  • cuts

Bleeding

Nosebleeds are common and usually short-lived. Often they can be controlled by squeezing the nose with constant pressure for 5 to 10 minutes. If bleeding persists, seek medical attention.

Bleeding also can occur underneath the surface of the nose. An otolaryngologist/facial plastic surgeon will examine the nose to determine if there is a clot or collection of blood beneath the mucus membrane of the septum (a septal hematoma) or any fracture. Hematomas should be drained so the pressure does not cause nose damage or infection.

Fractures

Some otolaryngologist-head and neck specialists set fractured bones right away before swelling develops, while others prefer to wait until the swelling is gone. These fractures can be repaired under local or general anesthesia, even weeks later.

Ultimately, treatment decisions will be made to restore proper function of the nasal air passages and normal appearance and structural support of the nose. Swelling and bruising of the nose may last for 10 days or more.

Neck Injuries

Whether seemingly minor or severe, all neck injuries should be thoroughly evaluated by an otolaryngologist — head and neck surgeon. Injuries may involve specific structures within the neck, such as the larynx (voicebox), esophagus (food passage), or major blood vessels and nerves.

Throat Injuries

The larynx is a complex organ consisting of cartilage, nerves and muscles with a mucous membrane lining all encased in a protective tissue (cartilage) framework.

The cartilages can be fractured or dislocated and may cause severe swelling, which can result in airway obstruction. Hoarseness or difficulty breathing after a blow to the neck are warning signs of a serious injury and the injured person should receive immediate medical attention.

Prevention Of Facial Sports Injuries

The best way to treat facial sports injuries is to prevent them. To insure a safe athletic environment, the following guidelines are suggested:

  • Be sure the playing areas are large enough that players will not run into walls or other obstructions.

  • Cover unremoveable goal posts and other structures with thick, protective padding.

  • Carefully check equipment to be sure it is functioning properly.

  • Require protective equipment – such as helmets and padding for football, bicycling and rollerblading; face masks, head and mouth guards for baseball; ear protectors for wrestlers; and eyeglass guards or goggles for racquetball and snowmobiling are just a few.

  • Prepare athletes with warm-up exercises before engaging in intense team activity.

  • In the case of sports involving fast-moving vehicles, for example, snowmobiles or dirt bikes – check the path of travel, making sure there are no obstructing fences, wires or other obstacles.

  • Enlist adequate adult supervision for all children’s competitive sports.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Snoring Problems

Forty­-five percent of normal adults snore at least occasionally, and 25 percent are habitual snorers. Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight persons and it usually grows worse with age. Snoring sounds are caused when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose.

Only recently have the adverse medical effects of snoring and its association with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) been recognized. Various methods are used to alleviate snoring and/or OSA. They include behavior modification, sleep positioning, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), and Laser Assisted Uvula Palatoplasty (LAUP), and jaw adjustment techniques.

What Is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)?

Nasal CPAP delivers air into your airway through a specially designed nasal mask or pillows. The mask does not breathe for you; the flow of air creates enough pressure when you inhale to keep your airway open. CPAP is considered the most effective nonsurgical treatment for the alleviation of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

If your otolaryngologist determines that the CPAP treatment is right for you, you will be required to wear the nasal mask every night. During this treatment, you may have to undertake a significant change in lifestyle. That change could consist of losing weight, quitting smoking, or adopting a new exercise regimen.

Before the invention of the nasal CPAP, a recommended course of action for a patient with sleep apnea or habitual snoring was a tracheostomy, or creating a temporary opening in the windpipe. The CPAP treatment has been found to be nearly 100 percent effective in eliminating sleep apnea and snoring when used correctly and will eliminate the necessity of a surgical procedure.

So, If I Use A Nasal CPAP I Will Never Need Surgery?

With the exception of some patients with severe nasal obstruction, CPAP has been found to be nearly 100 percent effective, although it does not cure the problem. However, studies have shown that long­term compliance in wearing the nasal CPAP is about 70 percent. Some people have found the device to be claustrophobic or have difficulty using it when traveling. If you find that you cannot wear a nasal CPAP each night, a surgical solution might be necessary. Your otolaryngologist will advise you of the best course of action.

Should You Consider CPAP?

If you have significant sleep apnea, you may be a prime for CPAP. Your otolaryngologist will evaluate you and ask the following questions:

  • Do you snore loudly and disturb your family and friends?
  • Do you have daytime sleepiness?
  • Do you wake up frequently in the middle of the night?
  • Do you have frequent episodes of obstructed breathing during sleep?
  • Do you have morning headaches or tiredness?

Suitability for CPAP use is determined after a review of your medical history, lifestyle factors (alcohol and tobacco intake as well as exercise), cardiovascular condition, and current medications. You will also receive a physical and otorhinolaryngological (ear, nose, and throat) examination to evaluate your airway.

Before receiving the nasal mask, you would need to have the proper CPAP pressure set during a “sleep study.” This will complete the evaluation necessary for prescribing the appropriate treatment for your needs.

Antihistamines, Decongestants, and Cold Remedies

Insight into recommended use and side effects

  • What are the side effects of antihistamines?
  • Who should not use decongestants?
  • What are combination remedies?
  • and more…

Drugs for stuffy nose, sinus trouble, congestion and drainage, and the common cold constitute a large segment of the over-the-counter market for America’s pharmaceutical industry. Even though they do not cure allergies, sinusitis, colds, or the flu, they provide welcome relief for at least some of the discomforts of seasonal allergies and upper respiratory infections. However, it’s essential for consumers to read the ingredient labels, evaluate their symptoms, and choose the most appropriate remedy.

What are antihistamines?

Histamine is an important body chemical that is responsible for the congestion, sneezing, and runny nose and itching that a patient suffers with an allergic attack or an infection. Antihistamine drugs block the action of histamine, therefore reducing these symptoms. For the best result, antihistamines should be taken before allergic symptoms get well established, but they can also be very effective if taken after the onset of symptoms.

What are the side effects of antihistamines?

Most of the older over-the-counter antihistamines produce drowsiness, and are therefore not recommended for anyone who may be driving an automobile or operating equipment that could be dangerous. The first few doses cause the most sleepiness; subsequent doses are usually less troublesome. Some of the newer over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines do not produce drowsiness.

Typical antihistamines include Benadryl®*, Chlor-Trimetron®*, Claritin®, Dimetane®*, Hismanal®, Nolahist®*, PBZ®*, Polaramine®, Seldane®, Tavist®*, Teldrin®, Zyrtec®, Allegra®, and Allavert®.

What are decongestants?

Congestion in the nose, sinuses, and chest is due to swollen, expanded, or dilated blood vessels in the membranes of the nose and air passages. These membranes, with a great capacity for expansion, have an abundant supply of blood vessels. Once the membranes swell, one becomes congested.

Decongestants help to shrink the blood vessels in the nasal membranes and allow the air passages to open up. Decongestants are chemically related to adrenaline, the natural decongestant, which is also a type of stimulant. Therefore, the side effect of decongestants taken as a pill or liquid is a jittery or nervous feeling causing difficulty in going to sleep and elevating blood pressure and pulse rate.

Who should not use decongestants?

Decongestants should not be used by a patient who has an irregular heart rhythm, high blood pressure, heart disease, or glaucoma. Some patients taking decongestants experience difficulty with urination. Furthermore, decongestants are often used as ingredients in diet pills. To avoid excessively stimulating effects, patients taking diet pills should not take decongestants.

Typical decongestants in pill or liquid form are Dura-Vent®, Exgest®, Entex®, Propagest®, Novafed®*, and Sudafed®*.

* May be available over the counter without a prescription. Read labels carefully, and use only as directed.

Decongestants are also available over the counter in nasal spray form. This method of medication delivery brings immediate relief to the nasal mucous membranes without the usual side effects that accompany pills or liquids that are swallowed. Over-the-counter decongestant nose sprays should be reserved for urgent, emergency and short term use. Because repetitive use can lead to lack of effectiveness and return of the congestion, and thus lead to the urge to use more sprays more frequently, these medications often carry a warning label, “Do not use this product for more than three days.” This problem will only improve once the use of the nasal drops or spray is discontinued.

What are combination remedies?

Theoretically, if the side effects could be properly balanced, the sleepiness caused by antihistamines could be cancelled by the stimulation of decongestants. For instance, one might take the antihistamine only at night and take the decongestant alone in the daytime. Alternatively, one could take them together, increasing the dosage of antihistamine at night (while decreasing the decongestant dose) and then doing the opposite for daytime use. Since no one reacts exactly the same as another to drug side effects, a consumer may wish to adjust the time of day the medications are taken until finding the combination that works best.

Antihistamines/decongestants: Many pharmaceutical companies have combined antihistamines and decongestants together in one pill.

Typical combinations of antihistamines with decongestants are: Actifed®*, A.R.M.®*, Chlor-Trimeton D®*, Claritin D®, Contac®*, CoPyronil 2®*, Deconamine®, Demazin®*, Dimetapp®*, Drixoral®*, Isoclor®*, Nolamine®, Novafed A®, Ornade®, Sudafed Plus®, Tavist D®*, Triaminic®*, and Trinalin®.

What should I look for in a “cold” remedy?

Decongestants and/or antihistamines are the principal ingredients in “cold” remedies, but drying agents, aspirin (or aspirin substitutes), and cough suppressants may also be added. Therefore, consumers should choose remedies with ingredients best suited to combat their own symptoms. If the label does not clearly state the ingredients and their functions, the consumer should ask the pharmacist to explain them.

Which medicine do I need?

The chart below makes it simple for you to determine which type of medicine is right for you based on the symptoms that each treats.

MEDICINE SYMPTOMS RELIEVED SIDE EFFECTS
Antihistamines Sneezing
Runny nose
Stuffy nose
Itchy eyes
Congestion
Drowsiness
Dry mouth & nose
Decongestants Stuffy nose
Congestion
Stimulation
Insomnia
Rapid heart beat
Combination of above All of above Any of above (more or less)

Allergies and Hay Fever

Insight into causes, treatment, and prevention

  • Why does the body develop allergies?
  • What allergens should be avoided?
  • When should a doctor be consulted?
  • and more…

Millions of Americans suffer from nasal allergies, commonly known as hay fever. Often fragrant flowers are blamed for the uncomfortable symptoms, yet they are rarely the cause; their pollens are too heavy to be airborne. An ear, nose, and throat specialist can help determine the substances causing your discomfort and develop a management plan that will help make life more enjoyable.

Why does the body develop allergies?

Allergy symptoms appear when the immune system reacts to an allergic substance that has entered the body as though it was an unwelcomed invader. The immune system will produce special antibodies capable of recognizing the same allergic substance if it enters the body at a later time.

When an allergen reenters the body, the immune system rapidly recognizes it causing a series of reactions. These reactions often involve tissue destruction, blood vessel dilation, and production of many inflammatory substances including histamine. Histamine produces common allergy symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, headaches, sneezing, scratchy throat, hives, shortness of breath, etc. Other less common symptoms are balance disturbances, skin irritations such as eczema, and even respiratory problems like asthma.

What allergens should be avoided?

Many common substances can be allergens. Pollens, food, mold, dust, feathers, animal dander, chemicals, drugs such as penicillin, and environmental pollutants commonly cause many to suffer allergic reactions.

Pollens

One of the most significant causes of allergic rhinitis in the United States is ragweed. It begins pollinating in late August and continues until the first frost. Late springtime pollens come from the grasses, i.e., timothy, orchard, red top, sweet vernal, Bermuda, Johnson, and some bluegrasses. Early springtime hay fever is most often caused by pollens of trees such as elm, maple, birch, poplar, beech, ash, oak, walnut, sycamore, cypress, hickory, pecan, cottonwood, and alder. Colorful or fragrant flowering plants rarely cause allergy symptoms because their pollens are too heavy to be airborne.

Household allergens

Certain allergens are present all year long. These include house dust, pet danders, some foods and chemicals. Symptoms from these are frequently worse in the winter when the house is closed up and where there is poor ventilation.

Mold

Mold spores can also cause allergy problems. Molds are present all year long, and grow outdoors and indoors. Dead leaves and farm areas are common sources for outdoor molds. Indoor plants, old books, bathrooms, and damp areas are common sources of indoor mold growth. Mold is also common in foods, such as cheese and fermented beverages.

How can allergies be managed?

Allergies are rarely life threatening, but often cause lost work days, decreased work efficiency, poor school performance, and a negative effect on the quality of life. Considering the millions spent on antiallergy medications and the cost of lost work time, allergies cannot be considered a minor problem.

For some allergy sufferers symptoms may be seasonal, but for others it is a year-round discomfort. Allergy symptom control is most successful when multiple management approaches are used simultaneously. They may include minimizing exposure to allergens, desensitization with allergy shots, and medications.

If used properly, medications, including antihistamines, nasal decongestant sprays, steroid sprays, saline sprays, and cortisone-type preparations, can be helpful. Even over-the-counter drugs can be beneficial, but some may cause drowsiness.

When should a doctor be consulted?

The most appropriate person to evaluate allergy problems is an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist). Aside from gathering a detailed history and completing a thorough examination of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck, the doctor will offer advice on proper environmental control and evaluate the sinuses to determine if infection or structural abnormality (deviated septum, polyps) is contributing to the symptoms.

In addition, the doctor may advise testing to determine the specific allergen that is causing discomfort. In some cases immunotherapy or allergy shots may be recommended. Immunotherapy is a unique treatment because it induces the build up of protective antibodies to specific allergens.

Tips for reducing the exposure to common allergens

  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing grass or house cleaning (most drugstores sell them).
  • Change the air filters regularly in heating and air conditioning systems, and/or install an air purifier.
  • Keep windows and doors closed during heavy pollen seasons.
  • Rid the home of sources of mildew.
  • Don’t allow dander-producing animals (i.e., cats, dogs, etc.) into the home and bedroom.
  • Change feather pillows, woolen blankets, and woolen clothing to cotton or synthetic materials.
  • Enclose mattress, box springs, and pillows in plastic barrier cloth.
  • Use antihistamines and decongestants as necessary and as tolerated.
  • Sleep with the head of the bed tilted upward. Elevating the head of the bed helps relieve nasal congestion.
  • Observe general good health practices: exercise daily, do not smoke, avoid air pollutants, eat a balanced diet, and supplement diet with vitamins, especially C.
  • Use a humidifier in the winter. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to avoid mold build-up.
  • Discuss hay fever and allergy symptoms with a physician when experiencing an allergic reaction.

Tonsils and Adenoids

Insight into tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy

  • What affects tonsils and adenoids?
  • When should I see a doctor?
  • Common symptoms of tonsillitis and enlarged adenoids
  • and more…

Tonsils and adenoids are on the body’s first line of defense—our immune system. They “sample” bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose at the risk of their own infection. But at times, they become more of a liability than an asset and may even trigger airway obstruction or repeated bacterial infections. Your ear, nose, and throat specialist can suggest the best treatment options.

What are tonsils and adenoids?

Two masses of tissue that are similar to the lymph nodes or “glands” found in the neck, groin, and armpits. Tonsils are the two masses on the back of the throat. Adenoids are high in the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and are not visible through the mouth without special instruments.

What affects tonsils and adenoids?

The most common problems affecting the tonsils and adenoids are recurrent infections (throat or ear) and significant enlargement or obstruction that causes breathing, swallowing, and sleep problems.

Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis, and infections of small pockets within the tonsils that produce foul-smelling, cheese-like formations can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen. Tumors are rare, but can grow on the tonsils.

When should I see a doctor?

You should see your doctor when you or your child suffer the common symptoms of infected or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Your physician will ask about problems of the ear, nose, and throat and examine the head and neck. He or she will use a small mirror or a flexible lighted instrument to see these areas.

Other methods used to check tonsils and adenoids are:

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Throat cultures/Strep tests – helpful in determining infections in the throat
  • X-rays – helpful in determining the size and shape of the adenoids
  • Blood tests – helpful in determing infections such as mononucleosis

How are tonsil and adenoid diseases treated?

Bacterial infections of the tonsils, especially those caused by streptococcus, are first treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids may be recommended if there are recurrent infections despite antibiotic therapy, and/or difficulty breathing due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. Such obstruction to breathing causes snoring and disturbed sleep that leads to daytime sleepiness in adults and behavioral problems in children.

Chronic infection can affect other areas such as the eustachian tube – the passage between the back of the nose and the inside of the ear. This can lead to frequent ear infections and potential hearing loss. Recent studies indicate adenoidectomy may be a beneficial treatment for some children with chronic earaches accompanied by fluid in the middle ear (otitis media with effusion).

In adults, the possibility of cancer or a tumor may be another reason for removing the tonsils and adenoids. In some patients, especially those with infectious mononucleosis, severe enlargement may obstruct the airway. For those patients, treatment with steroids (e.g., cortisone) is sometimes helpful.

How to prepare for surgery

Children

  • Talk to your child about his/her feelings and provide strong reassurance and support
  • Encourage the idea that the procedure will make him/her healthier.
  • Be with your child as much as possible before and after the surgery.
  • Tell him/her to expect a sore throat after surgery.
  • Reassure your child that the operation does not remove any important parts of the body, and that he/she will not look any different afterward.
  • If your child has a friend who has had this surgery, it may be helpful to talk about it with that friend.

Adults and children

For at least two weeks before any surgery, the patient should refrain from taking aspirin or other medications containing aspirin. (WARNING: Children should never be given aspirin because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome).

  • If the patient or patient’s family has had any problems with anesthesia, the surgeon should be informed. If the patient is taking any other medications, has sickle cell anemia, has a bleeding disorder, is pregnant, has concerns about the transfusion of blood, or has used steroids in the past year, the surgeon should be informed.
  • A blood test and possibly a urine test may be required prior to surgery.
  • Generally, after midnight prior to the operation, nothing may be taken by mouth (including chewing gum, mouthwashes, throat lozenges, toothpaste, water.) Anything in the stomach may be vomited when anesthesia is induced, and this is dangerous.

When the patient arrives at the hospital or surgery center, the anesthesiologist or nursing staff may meet with the patient and family to review the patient’s history. The patient will then be taken to the operating room and given an anesthetic. Intravenous fluids are usually given during and after surgery.

After the operation, the patient will be taken to the recovery area. Recovery room staff will observe the patient until discharged. Every patient is unique, and recovery time may vary.

Your ENT specialist will provide you with the details of preoperative and postoperative care and answer any questions you may have.

After surgery

There are several postoperative symptoms that may arise. These include, but are not limited to, swallowing problems, vomiting, fever, throat pain, and ear pain. Occasionally, bleeding may occur after surgery. If the patient has any bleeding, your surgeon should be notified immediately.

Any questions or concerns you have should be discussed openly with your surgeon.

Tonsillitis and its symptoms

Tonsillitis is an infection in one or both tonsils. One sign is swelling of the tonsils. Other signs or symptoms are:

  • Redder than normal tonsils
  • A white or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • A slight voice change due to swelling
  • Sore throat
  • Uncomfortable or painful swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck
  • Fever
  • Bad breath

Enlarged adenoids and their symptoms

If your or your child’s adenoids are enlarged, it may be hard to breathe through the nose. Other signs of constant enlargement are:

  • Breathing through the mouth instead of the nose most of the time
  • Nose sounds “blocked” when the person speaks
  • Noisy breathing during the day
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Snoring at night
  • Breathing stops for a few seconds at night during snoring or loud breathing (sleep apnea)

Swallowing Trouble

Insight into complications and treatment

  • What are the symptoms of swallowing disorders?
  • How are swallowing disorders diagnosed?
  • How are swallowing disorders treated?
  • and more…

Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are temporary and not threatening. Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder. When the difficulty does not clear up by itself in a short period of time, you should see an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon.

How do we swallow?

People normally swallow hundreds of times a day to eat solids, drink liquids, and swallow the normal saliva and mucus that the body produces. The process of swallowing has four related stages:

  • The first stage is the oral preparation stage, where food or liquid is manipulated and chewed in preparation for swallowing.
  • The second stage is the oral stage, where the tongue propels the food or liquid to the back of the mouth, starting the swallowing response.
  • The third stage is the pharyngeal stage which begins as food or liquid is quickly passed through the pharynx, the region of the throat which connects the mouth with the esophagus, then into the esophagus or swallowing tube.
  • In the final, esophageal stage, the food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach.

Although the first and second stages have some voluntary control, stages three and four occur involuntarily, without conscious input.

What are the symptoms of swallowing disorders?

Symptoms of swallowing disorders may include:

  • drooling
  • a feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat
  • discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastro esophageal reflux is present)
  • a sensation of a foreign body or “lump” in the throat
  • weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
  • coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid, or saliva not passing easily during swallowing, and being sucked into the lungs
  • voice change

How are swallowing disorders diagnosed?

When dysphagia is persistent and the cause is not apparent, the otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon will discuss the history of your problem and examine your mouth and throat. This may be done with the aid of mirrors. Sometimes a small tube (flexible laryngoscope) is placed through the nose and the patient is then given food to eat while the scope is in place in the throat. These procedures provide visualization of the back of the tongue, throat, and larynx (voice box). These procedures are called FEES (Fiber optic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) or FEESST (Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing with Sensory Testing). If necessary, an examination of the esophagus, named TransNasal Esophagoscopy (TNE), may be carried out by the otolaryngologist. If you experience difficulty swallowing, it is important to seek treatment to avoid malnutrition and dehydration.

How are swallowing disorders treated?

Many of these disorders can be treated with medication. Drugs that slow stomach acid production, muscle relaxants, and antacids are a few of the many medicines available. Treatment is tailored to the particular cause of the swallowing disorder.

Gastro esophageal reflux can often be treated by changing eating and living habits in these ways:

  • Eat a bland diet with smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Eliminate tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Reduce weight and stress.
  • Avoid food within three hours of bedtime.
  • Elevate the head of the bed at night.

If these don’t help, antacids between meals and at bedtime may provide relief.

Many swallowing disorders may be helped by direct swallowing therapy. A speech pathologist can provide special exercises for coordinating the swallowing muscles or stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex. Patients may also be taught simple ways to place food in the mouth or position the body and head to help the swallow occur successfully.

Some patients with swallowing disorders have difficulty feeding themselves. An occupational therapist or a speech language pathologist can aid the patient and family in feeding techniques. These techniques make the patient as independent as possible. A dietician or nutritional expert can determine the amount of food or liquid necessary to sustain an individual and whether supplements are necessary.

Once the cause is determined, swallowing disorders may be treated with:

  • medication
  • swallowing therapy
  • surgery

Surgery is used to treat certain problems. If a narrowing exists in the throat or esophagus, the area may need to be stretched or dilated. If a muscle is too tight, it may need to be dilated or released surgically. This procedure is called a myotomy and is performed by an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon.

Many diseases contribute to swallowing disorders. If you have a persistent problem swallowing, see an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon.

What causes swallowing disorders?

Any interruption in the swallowing process can cause difficulties. Eating slowly and chewing thoroughly can help reduce problems with swallowing. However, difficulties may be due to a range of other causes, including something as simple as poor teeth, ill fitting dentures, or a common cold. One of the most common causes of dysphagia is gastro esophageal reflux. This occurs when stomach acid moves up the esophagus to the pharynx, causing discomfort. Other causes may include: hypertension; diabetes; thyroid disease; stroke; progressive neurologic disorder; the presence of a tracheotomy tube; a paralyzed or unmoving vocal cord; a tumor in the mouth, throat, or esophagus; or surgery in the head, neck, or esophageal areas.

Swallowing difficulty can also be connected to some medications including:

  • Nitrates
  • Anticholinergic agents found in certain anti-depressants and allergy medications
  • Calcium tablets
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Aspirin
  • Iron tablets
  • Vitamin C
  • Antipsychotic
  • Tetracycline (used to treat acne)

Sore Throats

Insight into relief for a sore throat

  • What causes a sore throat?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • How can I prevent a sore throat?
  • and more…

Infections from viruses or bacteria are the main cause of sore throats and can make it difficult to talk and breathe. Allergies and sinus infections can also contribute to a sore throat. If you have a sore throat that lasts for more than five to seven days, you should see your doctor. While increasing your liquid intake, gargling with warm salt water, or taking over-the-counter pain relievers may help, if appropriate, your doctor may write you a prescription for an antibiotic.

What are the causes and symptoms of a sore throat?

Infections by contagious viruses or bacteria are the source of the majority of sore throats.

Viruses: Sore throats often accompany viral infections, including the flu, colds, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, and croup. One viral infection, infectious mononucleosis, or “mono,” takes much longer than a week to be cured. This virus lodges in the lymph system, causing massive enlargement of the tonsils, with white patches on their surface. Other symptoms include swollen glands in the neck, armpits, and groin; fever, chills, and headache. If you are suffering from mono, you will likely experience a severe sore throat that may last for one to four weeks and, sometimes, serious breathing difficulties. Mono causes extreme fatigue that can last six weeks or more, and can also affect the liver, leading to jaundice-yellow skin and eyes.

Bacteria: Strep throat is an infection caused by a particular strain of streptococcus bacteria. This infection can also damage the heart valves (rheumatic fever) and kidneys (nephritis), cause scarlet fever, tonsillitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, and ear infections. Symptoms of strep throat often include fever (greater than 101°F), white draining patches on the throat, and swollen or tender lymph glands in the neck. Children may have a headache and stomach pain.

Tonsillitis is an infection of the lumpy-appearing lymphatic tissues on each side of the back of the throat.

Infections in the nose and sinuses also can cause sore throats, because mucus from the nose drains down into the throat and carries the infection with it.

The most dangerous throat infection is epiglottitis, which infects a portion of the larynx (voice box) and causes swelling that closes the airway. Epiglottitis is an emergency condition that requires prompt medical attention. Suspect it when swallowing is extremely painful (causing drooling), when speech is muffled, and when breathing becomes difficult. Epiglottitis may not be obvious just by looking in the mouth. A strep test may overlook this infection.

Other causes

Allergies to pollens and molds such as cat and dog dander and house dust are common causes of sore throats.

Irritation caused by dry heat, a chronic stuffy nose, pollutants and chemicals, and straining your voice can also irritate your throat.

Reflux, or a regurgitation of stomach acids up into the back of the throat, can cause you to wake up with a sore throat.

Tumors of the throat, tongue, and larynx (voice box) can cause a sore throat with pain radiating to the ear and/or difficulty swallowing. Other important symptoms can include hoarseness, noisy breathing, a lump in the neck, unexplained weight loss, and/or spitting up blood in the saliva or phlegm.

HIV infection can sometimes cause a chronic sore throat, due not to HIV itself but to a secondary infection that can be extremely serious.

When should I see a doctor?

Whenever a sore throat is severe, persists longer than the usual five-to-seven day duration of a cold or flu, and is not associated with an avoidable allergy or irritation, you should seek medical attention. The following signs and symptoms should alert you to see your physician:

  • Severe and prolonged sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Joint pain
  • Earache
  • Rash
  • Fever (over 101°)
  • Blood in saliva or phlegm
  • Frequently recurring sore throat
  • Lump in neck
  • Hoarseness lasting over two weeks

How will I be tested for a sore throat?

To test for strep throat, your doctor may want to do a throat culture, a non-surgical procedure that uses an instrument to take a sampling of the infected cells. Because the culture will not detect other infections, when it is negative, your physician will base his/her decision for treatment on the severity of your symptoms and the appearance of your throat on examination.

What are my treatment options?

A mild sore throat associated with cold or flu symptoms can be made more comfortable with the following remedies:

  • Increase your liquid intake.
  • Warm tea with honey is a favorite home remedy.
  • Use a steamer or humidifier in your bedroom.
  • Gargle with warm salt water several times daily: ¼ tsp. salt to ½ cup water.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol Sore Throat®, Tempra®) or ibuprofen (Motrin IB®, Advil®).

If you have a bacterial infection your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to alleviate your symptoms. Antibiotics are drugs that kill or impair bacteria. Penicillin or erythromycin (well-known antibiotics) are prescribed when the physician suspects streptococcal or another bacterial infection that responds to them. However, a number of bacterial throat infections require other antibiotics instead.

Antibiotics do not cure viral infections, but viruses do lower the patient’s resistance to bacterial infections. When such a combined infection occurs, antibiotics may be recommended. When an antibiotic is prescribed, it should be taken as the physician directs for the full course (usually 7-10 days). Otherwise the infection may not be completely eliminated, and could return. Some children will experience recurrent infection despite antibiotic treatment. When some of these are strep infections or are severe, your child may be a candidate for a tonsillectomy.

How can I prevent a sore throat?

  • Avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke, whether primary or secondary, contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that can irritate the throat lining.
  • If you have seasonal allergies or ongoing allergic reactions to dust, molds, or pet dander, you’re more likely to develop a sore throat than people who don’t have allergies.
  • Avoid exposure to chemical irritants. Particulate matter in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, as well as common household chemicals, can cause throat irritation.
  • If you experience chronic or frequent sinus infections you are more likely to experience a sore throat, since drainage from nose or sinus infections can cause throat infections as well.
  • If you live or work in close quarters such as a child care center, classroom, office, prison, or military installation, you are at greater risk because viral and bacterial infections spread easily in environments where people are in close proximity.
  • Maintain good hygiene. Do not share napkins, towels, and utensils with an infected person. Wash your hands regularly with soap or a sanitizing gel, for 10-15 seconds.

If you have HIV or diabetes, are undergoing steroid treatment or chemotherapy, are experiencing extreme fatigue or have a poor diet, you have reduced immunity and are more susceptible to infections.

Secondhand Smoke

Access to quality healthcare for children is forwarded by the availability of good healthcare information. With this year’s release of a new surgeon general’s report on secondhand smoke, the following information should be shared with patients.

New Warning on Secondhand Smoke

In July 2006, the Surgeon General released evidence supporting the fact that secondhand smoke, smoke from a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker, represents a dangerous health hazard.

The new report states that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Although secondhand smoke is dangerous to everyone, fetuses, infants, and children are at most risk. Even brief exposures can be harmful to children. This is because secondhand smoke can damage developing organs, such as the lungs and brain.

Infants and Children Effects and Exposure

Babies of mothers who smoked and those exposed to smoke are more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than babies who are not exposed to smoke.

Babies of mothers who smoked and those exposed to smoke after birth have weaker lungs and thereby increased risk of more health problems.

Children with asthma exposed to secondhand smoke experience more frequent and severe attacks.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk for ear infections and are more likely to need an operation to insert ear tubes for drainage.

Youth and Teens Effects and Exposure

Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms, including cough, phlegm, wheeze, and breathlessness, among school-aged children.

On average, children are exposed to more secondhand smoke than nonsmoking adults.

Statistics

More than 4,000 different chemicals have been identified in secondhand smoke and at least 43 of these chemicals cause cancer.

On average, children are exposed to more secondhand smoke than nonsmoking adults.

Approximately 26 percent of adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes, and 50 to 67 percent of children less than five years of age live in homes with at least one adult smoker.

28 percent of high schoolers are exposed to secondhand smoke in their own homes.

A recent study found that 34 percent of teens begin smoking as a result of tobacco company promotional activities.

Among middle school students who were current smokers, 71 percent reported never being asked to show proof of age when buying cigarettes in a store, and 66 percent were not refused purchase because of their age.

Checklist for Protection Against Secondhand Smoke:

Young children

Remember that you are a powerful role model. If you don’t smoke, your children are less likely to smoke.

Make your home and car smoke-free spaces. Put up no-smoking stickers and signs in your home.

Make sure you and your kids aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke at daycare, school, or friends’ homes.

Support businesses and activities that are smoke-free. Let other businesses owners know that you can’t support their businesses until they become 100 percent smoke-free too.

If you can’t find a smoke-free restaurant and must go to one that allows some smoking, ask to sit in the nonsmoking section.

If your asthma or COPD is triggered by smoke, don’t risk it—stay away from any place that allows smoking.

Support laws that restrict smoking.

Youth and Teens

Parents

Talk to your children about smoking; they’ll be less likely to smoke than if you ignore the problem.

Support tobacco education in the schools and ban all smoking on school grounds, on school buses, and at school-sponsored events for students, school personnel, and visitors.

Ask that schools enforce the policy and consistently administer penalties for violations and that this is communicated in written and oral form to students, staff, and visitors.

Vote for public smoking restrictions as an important component of the social environment that supports healthy behavior, reducing the number of opportunities to smoke, and making smoking less socially acceptable.

Support tax increases on tobacco products so young people cannot afford them.

Teens

If your friends smoke, ask them in a caring way to quit or at least not to smoke around you.

Peers, siblings, and friends are powerful influences on you and others. Understand that the most common situation for first trying a cigarette is with a friend who already smokes.

Families

Work together to uphold restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotions.

Sources and Resources

The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: Children are Hurt by Secondhand Smoke. A Report of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006; Available at: www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/ secondhandsmoke/factsheets/factsheet2.html.

CDC. Tobacco Use, Access & Exposure to Tobacco Among Middle & High School Students, US 2004 MMWR. Vol. 54(12) April 2005.

American Legacy Foundation. 2004 National Youth Tobacco Survey. 2005

CDC. Cigarette Use Among High School Students – United States, 1991-2003. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2004; 53(23): 499-502.

King C, Siegel M. The Master Settlement Agreement with the Tobacco Industry and Cigarette Advertising in Magazines. New England Journal of Medicine 2001; 345: 504-511.

How the Voice Works

We rely on our voices every day to interact with others, and a healthy voice is critical for clear communication. But just as we walk without thinking about it, we usually speak without thinking how our body makes it happen. However, knowing how we make sound is useful to maintaining the health and effectiveness of our voices. So this year on World Voice Day, April 16, take a minute to learn how your voice works. The following overview describes the body parts that work together to produce the sounds we make when we speak and sing.

The main parts of voice production:

• The Power Source: Your Lungs

• The Vibrator: Your Voice Box

• The Resonator: Your Throat, Nose, Mouth, and Sinuses

The Power Source: The power for your voice comes from air that you exhale. When we inhale, the diaphragm lowers and the rib cage expands, drawing air into the lungs. As we exhale, the process reverses and air exits the lungs, creating an airstream in the trachea. This airstream provides the energy for the vocal folds in the voice box to produce sound. The stronger the airstream, the stronger the voice. Give your voice good breath support to create a steady strong airstream that helps you make clear sounds.

The Vibrator: The larynx (or voice box) sits on top of the windpipe. It contains two vocal folds (also known as vocal cords) that open during breathing and close during swallowing and voice production. When we produce voice, the airstream passes between the two vocal folds that have come together. These folds are soft and are set into vibration by the passing airstream. They vibrate very fast – from 100 to 1000 times per second, depending on the pitch of the sound we make. Pitch is determined by the length and tension of the vocal folds, which are controlled by muscles in the larynx.

The Resonator: By themselves, the vocal folds produce a noise that sounds like simple buzzing, much like the mouthpiece on a trumpet. All of the structure above the folds, including the throat, nose, and mouth, are part of the resonator system. We can compare these structures to those of a horn or trumpet. The buzzing sound created by vocal fold vibration is changed by the shape of the resonator tract to produce our unique human sound.

When our voices are healthy, the three main parts work in harmony to provide effortless voice during speech and singing.

Hoarsenes

Insight into voice changes

  • What causes hoarseness?
  • What can you do to treat it?
  • When should you see an ENT?
  • and more…

Abnormal changes in the voice are called “hoarseness.” When hoarse, the voice may sound breathy, raspy, strained, or show changes in volume or pitch (depending on how high or low the voice is). Voice changes are related to disorders in the sound-producing parts (vocal folds) of the voice box (larynx). While breathing, the vocal folds remain apart. When speaking or singing, they come together and, as air leaves the lungs, they vibrate, producing sound. Swelling or lumps on the vocal folds hinder vibration, altering voice quality, volume, and pitch.

What are the causes of hoarseness?

Acute Laryngitis: The most common cause is acute laryngitis—swelling of the vocal folds that occurs during a common cold, upper respiratory tract viral infection, or from voice strain. Serious injury to the vocal folds can result from strenuous voice use during an episode of acute laryngitis.

Voice Misuse:

  • Speaking in noisy situations
  • Excessive use
  • Telephone use with the handset cradled to the shoulder
  • Using inappropriate pitch (too high or too low) when speaking
  • Not using amplification when public speaking

Benign Vocal Cord Lesions: Prolonged hoarseness can occur when you use your voice too much, or too loudly for extended periods of time. These habits can lead to nodules, polyps, and cysts. Vocal nodules (singers’ nodes) are callus-like growths of the vocal folds. Vocal fold polyps and cysts also occur in those who misuse their voice, but can also occur in those who do not.

Vocal Hemorrhage: If you experience a sudden loss of voice following a yell or other strenuous vocal use, you may have developed a vocal fold hemorrhage. Vocal fold hemorrhage occurs when one of the blood vessels on the surface of the vocal folds ruptures and the soft tissues fill with blood. It is considered a vocal emergency and should be treated with absolute voice rest and examination by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor).

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD): A possible cause of hoarseness is gastro-esophageal reflux, when stomach acid comes up the swallowing tube (esophagus) and irritates the vocal folds. Other typical symptoms of GERD include heartburn and regurgitation. Usually, the voice is worse in the morning and improves during the day. These people may have a sensation of a lump or mucus in their throat and have an excessive desire to clear it.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPRD): If the reflux makes it all the way up through the upper sphincter and into the back of the throat, it is called LPRD rather than GERD. The structures in the throat (pharynx, larynx, and lungs) are much more sensitive to stomach acid and digestive enzymes, so smaller amounts of the reflux into this area can result in more damage.  Many patients with LPRD do not have hearburn or other classic symptoms of GERD.

Smoking: Smoking is another cause of hoarseness. Because smoking is the major cause of throat cancer, if smokers become hoarse, they should see an otolaryngologist.

Neurological Diseases or Disorders: Hoarseness can also appear in those who have neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or a stroke, or may be a symptom of spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological disorder that usually affects only the voice, but sometimes affects breathing. A paralyzed vocal fold may be the cause of a weak, breathy voice. If the hoarseness persists for more than three months and other causes have been ruled out, a neurologist may be helpful for diagnosis.

Other Causes: These include allergies, thyroid problems, trauma to the voice box, and, occasionally, menstruation. Very serious conditions such as laryngeal cancer can also cause hoarseness, which is why it is important to have chronic hoarseness evaluated promptly by an otolaryngologist

How is hoarseness treated?

Hoarseness caused by a cold or flu may be evaluated by family physicians, pediatricians, and internists who have learned how to examine the larynx. Problems with the voice are often best managed by a team of professionals who know and understand how the voice functions. These professionals are otolaryngologists, speech/language pathologists, and teachers of singing, acting, and public speaking. Vocal nodules, polyps, and cysts are typically treated with a combination of microsurgery and voice therapy.

How is hoarseness evaluated?

Otolaryngologists will obtain a thorough history of a patient’s hoarseness and general health. They will then evaluate the voice and do a complete ear, nose, and throat exam. This includes examination of the vocal folds by laryngoscopy.  Laryngoscopy may be suggested by the otolaryngologist at any time during an evaluation for hoarseness, but if it persists beyond three weeks it should be evaluated and that evaluation should occur within a maximum of 3 months. The evaluation should be immediate if there is concern about a serious underlying cause is suspected.

Doctors usually look at the vocal folds either with a mirror placed in the back of the throat, or with a very small, lighted flexible tube (fiberoptic scope) that is passed through the nose to view the vocal folds. Videotaping or stroboscopy (slow-motion assessment) may also help with the analysis. These procedures are well tolerated by most patients. In some cases, special tests designed to evaluate the voice may be recommended. These measure voice irregularities, how the voice sounds, airflow, and other characteristics that are helpful in diagnosing and guiding treatment.

When should I see an otolaryngologist?

  • If hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, especially if you smoke
  • If you do not have a cold or flu
  • If you are coughing up blood
  • If you have difficulty swallowing
  • If you feel a lump in the neck
  • If you observe loss or severe changes in voice lasting longer than a few days
  • If you experience pain when speaking or swallowing
  • If difficulty breathing accompanies your voice change
  • If your hoarseness interferes with your livelihood
  • If you are a vocal performer and unable to perform

How are vocal disorders treated?

The treatment of hoarseness depends on the cause. Many common causes of hoarseness can be treated simply by resting the voice or modifying how it is used. An otolaryngologist may make some recommendations about voice use behavior, refer the patient to other voice team members, and in some instances recommend surgery if a lesion, such as a polyp, is identified. Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke is recommended to all patients. Drinking fluids and taking medications to thin out the mucus may help.

How to prevent hoarseness

Specialists in speech/language pathology (voice therapists) are trained to assist patients in behavior modification to help eliminate some voice disorders. Patients who have developed bad habits, such as smoking or overusing their voice by yelling and screaming, benefit most from this conservative approach. The speech/language pathologist may teach patients to alter their methods of speech production to improve the sound of the voice and to resolve problems, such as vocal nodules. When a patient’s problem is specifically related to singing, a singing teacher may help to improve the patients’ singing techniques.

Prevention tips:

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Avoid agents that dehydrate the body, such as alcohol and caffeine.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Stay hydrated—drink plenty of water.
  • Humidify your home.
  • Watch your diet—avoid spicy foods.
  • Try not to use your voice too long or too loudly.
  • Use a microphone if possible in situations where you need to project your voice.
  • Seek professional voice training.
  • Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is injured or hoarse.

GERD and LPR

Gastroesphageal Reflux (GERD) & Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

What Is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux, often referred to as GERD, occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Normally, food travels from the mouth, down through the esophagus and into the stomach. A ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), contracts to keep the acidic contents of the stomach from “refluxing” or coming back up into the esophagus. In those who have GERD, the LES does not close properly, allowing acid to move up the esophagus.

When stomach acid touches the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus and throat, it causes a reaction similar to squirting lemon juice in your eye. This is why GERD is often characterized by the burning sensation known as heartburn.

In some cases, reflux can be SILENT, with no symptoms until a problem arises. Almost all individuals have experienced reflux (GER), but the disease (GERD) occurs when reflux happens on a frequent basis often over a long period of time.

What Is LPR?

During gastroesophageal reflux, the acidic stomach contents may reflux all the way up the esophagus, beyond the upper esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscle at the top of the esophagus), and into the back of the throat and possibly the back of the nasal airway. This is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), which can affect anyone. Adults with LPR often complain that the back of their throat has a bitter taste, a sensation of burning, or something “stuck.” Some may have difficulty breathing if the voice box is affected.

In infants and children, LPR may cause breathing problems such as: cough, hoarseness, stridor (noisy breathing), croup, asthma, sleep disordered breathing, feeding difficulty (spitting up), turning blue (cyanosis), aspiration, pauses in breathing (apnea), apparent life threatening event (ALTE), and even a severe deficiency in growth. Proper treatment of LPR, especially in children, is critical.

What Are The Symptoms Of GERD And LPR?

The symptoms of GERD may include persistent heartburn, acid regurgitation, nausea, hoarseness in the morning, or trouble swallowing. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest that can be severe enough to mimic the pain of a heart attack. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath. Some people with LPR may feel as if they have food stuck in their throat, a bitter taste in the mouth on waking, or difficulty breathing although uncommon.

If you experience any symptoms on a regular basis (twice a week or more) then you may have GERD or LPR. For proper diagnosis and treatment, you should be evaluated by your primary care doctor for GERD or an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon (ENT doctor).

Who Gets GERD Or LPR?

Women, men, infants, and children can all have GERD. This disorder may result from physical causes or lifestyle factors. Physical causes can include a malfunctioning or abnormal lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES), hiatal hernia, abnormal esophageal contractions, and slow emptying of the stomach. Lifestyle factors include diet (chocolate, citrus, fatty foods, spices), destructive habits (overeating, alcohol and tobacco abuse) and even pregnancy. Young children experience GERD and LPR due to the developmental immaturity of both the upper and lower esophageal sphincters.

Unfortunately, GERD and LPR are often overlooked in infants and children leading to repeated vomiting, coughing in GER and airway and respiratory problems in LPR such as sore throat and ear infections. Most infants grow out of GERD or LPR by the end of their first year; however, the problems that resulted from the GERD or LPR may persist.

What Role Does An Ear, Nose, And Throat Specialist Have In Treating GERD And LPR?

A gastroenterologist, a specialist in treating gastrointestinal orders, will often provide initial treatment for GERD. But there are ear, nose, and throat problems that are either caused by or associated with GERD, such as hoarseness, laryngeal (singers) nodules, croup, airway stenosis (narrowing), swallowing difficulties, throat pain, and sinus infections. These problems require an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon, or a specialist who has extensive experience with the tools that diagnose GERD and LPR. They treat many of the complications of GERD, including: sinus and ear infections, throat and laryngeal inflammation and lesions, as well as a change in the esophageal lining called Barrett’s esophagus, which is a serious complication that can lead to cancer.

Your primary care physician or pediatrician will often refer a case of LPR to an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.

Diagnosing And Treating GERD And LPR

In adults, GERD can be diagnosed or evaluated by a physical examination and the patient’s response to a trial of treatment with medication. Other tests that may be needed include an endoscopic examination (a long tube with a camera inserted into the nose, throat, windpipe, or esophagus), biopsy, x-ray, examination of the throat and larynx, 24 hour pH probe, acid reflux testing, esophageal motility testing (manometry), emptying studies of the stomach, and esophageal acid perfusion (Bernstein test). Endoscopic examination, biopsy, and x-ray may be performed as an outpatient or in a hospital setting. Endoscopic examinations can often be performed in your ENT’s office, or may require some form of sedation and occasionally anesthesia.

Symptoms of GERD or LPR in children should be discussed with your pediatrician for a possible referral to a specialist.

Most people with GERD respond favorably to a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. On occasion, surgery is recommended. Medications that could be prescribed include antacids, histamine antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, pro-motility drugs, and foam barrier medications. Some of these products are now available over-the-counter and do not require a prescription.

Children and adults who fail medical treatment or have anatomical abnormalities may require surgical intervention. Such treatment includes fundoplication, a procedure where a part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophagus to tighten the LES, and endoscopy, where hand stitches or a laser is used to make the LES tighter.

Adult Lifestyle Changes To Prevent GERD And LPR

  • Avoid eating and drinking within two to three hours prior to bedtime
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Eat small meals and slowly
  • Limit problem foods:
    • Caffeine
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Chocolate
    • Peppermint
    • Tomato and citrus foods
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Wear loose clothing

Vocal Cord Paralysis

What Is Vocal Fold (cord) Paresis And Paralysis?

Vocal fold (or cord) paresis and paralysis result from abnormal nerve input to the voice box muscles (laryngeal muscles).  Paralysis is the total interruption of nerve impulse resulting in no movement of the muscle; Paresis is the partial interruption of nerve impulse resulting in weak or abnormal motion of laryngeal muscle(s).

Vocal fold paresis/paralysis can happen at any age – from birth to advanced age, in males and females alike, from a variety of causes. The effect on patients may vary greatly depending on the patient’s use of his or her voice: A mild vocal fold paresis can be the end to a singer’s career, but have only a marginal effect on a computer programmer’s career.

What Nerves Are Involved In Vocal Fold Paresis/Paralysis?

Vocal fold movements are a result of the coordinated contraction of various muscles. These muscles are controlled by the brain through a specific set of nerves. The nerves that receive these signals are the:

Superior laryngeal nerve (SLN), which carries signals to the cricothyroid muscle, located between the cricoid and thyroid cartilages. Since the cricothyroid muscle adjusts the tension of the vocal fold for high notes during singing, SLN paresis and paralysis result in abnormalities in voice pitch and the inability to sing with smooth change to each higher note. Sometimes, patients with SLN paresis/paralysis may have a normal speaking voice but an abnormal singing voice.

The recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) carries signals to different voice box muscles responsible for opening vocal folds (as in breathing, coughing), closing vocal folds for vocal fold vibration during voice use, and closing vocal folds during swallowing. The recurrent laryngeal nerve goes into the chest cavity and curves back into the neck until it reaches the larynx. Because the nerve is relatively long and takes a “detour” to the voice box, it is at greater risk for injury from quite different causes – such as infections and tumors of the brain, neck, chest, or voice box; as well as complications during surgical procedures in the head, neck, or chest regions – that directly injure, stretch, or compress the nerve. Consequently, the recurrent laryngeal nerve is involved in majority of cases of vocal fold paresis or paralysis.

What Are The Causes Of Vocal Fold Paralysis/Paresis?

The cause of vocal fold paralysis or paresis can indicate whether the disorder will resolve over time or whether it is most likely permanent. When a reversible cause is present, surgical treatment will most likely not be recommended given the likelihood of spontaneous resolution of the paresis or paralysis.   Despite advances in diagnostic technology, physicians are unable to detect the cause in about half of all vocal fold paralyses. These cases are referred to as idiopathic (due to unknown origins). In idiopathic cases, paralysis or paresis might be due to a viral infection affecting the voice box nerves (RLN or SLN) or the vagus nerve, but this cannot be proven in most cases. Known reasons for injury can include:

  • Inadvertent injury during surgery: Surgery in the neck (e.g., surgery of thyroid gland, carotid artery) or surgery in the chest (e.g., surgery of the lung, esophagus, heart, or large blood vessels) may inadvertently result in RLN paresis or paralysis. The SLN may also be injured during head and neck surgery.
  • Complication from endotracheal intubation: Injury to the RLN may occur when breathing tubes are used for general anesthesia and/or assisted breathing (artificial ventilation). However, this type of injury is rare, given the large number of operations done under general anesthesia.
  • Blunt neck or chest trauma:  Any type of penetrating, hard impact on the neck or chest region may injure the RLN; impact to the neck may injure the SLN.
  • Tumors of the skull base, neck, and chest:  Tumors (both cancerous and non-cancerous) can grow around nerves and squeeze them, resulting in varying degrees of paresis or paralysis.
  • Viral infections:  Inflammation from viral infections may directly involve and injure the vagus nerve or its nerve branches to the voice box (RLN and SLN). Systemic illnesses affecting nerves in the body may also affect the nerves to the voice box.

What Are The Symptoms Of Vocal Fold Paralysis/Paresis?

Both paresis and paralysis of voice box muscles result in voice changes and may also result in airway problems and swallowing difficulties.

  • Voice changes: Hoarseness (croaky or rough voice); breathy voice (a lot of air with the voice); effortful phonation (extra effort on speaking); air wasting (excessive air pressure required to produce usual conversational voice); and diplophonia (voice sounds like a “gargle”).
  • Airway problems: Shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing (stridor), and ineffective or poor cough.
  • Swallowing problems: Choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.

How Is Vocal Fold Paralysis/Paresis Diagnosed?

The otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon will conduct a general examination and then question you regarding your symptoms and lifestyle (voice use, alcohol/tobacco consumption). The examination of the voice box will be undertaken to determine whether one or both vocal folds (cords) is/are abnormal. Determining whether one or both vocal folds are affected is important in the treatment plan. Other tests may be required:

  • Laryngeal electromyography (LEMG): LEMG measures electrical currents in the voice box muscles that are the result of nerve inputs. Measuring and looking at the pattern of the electric currents will indicate whether there is recovery or repair of nerve inputs (re-innervation) and the  degree of the nerve input problem.   The test involves the insertion of small needles that can measure electrical currents in the vocal fold muscles. During LEMG patients perform a number of tasks that would normally elicit characteristic actions in the tested muscles.
  • Other tests: Because there is a wide list of diseases that may cause a nerve to be injured, further testing is usually necessary (blood tests, x-rays, CT scans, MRI, etc.) to identify the cause(s) of vocal fold paresis/paralysis.

What Is The Treatment For Vocal Fold Paralysis/Paresis?

The two treatment strategies to improve vocal function are voice therapy, the equivalent of physical therapy for large muscle paresis/paralysis; and phonosurgery, an operation that repositions and/or reshapes the vocal fold(s) to improve voice function.  Normally, voice therapy is a first treatment option. After voice therapy, the decision for surgery is dependent on the severity of the symptoms, vocal needs of the patient, position of paralyzed vocal folds, prognosis for recovery, and cause of paresis/paralysis if known.

If you have noticed any change in voice quality, immediately contact an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon.

Tonsils and Adenoids PostOp

The tonsils are two pads of tissue located on both sides of the back of the throat. Adenoids sit high on each side of the throat behind the nose and the roof of the mouth. Tonsils and adenoids are often removed when they become enlarged and block the upper airway, leading to breathing difficulty. They are also removed when recurrence of tonsil infections or strep throat cannot be successfully treated by antibiotics.

The procedure to remove the tonsils is called a tonsillectomy; excision of the adenoids is an adenoidectomy. Both are usually performed concurrently; hence the procedure is known as a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy or T&A.

T&A is an outpatient surgical procedure lasting between 30 and 45 minutes and performed under general anesthesia. Normally, the young patient will remain at the hospital or clinic for about four hours after surgery for observation. An overnight stay may be required if there are complications such as excessive bleeding or poor intake of fluids.

When the tonsillectomy patient comes home

Most children require seven to ten days to recover from the surgery. Some may recover more quickly; others can take up to two weeks for a full recovery. The following guidelines are recommended:

Drinking: The most important requirement for recovery is for the patient to drink plenty of fluids. Milk products should be avoided in the first 24 hours after surgery. Offer juice, soft drinks, popsicles, and Jell-O (pudding, yogurt, and ice-cream after 24 hours). Some patients experience nausea and vomiting after the surgery caused by the general anesthetic. This usually occurs within the first 24 hours and resolves on its own. Contact your physician if there are signs of dehydration (urination less than 2-3 times a day or crying without tears).

Eating: Generally, there are no food restrictions (other than milk products) after surgery. The sooner the child eats and chews, the quicker the recovery. Tonsillectomy patients may be reluctant to eat because of sore throat pain; consequently, some weight loss may occur, which is gained back after a normal diet is resumed.

Fever: A low-grade fever may be observed several days after surgery. Contact your physician if the fever is greater than 102º.

Activity: Bed rest is recommended for several days after surgery. Activity may be increased slowly, with a return to school after normal eating and drinking resumes, pain medication ceases, and the child sleeps through the night. Travel away from home is not recommended for two weeks following surgery.

Breathing: The parent may notice abnormal snoring and mouth breathing due to swelling in the throat. Breathing should return to normal when swelling subsides, 10-14 days after surgery.

Scabs: A scab will form where the tonsils and adenoids were removed. These scabs are thick, white, and cause bad breath. This is not unexpected. Most scabs fall off in small pieces five to ten days after surgery and are swallowed.

Bleeding: With the exception of small specks of blood from the nose or in the saliva, bright red blood should not be seen. If such bleeding occurs, contact your physician immediately or take your child to the emergency room. Bleeding is an indication that the scabs have fallen off too early, and medical attention is required.

Pain: Nearly all children undergoing a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy will have mild to severe pain in the throat after surgery. Some may complain of an earache (because stimulation of the same nerve that goes to throat also travels to the ear), and a few may incur pain in the jaw and neck (due to positioning of the patient in the operating room).

Pain control: Your physician will prescribe appropriate pain medications for the young patient such as codeine, hydrocodone, Tylenol with codeine liquid, or Lortab (hydrocodone with Tylenol). Generally, an acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra, Panadol) teaspoon solution is recommended for regular administration to the patient for three or four days after surgery.

If you are troubled about any phase of your child’s recovery, contact your physician immediately.

Tonsillitis

What is tonsillitis? Tonsillitis refers to inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils. The inflammation may involve other areas of the back of the throat including the adenoids and the lingual tonsils (areas of tonsil tissue at the back of the tongue). There are several variations of tonsillitis: acute, recurrent, and chronic tonsillitis and peritonsillar abscess.

Viral or bacterial infections and immunologic factors lead to tonsillitis and its complications. Nearly all children in the United States experience at least one episode of tonsillitis. Because of improvements in medical and surgical treatments, complications associated with tonsillitis, including mortality, are rare.

Who gets tonsillitis?

Tonsillitis most often occurs in children; however, the condition rarely occurs in children younger than two years. Tonsillitis caused by Streptococcus species typically occurs in children aged five to 15 years, while viral tonsillitis is more common in younger children. A peritonsillar abscess is usually found in young adults but can occur occasionally in children. The patient’s history often helps identify the type of tonsillitis (i.e., acute, recurrent, chronic) that is present.

What causes tonsillitis?

The herpes simplex virus, Streptococcus pyogenes (GABHS) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, and the measles virus cause most cases of acute pharyngitis and acute tonsillitis. Bacteria cause 15-30 percent of pharyngotonsillitis cases; GABHS is the cause for most bacterial tonsillitis.

What are the symptoms of tonsillitis?

The type of tonsillitis determines what symptoms will occur.

  • Acute tonsillitis: Patients have a fever, sore throat, foul breath, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), odynophagia (painful swallowing), and tender cervical lymph nodes. Airway obstruction due to swollen tonsils may cause mouth breathing, snoring, nocturnal breathing pauses, or sleep apnea. Lethargy and malaise are common. These symptoms usually resolve in three to four days but may last up to two weeks despite therapy.
  • Recurrent tonsillitis: This diagnosis is made when an individual has multiple episodes of acute tonsillitis in a year.
  • Chronic tonsillitis: Individuals often have chronic sore throat, halitosis, tonsillitis, and persistently tender cervical nodes.
  • Peritonsillar abscess: Individuals often have severe throat pain, fever, drooling, foul breath, trismus (difficulty opening the mouth), and muffled voice quality, such as the “hot potato” voice (as if talking with a hot potato in his or her mouth).

What happens during the physician visit?

Your child will undergo a general ear, nose, and throat examination as well as a review of the patient’s medical history.

A physical examination of a young patient with tonsillitis may find:

  • Fever and enlarged inflamed tonsils covered by pus.
  • Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus pyogenes (GABHS) can cause tonsillitis associated with the presence of palatal petechiae (minute hemorrhagic spots, of pinpoint to pinhead size, on the soft palate). Neck nodes may be enlarged. A fine red rash over the body suggests scarlet fever. GABHS pharyngitis usually occurs in children aged 5-15 years.
  • Open-mouth breathing and muffled voice resulting from obstructive tonsillar enlargement. The voice change with acute tonsillitis usually is not as severe as that associated with peritonsillar abscess.
  • Tender cervical lymph nodes and neck stiffness (often found in acute tonsillitis).
  • Signs of dehydration (found by examination of skin and mucosa).
  • The possibility of infectious mononucleosis due to EBV in an adolescent or younger child with acute tonsillitis, particularly when cervical, axillary, and/or groin nodes are tender. Severe lethargy, malaise and low-grade fever accompany acute tonsillitis.
  • A grey membrane covering tonsils that are inflamed from an EBV infection. (This membrane can be removed without bleeding.) Palatal petechiae (pinpoint spots on the soft palate) may also be seen with an EBV infection.
  • Red swollen tonsils that may have small ulcers on their surfaces in individuals with herpes simplex virus (HSV) tonsillitis.
  • Unilateral bulging above and to the side of one of the tonsils when peritonsillar abscess exists. A stiff jaw may be present in varying severity.

Treatment

Tonsillitis is usually treated with a regimen of antibiotics. Fluid replacement and pain control are important. Hospitalization may be required in severe cases, particularly when there is airway obstruction. When the condition is chronic or recurrent, a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils is often recommended.

Tonsillectomy Procedures

Unfortunately, there may be a time when medical therapy (antibiotics) fails to resolve the chronic tonsillar infections that affect your child. In other cases, your child may have enlarged tonsils, causing loud snoring, upper airway obstruction, and other sleep disorders. The best recourse for both these conditions may be removal or reduction of the tonsils and adenoids. The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery recommends that children who have three or more tonsillar infections a year undergo a tonsillectomy; the young patient with a sleep disorder should be a candidate for removal or reduction of the enlarged tonsils.

The Tonsillectomy Today

The first report of tonsillectomy was made by the Roman surgeon Celsus in 30 AD. He described scraping the tonsils and tearing them out or picking them up with a hook and excising them with a scalpel. Today, the scalpel is still the preferred surgical instrument of many ear, nose, and throat specialists. However, there are other procedures available – the choice may be dictated by the extent of the procedure (complete tonsil removal versus partial tonsillectomy) and other considerations such as pain and post-operative bleeding. A quick review of each procedure follows:

  • Cold knife (steel) dissection: Removal of the tonsils by use of a scalpel is the most common method practiced by otolaryngologists today. The procedure requires the young patient to undergo general anesthesia; the tonsils are completely removed with minimal post-operative bleeding.
  • Electrocautery: Electrocautery burns the tonsillar tissue and assists in reducing blood loss through cauterization. Research has shown that the heat of electrocautery (400 degrees Celsius) results in thermal injury to surrounding tissue. This may result in more discomfort during the postoperative period.
  • Harmonic scalpel: This medical device uses ultrasonic energy to vibrate its blade at 55,000 cycles per second. Invisible to the naked eye, the vibration transfers energy to the tissue, providing simultaneous cutting and coagulation. The temperature of the surrounding tissue reaches 80 degrees Celsius. Proponents of this procedure assert that the end result is precise cutting with minimal thermal damage.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (Somnoplasty): Monopolar radiofrequency thermal ablation transfers radiofrequency energy to the tonsil tissue through probes inserted in the tonsil.  The procedure can be performed in an office setting under light sedation or local anesthesia. After the treatment is performed, scarring occurs within the tonsil causing it to decrease in size over a period of several weeks. The treatment can be performed several times. The advantages of this technique are minimal discomfort, ease of operations, and immediate return to work or school. Tonsillar tissue remains after the procedure but is less prominent. This procedure is recommended for treating enlarged tonsils and not chronic or recurrent tonsillitis.
  • Carbon dioxide laser: Laser tonsil ablation (LTA) finds the otolaryngologist employing a hand-held CO2 or KTP laser to vaporize and remove tonsil tissue. This technique reduces tonsil volume and eliminates recesses in the tonsils that collect chronic and recurrent infections. This procedure is recommended for chronic recurrent tonsillitis, chronic sore throats, severe halitosis, or airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils.
    The LTA is performed in 15 to 20 minutes in an office setting under local anesthesia. The patient leaves the office with minimal discomfort and returns to school or work the next day. Post-tonsillectomy bleeding may occur in two to five percent of patients. Previous research studies state that laser technology provides significantly less pain during the post-operative recovery of children, resulting in less sleep disturbance, decreased morbidity, and less need for medications. On the other hand, some believe that children are adverse to outpatient procedures without sedation.
  • Microdebrider: What is a “microdebrider?” The microdebrider is a powered rotary shaving device with continuous suction often used during sinus surgery. It is made up of a cannula or tube, connected to a hand piece, which in turn is connected to a motor with foot control and a suction device.
    The endoscopic microdebrider is used in performing a partial tonsillectomy, by partially shaving the tonsils. This procedure entails eliminating the obstructive portion of the tonsil while preserving the tonsillar capsule. A natural biologic dressing is left in place over the pharyngeal muscles, preventing injury, inflammation, and infection. The procedure results in less post-operative pain, a more rapid recovery, and perhaps fewer delayed complications. However, the partial tonsillectomy is suggested for enlarged tonsils – not those that incur repeated infections.
  • Bipolar Radiofrequency Ablation (Coblation): This procedure produces an ionized saline layer that disrupts molecular bonds without using heat. As the energy is transferred to the tissue, ionic dissociation occurs. This mechanism can be used to remove all or only part of the tonsil. It is done under general anesthesia in the operating room and can be used for enlarged tonsils and chronic or recurrent infections. This causes removal of tissue with a thermal effect of 45-85 C°. The advantages of this technique are less pain, faster healing, and less post operative care.

Consult with an otolaryngologist regarding the optimum procedure to remove or reduce your tonsils and adenoids.

Tips for Healthy Voices

Voice problems usually are associated with hoarseness (also known as roughness), instability, or problems with voice endurance. If you are unsure if you have an unhealthy voice, ask yourself the following:

  • Has your voice become hoarse or raspy?
  • Does your throat often feel raw, achy or strained?
  • Has it become an effort to talk?
  • Do you repeatedly clear your throat?
  • Do people regularly ask you if you have a cold when in fact you do not?
  • Have you lost your ability to hit some high notes when singing?

Voice problems arise from a variety of sources including voice overuse or misuse, cancer, infection, or injury. Here are steps that can be taken to prevent voice problems and maintain a healthy voice:

Drink water (stay well hydrated): Keeping your body well hydrated by drinking plenty of water each day (6-8 glasses) is essential to maintaining a healthy voice. The vocal cords vibrate extremely fast even with the most simple sound production; remaining hydrated through water consumption optimizes the throat’s mucous production, aiding vocal cord lubrication. To maintain sufficient hydration avoid or moderate substances that cause dehydration. These include alcohol and caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda). And always increase hydration when exercising.

Do not smoke: It is well known that smoking leads to lung or throat cancer. Primary and secondhand smoke that is breathed in passes by the vocal cords causing significant irritation and swelling of the vocal cords. This will permanently change voice quality, nature, and capabilities.

Do not abuse or misuse your voice: Your voice is not indestructible. In every day communication, be sure to avoid habitual yelling, screaming, or cheering. Try not to talk loudly in locations with significant background noise or noisy environments. Be aware of your background noise—when it becomes noisy, significant increases in voice volume occur naturally, causing harm to your voice. If you feel like your throat is dry, tired, or your voice is becoming hoarse, stop talking.

To reduce or minimize voice abuse or misuse use non-vocal or visual cues to attract attention, especially with children. Obtain a vocal amplification system if you routinely need to use a “loud” voice especially in an outdoor setting. Try not to speak in an unnatural pitch. Adopting an extremely low pitch or high pitch can cause an injury to the vocal cords with subsequent hoarseness and a variety of problems.

Minimize throat clearing: Clearing your throat can be compared to slapping or slamming the vocal cords together. Consequently, excessive throat clearing can cause vocal cord injury and subsequent hoarseness. An alternative to voice clearing is taking a small sip of water or simply swallowing to clear the secretions from the throat and alleviate the need for throat clearing or coughing. The most common reason for excessive throat clearing is an unrecognized medical condition causing one to clear their throat too much. Common causes of chronic throat clearing include gastroesophageal reflux, laryngopharyngeal reflux disease, sinus and/or allergic disease.

Moderate voice use when sick: Reduce your vocal demands as much as possible when your voice is hoarse due to excessive use or an upper respiratory infection (cold). Singers should exhibit extra caution if one’s speaking voice is hoarse because permanent and serious injury to the vocal cords are more likely when the vocal cords are swollen or irritated. It is important to “listen to what your voice is telling you.”

Your voice is an extremely valuable resource and is the most commonly used form of communication. Our voices are invaluable for both our social interaction as well as for most people’s occupation. Proper care and use of your voice will give you the best chance for having a healthy voice for your entire lifetime.

Hoarseness or roughness in your voice is often caused by a medical problem. Contact an otolaryngologist—head and neck surgeon if you have any sustained changes to your voice.

The Voice and Aging

As we age, our voices change. The most dramatic voice changes are those during childhood and adolescence. The larynx (or voice box) and vocal cord tissues do not fully mature until late teenage years. Hormone-related changes during adolescence are particularly noticeable among boys. The rapid changes in the size and character of the larynx causes characteristic pitch breaks and voice “cracking” during puberty as we learn to use our rapidly changing voice instruments.

After several decades of relatively stable voice, noticeable change can occur in the later years of life. As our bodies age, we lose muscle mass, our mucous membranes thin and become more dry, and we lose some of the fine coordination that we had in younger years. It is no surprise that these changes occur in the larynx as well, and this leads to changes in our voice. Your doctor may call these changes vocal cord atrophy or bowing, presbyphonia, or presbylaryngis.

Changes in the Voice as We Age

Below is a list of commonly reported voice changes as we age:

  • Higher pitch voice in men
  • Lower pitch voice in women
  • Reduced volume and projection of the voice (or “thin” voice)
  • Reduced vocal endurance
  • Difficulty being heard in noisy situations
  • Tremor or shakiness in the voice

These symptoms are amplified by the reduced hearing ability that commonly occurs in our peers as we age.

NOTE: Much of the time, hoarseness and vocal difficulties are not simply age related change. Any change that you notice in your voice should be a warning sign that something may be wrong. See your otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat doctor). Almost all voice problems are highly treatable.

What Can Be Done About Age-Related Voice Change?

If you are bothered by your voice, take action today. As a first step, consider taking the Voice- Related Quality of Life quiz available on the Academy’s World Voice Day Web site. (A print version is also available; see Voice-Related Quality of Life Fact Sheet). By answering a short series of questions, you’ll be able to measure the quality of your voice.

Secondly, consider a vocal fitness program (i.e. voice therapy), as healthy voice use is key to voice preservation. Under the guidance of a speech-language pathologist, a vocal fitness program can make a big difference.

Finally, some people are candidates for medical or surgical treatment to improve the steadiness, strength, or endurance of the voice. See your Otolaryngologist for further information.

Overall Body Fitness Can Fuel Your Voice

Most of us want to maintain our youthful fitness and the same holds true for the voice. Maintaining excellent overall body fitness will help keep your voice healthy. Keep vocally fit as well—in many cases the more active you stay vocally, the stronger your voice will be. Healthy vocal exercises may not seem as obvious as healthy exercises in the gym, so professional guidance from a voice therapist or voice coach is very helpful. Some things you may do on your own though include: reading a book or paper aloud for 10-15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day, as well as singing with the radio.

Special Care for Voice Users

Who Is an Occupational or Professional Voice User?

An occupational or professional voice user is anyone whose voice is essential to their job. We are all accustomed to thinking of singers, actors, actresses, and broadcast personalities as professional voice users. Indeed, special or unique qualities of the voice are often the essential feature of their careers. But what about other occupational voice users?

Teachers, clergy, salespeople, courtroom attorneys, telemarketers, and receptionists are also people for whom spoken communication is an essential part of what they do, and there are countless other professions that rely heavily on the voice. In spite of this era of email and Internet communications, we can’t really imagine an effective classroom, pulpit, or courtroom without voice. Can you imagine the difficulties of a physician conveying sensitive or complex information to a patient or colleague, or a business executive conducting a meeting without voice? Once you pause to consider a world without voice communications, you realize that voice is crucial to many professions.

Why Is the Voice Important?

Voice is something that is often taken for granted. Many people, including many occupational voice users, don’t pay attention to their voice until they develop a significant problem with it. These voice problems then have an adverse effect upon their ability to do their job. Consider, for example, a school teacher. Arguably, this is the most vocally demanding profession. Teachers are using their voices constantly, often in noisy rooms with poor acoustics. One recent 2004 research article found that 11 percent of teachers participating in the study reported a current voice problem. Non-teachers expressing voice problems comprised only 6.2 percent of the participants.

A similar ratio was evident when participants were asked about ever having a voice disorder in their lifetime. Teachers reported an incidence of 57.7 percent, while non-teachers reported a 28.8 percent incident rate. In another study, about 20 percent of teachers had missed work due to their voice, while only 4 percent of non-teachers had missed a day due a voice related ailment. It is thus very clear from the medical literature that high voice demands in the workplace can have health consequences for the individual, and productivity consequences for the employer. Research is ongoing into strategies to enhance the vocal health of individuals in professions with high voice demands.

What Can Be done About These Issues?

As with many ailments, awareness is key. First, people must be made aware of voice-related occupations. A person may not know that they are in such a profession until a voice problem brings the issue to the forefront.

Secondly, one needs to be aware that high voice demand occupations do place you at greater risk for developing vocal difficulties, and that you have to listen to your own voice in order to recognize when you are developing problems. Do not accept hoarseness as part of the job. Be aware that there are steps you can take to help prevent voice problems. (For more information, see Maintaining a Healthy Voice Fact Sheet.)

Finally, know that proper evaluation and treatment can take care of most voice-related problems, and can set you up to succeed at even the most demanding voice-related occupation. If you listen to your voice and find that it is complaining to you, seek out your local Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor) for an evaluation and treatment recommendations.

Pediatric Obesity and Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Today in the United States, studies estimate that 34 percent of U.S. adults are overweight and an additional 31 percent (approximately 60 million) are obese. Combined, approximately 127 million Americans are overweight or obese. Some 42 years ago, 13 percent of Americans were obese, and in 1980 15 percent were considered obese.

Alarmingly, the number of children who are overweight or obese has doubled in the last two decades as well. Currently, more than 15 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds and more than 15 percent of 12- to 19-year-olds are considered overweight or obese.

What is the difference between designated “obese” versus “overweight?”

Unfortunately, the words overweight and obese are often interchanged. There is a difference:

  • Overweight: Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) (a ratio between your height and weight) of 25 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 145 pounds) is considered overweight.
  • Obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 30 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 175 pounds) is considered obese.
  • Morbid obesity: Anyone with a BMI of 40 or above (e.g., someone who is 5-foot-4 and 233 pounds) is considered morbidly obese. “Morbid” is a medical term indicating that the risk of obesity related illness is increased dramatically at this degree of obesity.

Obesity can present significant health risks to the young child. Diseases are being seen in obese children that were once thought to be adult diseases. Many experts in the study of children’s health suggest that a dysfunctional metabolism, or failure of the body to change food calories to energy, precedes the onset of disease. Consequently, these children are at risk for Type II Diabetes, fatty liver, elevated cholesterol, SCFE (a major hip disorder), menstrual irregularities, sleep apnea, and irregular metabolism. Additionally, there are psychological consequences; obese children are subject to depression, loss of self-esteem, and isolation from their peers.

Pediatric obesity and otolaryngic problems

Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat specialists, diagnose and treat some of the most common children’s disorders. They also treat ear, nose, and throat conditions that are common in obese children, such as:

Sleep apnea:

Children with sleep apnea literally stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, often for a minute or longer, usually ten to 60 times during a single night. Sleep apnea can be caused by either complete obstruction of the airway (obstructive apnea) or partial obstruction (obstructive hypopnea—hypopnea is slow, shallow breathing), both of which can wake one up. There are three types of sleep apnea—obstructive, central, and mixed. Of these, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Otolaryngologists have pioneered the treatment for sleep apnea; research shows that one to three percent of children have this disorder, often between the age of two-to-five years old.

Enlarged tonsils, which block the airway, are usually the key factor leading to this condition. Extra weight in obese children and adults can also interfere with the ability of the chest and abdomen to fully expand during breathing, hindering the intake of air and increasing the risk of sleep apnea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) as a “common condition in childhood that results in severe complications if left untreated.” Among the potential consequences of untreated pediatric sleep apnea are growth failure; learning, attention, and behavior problems; and cardio-vascular complications. Because sleep apnea is rarely diagnosed, pediatricians now recommend that all children be regularly screened for snoring.

Middle ear infections:

Acute otitis media (AOM) and chronic ear infections account for 15 to 30 million visits to the doctor each year in the U.S. In fact, ear infections are the most common reason why an American child sees a doctor. Furthermore, the incidence of AOM has been rising over the past decades. Although there is no proven medical link between middle ear infections and pediatric obesity there may be a behavioral association between the two conditions. Some studies have found that when a child is rubbing or massaging the infected ear the parent often responds by offering the child food or snacks for comfort.

When a child does have an ear infection the first line of treatment is often a regimen of antibiotics. When antibiotics are not effective, the ear, nose and throat specialist might recommend a bilateral myringotomy with pressure equalizing tube placement (BMT), a minor surgical procedure. This surgery involves the placement of small tubes in the eardrum of both ears. The benefit is to drain the fluid buildup behind the eardrum and to keep the pressure in the ear the same as it is in the exterior of the ear. This will reduce the chances of any new infections and may correct any hearing loss caused by the fluid buildup.

Postoperative vomiting (POV) is a common problem after bilateral myringotomy surgery. The overall incidence is 35 percent, and usually occurs on the first postoperative day, but can occur up to seven days later. Several factors are known to affect the incidence of POV, including age, type of surgery, postoperative care, medications, co-existing diseases, past history of POV, and anesthetic management. Obesity, gastroparesis, female gender, motion sickness, pre-op anxiety, opiod analgesics, and the duration of anesthetic all increase the incidence of POV. POV interferes with oral medication and intake, delays return to normal activity, and increases length of hospital stay. It remains one of the most common causes of unplanned postoperative hospital admissions.

Tonsillectomies:

A child’s tonsils are removed because they are either chronically infected or, as in most cases, enlarged, leading to obstructive sleep apnea. There are several surgical procedures utilized by ear, nose, and throat specialists to remove the tonsils, ranging from use of a scalpel to a wand that emits energy that shrinks the tonsils.

Research conducted by otolaryngologists found that Morbid obesity was a contributing factor for requiring an overnight hospital admission for a child undergoing removal of enlarged tonsils. Most children who were diagnosed as obese with sleep apnea required a next-day physician follow-up.

A study from the University of Texas found that morbidly obese patients have a significant increase of additional medical disorders following tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for obstructive sleep apnea or sleep-disordered breathing when compared to moderately obese or overweight patients undergoing this procedure for the same diagnosis. On average they have longer hospital stays, a greater need for intensive care, and a higher incidence of the need for apnea treatment of continuous positive airway pressure upon discharge from the hospital. The study found that although the morbidly obese group had a greater degree of sleep apnea, they did benefit from the procedure in regards to snoring, apneic spells, and daytime somnolence.

What you can do

If your child has a weight problem, contract your pediatrician or family physician to discuss the weight’s effect on your child’s health, especially prior to treatment decisions. Second, ask your physician about lifestyle and diet changes that will reduce your child’s weight to a healthy standard.

Pediatric GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease)

Everyone has gastroesophageal reflux (GER), the backward movement (reflux) of gastric contents into the esophagus. Extraesophageal Reflux (EER) is the reflux of gastric contents from the stomach into the esophagus with further extension into the throat and other upper aerodigestive regions. In infants, more than 50 percent of children three months or younger have at least one episode of regurgitation a day. This rate peaks at 67 percent at age four months. But an infant’s improved neuromuscular control and the ability to sit up will lead to a spontaneous resolution of significant GER in more than half of infants by age ten months and four out of five at age 18 months.

Researchers have found that 10 percent of infants (younger than 12 months) with GER develop significant complications. The diseases associated with reflux are known collectively as Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).  Physically, GERD occurs when a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus malfunctions. Normally, this muscle closes to keep acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. The continuous entry of acid or refluxed materials into areas outside the stomach can result in significant injury to those areas. It is estimated that some five to eight percent of adolescent children have GERD.

What symptoms are displayed by a child with GERD?

GER and EER in children often cause relatively few symptoms until a problem exists (GERD). The most common initial symptom of GERD is heartburn. Heartburn is more common in adults, whereas children have a harder time describing this sensation. They usually will complain of a stomach ache or chest discomfort, particularly after meals.

More frequent or severe GER and EER can cause other problems in the stomach, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, lungs, sinuses, ears and even the teeth.  Consequently, other typical symptoms could include crying/irritability, poor appetite/feeding and swallowing difficulties, failure to thrive/weight loss, regurgitation (“wet burps” or outright vomiting), stomach aches (dyspepsia), abdominal/chest pain (heartburn), sore throat, hoarseness, apnea, laryngeal and tracheal stenoses, asthma/wheezing, chronic sinusitis, ear infections/fluid, and dental caries. Effortless regurgitation is very suggestive of GER. However recurrent vomiting (which is not the same) does not necessarily mean a child has GER.

Unlike infants, the adolescent child will not necessarily resolve GERD on his or her own. Accordingly, if your child displays the typical symptoms of GERD, a visit to a pediatrician is warranted. However, in some circumstances, the disorder may cause significant ear, nose, and throat disorders. When this occurs, an evaluation by an otolaryngologist is recommended.

How is GERD diagnosed?

Most of the time, the physician can make a diagnosis by interviewing the caregiver and examining the child. There are occasions when testing is recommended. The tests that are most commonly used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux include:

  • pH probe: A small wire with an acid sensor is placed through the nose down to the bottom of the esophagus.  The sensor can detect when acid from the stomach is “refluxed” into the esophagus.  This information is generally recorded on a computer. Usually, the sensor is left in place between 12 and 24 hours.  At the conclusion of the test, the results will indicate how often the child “refluxes” acid into his or her esophagus and whether he or she has any symptoms when that occurs.
  • Barium swallow or upper GI series:  The child is fed barium, a white, chalky, liquid. A video x-ray machine follows the barium through the upper intestinal tract and lets doctors see if there are any abnormal twists, kinks or narrowings of the upper intestinal tract.
  • Technetium gastric emptying study: The child is fed milk mixed with technetium, a very weakly radioactive chemical, and then the technetium is followed through the intestinal tract using a special camera.  This test is helpful in determining whether some of the milk/technetium ends up in the lungs (aspiration).  It may also be helpful in determining how long milk sits in the stomach.
  • Endoscopy with biopsies: This most comprehensive test involves the passing down of a flexible endoscope with lights and lenses through the mouth into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This allows the doctor to get a directly look at the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum and see if there is any irritation or inflammation present.  In some children with gastroesophageal reflux, repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes some inflammation (esophagitis).  Endoscopy in children usually requires a general anesthetic.
  • Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy: A small lighted scope is placed in the nose and the pharynx to evaluate for inflammation.

What treatments for GERD are available?

Treatment of reflux in infants is intended to lessen symptoms, not to relieve the underlying problem, as this will often resolve on its own with time. A useful simple treatment is to thicken a baby’s milk or formula with rice cereal, making it less likely to be refluxed.

Several steps can be taken to assist the older child with GERD:

  • Lifestyle changes: Raise the head of the child’s bed about 30 degrees while they sleep and have the child eat smaller, more frequent meals instead of large amounts of food at one sitting.  Avoid having the child eat right before they go to bed or lie down; instead, let two or three hours pass.  Try a walk or warm bath or even a few minutes on the toilet.  Some researchers believe that certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight or dressing in loose clothing my assist in alleviating GERD. Even chewing sugarless gum may help.
  • Dietary changes: Avoid chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, tomato products, peppermint, and other acidic foods as citrus juices.  Fried foods and spicy foods are also known to aggravate symptoms.  Pay attention to what your child eats and be alert for individual problems.
  • Medical Treatment: Most of the medications prescribed to treat GERD either break down or lessen intestinal gas, decrease or neutralize stomach acid, or improve intestinal coordination. Your physician will prescribe the most appropriate medication for your child.
  • Surgical Treatment: It is rare for children with GERD to require surgery.  For the few children who do require surgery, the most commonly performed operation is called Nissen fundoplication. With this procedure, the top part of the stomach (the fundus) is wrapped around the bottom of the esophagus to create a collar. After the operation, every time the stomach contracts, the collar around the esophagus contracts preventing reflux.

Nodules, Polyps, and Cysts

The term vocal cord lesion (physicians call them vocal “fold” lesions) refers to a group of noncancerous (benign), abnormal growths (lesions) within or along the covering of the vocal cord. Vocal cord lesions are one of the most common causes of voice problems and are generally seen in three forms; nodules, polyps, and cysts.

Vocal Cord Nodules (also called Singer’s Nodes, Screamer’s Nodes)

Vocal cord nodules are also known as “calluses of the vocal fold.” They appear on both sides of the vocal cords, typically at the midpoint, and directly face each other. Like other calluses, these lesions often diminish or disappear when overuse of the area is stopped.

Vocal Cord Polyp

A vocal cord polyp typically occurs only on one side of the vocal cord and can occur in a variety of shapes and sizes. Depending upon the nature of the polyp, it can cause a wide range of voice disturbances.

Vocal Cord Cyst

A vocal cord cyst is a firm mass of tissue contained within a membrane (sac). The cyst can be located near the surface of the vocal cord or deeper, near the ligament of the vocal cord.  As with vocal cord polyps and nodules, the size and location of vocal cord cysts affect the degree of disruption of vocal cord vibration and subsequently the severity of hoarseness or other voice problem. Surgery followed by voice therapy is the most commonly recommended treatment for vocal cord cysts that significantly alter and/or limit voice.

Reactive Vocal Cord Lesion

A reactive vocal cord lesion is a mass located opposite an existing vocal cord lesion, such as a vocal cord cyst or polyp. This type of lesion is thought to develop from trauma or repeated injury caused by the lesion on the opposite vocal cord. A reactive vocal cord lesion will usually decrease or disappear with voice rest and therapy.

What Are The Causes Of Benign Vocal Cord Lesions?

The exact cause or causes of benign vocal cord lesions is not known. Lesions are thought to arise following “heavy” or traumatic use of the voice, including voice misuse such as speaking in an improper pitch, speaking excessively, screaming or yelling, or using the voice excessively while sick.

What Are The Symptoms Of Benign Vocal Cord Lesions?

A change in voice quality and persistent hoarseness are often the first warning signs of a vocal cord lesion. Other symptoms can include:

  • Vocal fatigue
  • Unreliable voice
  • Delayed voice initiation
  • Low, gravelly voice
  • Low pitch
  • Voice breaks in first passages of sentences
  • Airy or breathy voice
  • Inability to sing in high, soft voice
  • Increased effort to speak or sing
  • Hoarse and rough voice quality
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Extra force needed for voice
  • Voice “hard to find”

When a vocal cord lesion is present, symptoms may increase or decrease in degree, but will persist and do not go away on their own.

How Is The Diagnosis Of A Benign Vocal Cord Lesion Made?

Diagnosis begins with a complete history of the voice problem and an evaluation of speaking method. The otolaryngologist will perform a careful examination of the vocal cords, typically using rigid laryngoscopy with a stroboscopic light source. In this procedure, a telescope-tube is passed through the patient’s mouth that allows the examiner to view the voice box (images are often recorded on video). The stroboscopic light source allows the examiner to assess vocal fold vibration. Sometimes a second exam will follow a trial of voice rest to allow the otolaryngologist an opportunity to assess changes in the vocal cord lesion. Other associated medical problems can contribute to voice problems, such as: reflux, allergies, medication’s side effects, and hormonal imbalances. An evaluation of these conditions is an important diagnostic factor.

How Are Benign Vocal Cord Lesions Treated?

The most common treatment options for benign vocal cord lesions include: voice rest, voice therapy, singing voice therapy, and phonomicrosurgery, a type of surgery involving the use of microsurgical techniques and instruments to treat abnormalities on the vocal cord.

Treatment options can vary according to the degree of voice limitation and the exact voice demands of the patient. For example, if a professional singer develops benign vocal cord lesions and undergoes voice therapy, which improves speaking but not singing voice, then surgery might be considered to restore singing voice. Successful and appropriate treatment is highly individual and includes consideration of the patient’s vocal needs and the clinical judgment of the otolaryngologist.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux and Children

What is laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR)?

Food or liquids that are swallowed travel through the esophagus and into the stomach where acids help digestion. Each end of the esophagus has a sphincter, a ring of muscle, that helps keep the acidic contents of the stomach in the stomach or out of the throat. When these rings of muscle do not work properly, you may get heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Chronic GER is often diagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Sometimes, acidic stomach contents will reflux all the way up to the esophagus, past the ring of muscle at the top (upper esophageal sphincter or UES), and into the throat. When this happens, acidic material contacts the sensitive tissue at back of the throat and even the back of the nasal airway. This is known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR.

During the first year, infants frequently spit up. This is essentially LPR because the stomach contents are refluxing into the back of the throat. However, in most infants, it is a normal occurrence caused by the immaturity of both the upper and lower esophageal sphincters, the shorter distance from the stomach to the throat, and the greater amount of time infants spend in the horizontal position. Only infants who have associated airway (breathing) or feeding problems require evaluation by a specialist. This is most critical when breathing-related symptoms are present.

What are symptoms of LPR?

There are various symptoms of LPR. Adults may be able to identify LPR as a bitter taste in the back of the throat, more commonly in the morning upon awakening, and the sensation of a “lump” or something “stuck” in the throat, which does not go away despite multiple swallowing attempts to clear the “lump.” Some adults may also experience a burning sensation in the throat. A more uncommon symptom is difficulty breathing, which occurs because the acidic, refluxed material comes in contact with the voice box (larynx) and causes the vocal cords to close to prevent aspiration of the material into the windpipe (trachea). This event is known as “laryngospasm.”

Infants and children are unable to describe sensations like adults can. Therefore, LPR is only successfully diagnosed if parents are suspicious and the child undergoes a full evaluation by a specialist such as an otolaryngologist. Airway or breathing-related problems are the most commonly seen symptoms of LPR in infants and children and can be serious. If your infant or child experiences any of the following symptoms, timely evaluation is critical.

  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Noisy breathing (stridor)
  • Croup
  • Reactive airway disease (asthma)
  • Sleep disordered breathing (SDB)
  • Frank spit up
  • Feeding difficulty
  • Turning blue (cyanosis)
  • Aspiration
  • Pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Apparent life threatening event (ALTE)
  • Failure to thrive (a severe deficiency in growth such that an infant or child is less than five percentile compared to the expected norm)

What are the complications of LPR?

In infants and children, chronic exposure of the laryngeal structures to acidic contents may cause long term airway problems such as a narrowing of the area below the vocal cords (subglottic stenosis), hoarseness, and possibly eustachian tube dysfunction causing recurrent ear infections, or persistent middle ear fluid, and even symptoms of “sinusitis.” The direct relationship between LPR and the latter mentioned problems are currently under research investigation.

How is LPR diagnosed?

Currently, there is no good standardized test to identify LPR. If parents notice any symptoms of LPR in their child, they may wish to discuss with their pediatrician a referral to see an otolaryngologist for evaluation. An otolaryngologist may perform a flexible fiberoptic nasopharyngoscopy/laryngoscopy, which involves sliding a 2 mm scope through the infant or child’s nostril, to look directly at the voice box and related structures or a 24 hour pH monitoring of the esophagus. He or she may also decide to perform further evaluation of the child under general anesthesia. This would include looking directly at the voice box and related structures (direct laryngoscopy), a full endoscopic look at the trachea and bronchi (bronchoscopy), and an endoscopic look at the esophagus (esophagoscopy) with a possible biopsy of the esophagus to determine if esophagitis is present. LPR in infants and children remains a diagnosis of clinical judgment based on history given by the parents, the physical exam, and endoscopic evaluations.

How is LPR treated?

Since LPR is an extension of GER, successful treatment of LPR is based on successful treatment of GER. In infants and children, basic recommendations may include smaller and more frequent feedings and keeping an infant in a vertical position after feeding for at least 30 minutes. A trial of medications including H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may be necessary. Similar to adults, those who fail medical treatment, or have diagnostic evaluations demonstrating anatomical abnormalities may require surgical intervention such as a fundoplication.

Laryngeal (Voice Box) Cancer

Laryngeal cancer is not as well known by the general public as some other types of cancer, yet it is not a rare disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2005 almost 10,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer will be diagnosed, and close to 3,800 people will die from laryngeal cancer in the United States. Even for survivors, the consequences of laryngeal cancer can be severe with respect to voice, breathing, or swallowing. It is fundamentally a preventable disease though, since the primary risk factors for laryngeal cancer are associated with modifiable behaviors.

Risk Factors Associated With Laryngeal Cancer

Development of laryngeal cancer is a process that involves many factors, but approximately 90 percent of head and neck cancers occur after exposure to known carcinogens (cancer causing substances). Chief among these factors is tobacco. Over 90 percent of laryngeal cancers are a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA), and over 95 percent of patients with laryngeal SCCA are smokers. Smoking contributes to cancer development by causing mutations or changes in genes, impairing clearance of carcinogens from the respiratory tract, and decreasing the body’s immune response.

Tobacco use is measured in pack-years, where one pack per day for one year is considered one pack-year. Two pack-years is defined as either one pack per day for two years, or two packs per day for one year (Longer terms of pack years are determined using a similar ratio.) Depending upon the number of pack-years smoked, studies have reported that smokers are about 5 to 35 times more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than non-smokers. It does seem that the duration of tobacco exposure is probably more important overall to cancer causing effect, than the intensity of the exposure.

Alcohol is another important risk factor for laryngeal cancer, and acts as a promoter of the cancer causing process. The major clinical significance of alcohol is that it potentiates the effects of tobacco. Magnitude of this effect is between an additive and a multiplicative one. That is, people who smoke and drink alcohol have a combined risk that is greater than the sum of the individual risks. The American Cancer Society recommends that those who drink alcoholic beverages should limit the amount of alcohol they consume, with one drink per day considered a limited alcohol exposure.

Other risk factors for laryngeal cancer include certain viruses, such as human papilloma virus (HPV), and likely acid reflux. Vitamin A and beta-carotene may play a protective role.

Signs and Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

Signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer include: progressive or persistent hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, persistent sore throat or pain with swallowing, difficulty breathing, pain in the ear, or a lump in the neck. Anyone with these signs or symptoms should be evaluated by an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor). This is particularly important for people with risk factors for laryngeal cancer.

Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer

The primary treatment options for laryngeal cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. Remember that this is a preventable disease in the vast majority of cases, because the main risk factors are associated with modifiable behaviors. Do not smoke and do not abuse alcohol!

Keeping Your Voice Healthy

There are many different reasons why your voice may sound hoarse or abnormal from time to time, and some of these reasons are things that you can not really control. An example would be catching a common cold virus that causes laryngitis. Sure, you can wash your hands frequently and try to avoid people with colds, but virtually everyone catches a cold with a bit of laryngitis now and again. What you probably did not know is that there are steps you can take to prevent many voice problems. The following steps are helpful for anyone who wants to keep their voice healthy, but are particularly important for people who have an occupation, such as teaching, that is heavily voice-related.

Key Steps for Keeping Your Voice Healthy

  • Drink plenty of water. Moisture is good for your voice. Hydration helps to keep thin secretions flowing to lubricate your vocal cords. Drink plenty (up to eight 8-ounce glasses is a good minimum target) of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day.
  • Try not to scream or yell. These are abusive practices for your voice, and put great strain on the lining of your vocal cords.
  • Warm up your voice before heavy use. Most people know that singers warm up their voices before a performance, yet many don’t realize the need to warm up the speaking voice before heavy use, such as teaching a class, preaching, or giving a speech. Warm-ups can be simple, such as gently gliding from low to high tones on different vowel sounds, doing lip trills (like the motorboat sound that kids make), or tongue trills.
  • Don’t smoke. In addition to being a potent risk factor for laryngeal (voice box) cancer, smoking also causes inflammation and polyps of the vocal cords that can make the voice very husky, hoarse, and weak.
  • Use good breath support. Breath flow is the power for voice. Take time to fill your lungs before starting to talk, and don’t wait until you are almost out of air before taking another breath to power your voice.
  • Use a microphone. When giving a speech or presentation, consider using a microphone to lessen the strain on your voice.
  • Listen to your voice. When your voice is complaining to you, listen to it. Know that you need to modify and decrease your voice use if you become hoarse in order to allow your vocal cords to recover. Pushing your voice when it’s already hoarse can lead to significant problems. If your voice is hoarse frequently, or for an extended period of time, you should be evaluated by an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat physician.)

How Allergies Affect your Child’s Ears, Nose, and Throat

Your child has been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, a physiological response to specific allergens such as pet dander or ragweed. The symptoms are fairly simple — a runny nose (rhinitis), watery eyes, and some periodic sneezing. The best solution is to administer over-the-counter antihistamine, and the problem will resolve on its own ….right?

Not really – the interrelated structures of the ears, nose, and throat can cause certain medical problems which trigger additional disorders – all with the possibility of serious consequences.

Simple hay fever can lead to long term problems in swallowing, sleeping, hearing, and breathing. Let’s see what else can happen to a child with a case of hay fever.

Ear infections:

One of children’s most common medical problems is otitis media, or middle ear infection. These infections are especially common in early childhood. They are even more common when children suffer from allergic rhinitis (hay fever) as well. Allergic inflammation can cause swelling in the nose and around the opening of the Eustachian tube (ear canal). This swelling has the potential to interfere with drainage of the middle ear. When bacteria laden discharge clogs the tube, infection is more likely.

Sore throats:

The hay fever allergens may lead to the formation of too much mucus which can make the nose run or drip down the back of the throat, leading to “post-nasal drip.” It can lead to cough, sore throats, and husky voice. Although more common in older people and in dry inland climates, thick, dry mucus can also irritate the throat and be hard to clear. Air conditioning, winter heating, and dehydration can aggravate the condition. Paradoxically, antihistamines will do so as well. Some newer antihistamines do not produce dryness.

Snoring:

Chronic nasal obstruction is a frequent symptom of seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and perennial (year-round) allergic rhinitis. This allergic condition may have a debilitating effect on the nasal turbinates, the small, shelf-like, bony structures covered by mucous membranes (mucosa). The turbinates protrude into the nasal airway and help to warm, humidify, and cleanse air before it reaches the lungs. When exposed to allergens, the mucosa can become inflamed. The blood vessels inside the membrane swell and expand, causing the turbinates to become enlarged and obstruct the flow of air through the nose. This inflammation, or rhinitis, can cause chronic nasal obstruction that affects individuals during the day and night.

Enlarged turbinates and nasal congestion can also contribute to headaches and sleep disorders such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, because the nasal airway is the normal breathing route during sleep. Once turbinate enlargement becomes chronic, it is irreversible except with surgical intervention.

Pediatric sinusitis:

Allergic rhinitis can cause enough inflammation to obstruct the openings to the sinuses. Consequently, a bacterial sinus infection occurs. The disease is similar for children and adults. Children may or may not complain of pain. However, in acute sinusitis, they will often have pain and typically have fever and a purulent nasal discharge. In chronic sinusitis, pain and fever are not evident. Some children may have mood or behavior changes. Most will have a purulent, runny nose and nasal congestion even to the point where they must mouth breathe. The infected sinus drains around the Eustachian tube, and therefore many of the children will also have a middle ear infection.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis may resolve after a short period. Administration of the proper over-the-counter antihistamines may alleviate the symptoms. However, if your child suffers from perennial (year round) allergic rhinitis, an examination by specialist will assist in preventing other ear, nose, and throat problems from occurring.

Gastroesphageal Reflux (GERD)

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. Normally, food travels from the mouth, down through the esophagus and into the stomach. A ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), contracts to keep the acidic contents of the stomach from “refluxing” or coming back up into the esophagus. In those who have GERD, the LES does not close properly, allowing acid to move up the esophagus.

When stomach acid touches the sensitive tissue lining the esophagus, it causes a reaction similar to squirting lemon juice in your eye. This is why GERD is often characterized by the burning sensation known as heartburn.

Occasional heartburn is normal. However, if heartburn becomes chronic, occurring more than twice a week, you may have GERD. Left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious health problems.

Who gets GERD?

Anyone can have GERD. Women, men, infants and children can all experience this disorder. Overweight people and pregnant women are particularly susceptible because of the pressure on their stomachs. Recent studies indicate that GERD may often be overlooked in infants and children. In infants and children, GERD can cause repeated vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems such as sore throat and ear infections. Most infants grow out of GERD by the time they are one year old.

Tips to Prevent GERD

  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit problem foods such as:
    • Caffeine
    • Carbonated drinks
    • Chocolate
    • Peppermint
    • Tomato and citrus foods
    • Fatty and fried foods
  • Wear loose clothing
  • Eat small meals and slowly

What are the symptoms of GERD?

The symptoms of GERD may include persistent heartburn, acid regurgitation, and nausea. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest that can be sever enough to mimic the pain of a heart attack, hoarseness in the morning, or trouble swallowing. Some people may also feel like they have food stuck in their throat or like they are choking. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.

What are the complications of GERD?

GERD can lead to other medical problems such as ulcers and strictures of the esophagus (esophagitis), cough, asthma, throat and laryngeal inflammation, inflammation and infection of the lungs, and collection of fluid in the sinuses and middle ear. GERD can also cause a change in the esophageal lining called Barrett’s esophagus, which is a serious complication that can lead to cancer.

What causes GERD?

Physical causes of GERD can include: a malfunctioning or abnormal lower esophageal sphincter muscle (LES), hiatal hernia, abnormal esophageal contractions, and slow emptying of the stomach.

Lifestyle factors that contribute to GERD include:

  • alcohol use
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • smoking
  • Certain foods can contribute to GERD, such as:
  • citrus fruits
  • chocolate
  • caffeinated drinks
  • fatty and fried foods
  • garlic and onions
  • mint flavorings (especially peppermint)
  • spicy foods
  • tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, chili, and pizza

When should I see a doctor?

If you experience heartburn more than twice a week, frequent chest pains after eating, trouble swallowing, persistent nausea, and cough or sore throat unrelated to illness, you may have GERD. For proper diagnosis and treatment, you should be evaluated by a physician.

How can my ENT help?

Otolaryngologists, or ear, nose, and throat doctors, and have extensive experience with the tools that diagnose GERD and they are specialists in the treatment of many of the complications of GERD, including: sinus and ear infections, throat and laryngeal inflammation, Barrett’s esophagus, and ulcerations of the esophagus.

How is GERD diagnosed?

GERD can be diagnosed or evaluated by clinical observation and the patient’s response to a trial of treatment with medication. In some cases other tests may be needed including: an endoscopic examination (a long tube with a camera inserted into the esophagus), biopsy, x-ray, examination of the throat and larynx, 24 hour esophageal acid testing, esophageal motility testing (manometry), emptying studies of the stomach, and esophageal acid perfusion (Bernstein test). Endoscopic examination, biopsy, and x-ray may be performed as an outpatient in a hospital setting. Light sedation may be used for endoscopic examinations.

While most people with GERD respond to a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Occasionally, surgery is recommended.

Lifestyle changes include: losing weight, quitting smoking, wearing loose clothing around the waist, raising the head of your bed (so gravity can help keep stomach acid in the stomach), eating your last meal of the day three hours before bed, and limiting certain foods such as spicy and high fat foods, caffeine, alcohol,.

Medications your doctor may prescribe for GERD include: antacids (such as Tums, Rolaids, etc.), histamine antagonists (H2 blockers such as Tagamet,), proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium), pro-motility drugs (Reglan), and foam barriers (Gaviscon). Some of these products are now available over-the-counter and do not require a prescription.

Surgical treatment includes: fundoplication, a procedure where a part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophagus to tighten the LES, and endoscopy, where hand stitches or a laser is used to make the LES tighter.

Are there long-term health problems associated with GERD?

GERD may damage the lining of the esophagus, thereby causing inflammation (esophagitis), although usually it does not. Barrett’s esophagus is a pre-cancerous condition that requires periodic endoscopic surveillance for the development of cancer.

Effects of Medication on Voice

Could Your Medication Be Affecting Your Voice?

Some medications including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements can affect the function of your voice. If your doctor prescribes a medication that adversely affects your voice, make sure the benefit of taking the medicine outweighs the problems with your voice.

Most medications affect the voice by drying out the protective mucosal layer covering the vocal cords. Vocal cords must be well-lubricated to operate properly; if the mucosa becomes dry, speech will be more difficult. This is why hydration is an important component of vocal health.

Medications can also affect the voice by thinning blood in the body, which makes bruising or hemorrhaging of the vocal cord more likely if trauma occurs, and by causing fluid retention (edema), which enlarges the vocal cords. Medications from the following groups can adversely affect the voice:

  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Diuretics
  • Antihypertensives (blood pressure medication)
  • Antihistamines (allergy medications)
  • Anticholinergics (asthma medications)
  • High-dose Vitamin C (greater than five grams per day)
  • Other medications and associated conditions that may affect the voice include:
  • Angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (blood pressure medication) may induce a cough or excessive throat clearing in as many as 10 percent of patients. Coughing or excessive throat clearing can contribute to vocal cord lesions.
  • Oral contraceptives may cause fluid retention (edema) in the vocal cords because they contain estrogen.
  • Estrogen replacement therapy post-menopause may have a variable effect.
  • An inadequate level of thyroid replacement medication in patients with hypothyroidism.
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) may increase chances of vocal cord hemorrhage or polyp formation in response to trauma.
  • Herbal medications are not harmless and should be taken with caution. Many have unknown side effects that include voice disturbance.

NOTE: Contents of this fact sheet are based on information provided by The Center for Voice at Northwestern University.

Day care and Ear, Nose and Throat Problems

Who is in day care?

The 2000 census reported that of among the nation’s 19.6 million preschoolers, grandparents took care of 21 percent, 17 percent were were cared for by their father (while their mother was employed or in school); 12 percent were in day care centers; nine percent were cared for by other relatives; seven percent were cared for by a family day care provider in their home; and six percent received care in nursery schools or preschools. More than one-third of preschoolers (7.2 million) had no regular child-care arrangement and presumably were under maternal care.

Day care establishments are defined as those primarily engaged in care of infants or children, or in providing pre-kindergarten education, where medical care and/or behavioral correction are not a primary function or major element. Some may or may not have substantial educational programs, and some may care for older children when they are not in school.

What are your child’s risks of being exposed to a contagious illness at a day care center?

Medline, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reports that day care centers do pose some degree of an increased health risk for children, because of the exposure to other children who may be sick.

When your child is in a day care center, the risk is greatest for viral upper respiratory infection (affecting the nose, throat, mouth, voice box) and the common cold, ear infections, and diarrhea. Some studies have tried to link asthma to day care. Other studies suggest that being exposed to all the germs in day care actually IMPROVES your child’s immune system.

Studies suggest that the average child will get eight to ten colds per year, lasting ten – 14 days each, and occurring primarily in the winter months. This means that if a child gets two colds from March to September, and eight colds from September to March, each lasting two weeks, the child will be sick more than over half of the winter.

At the same time, children in a day care environment, exposed to the exchange of upper respiratory tract viruses every day, are expected to have three to ten episodes of otitis media annually. This is four times the incidence of children staying at home.

When should your child remain at home instead of day care or school?

Simply put, children become sick after being exposed to other sick children. Some guidelines to follow are:

  • When your child has a temperature higher than 100 degrees, keep him/her at home. A fever is a sign of potentially contagious infection, even if the child feels fine. Schools often advise keeping the child at home until a fever-free period has existed for 24 hours.
  • When other children in the day care facility have a known contagious infection, such as chicken pox, strep throat or conjunctivitis, keep your child at home.
  • Children taking antibiotics should be kept at home until they have taken the medicine for one or two days.
  • If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, the young patient should not be around other children. Other signs of illness are an inability to take fluids, weakness or lethargy, sunken eyes, a depressed soft spot on top of infant’s head, crying without tears, and dry mouth.


Can you prevent your child from becoming sick at a day care center?

The short answer is no. Exposure to other sick children will increase the likelihood that your child may catch the same illness, particularly with the common cold. The primary rule is to keep your own children at home if they are sick. However, you can:

  • Teach your child to wash his or her hands before eating and after using the toilet. Infection is spread the most by children putting dirty toys and hands in their mouths, so check your day care’s hygiene cleaning practices.
  • Have your child examined by a physician before enrollment in a day care center or school. During the examination, the physician will:
    • Look for otitis (inflammation) in the ear. This is an indicator of future ear infections.
    • Review with you any allergies your child may have. This will assist in determining if the diet offered at the day care center may be harmful to your child.
    • Examine the child’s tonsils for infection and size. Enlarged tonsils could indicate that your child may not be getting a healthy sleep at night, resulting in a tired condition during the day.
  • Alert the day care center manager when your child is ill, and include the nature of the illness.

Day care has become a necessity for millions of families. Monitoring the health of your own child is key to preventing unneccessary sickness. If a serious illness occurs, do not hesitate to have your child examined by a physician.

About your voice

What Is Voice?

“Voice” is the sound made by vibration of the vocal cords caused by air passing out through the larynx bringing the cords closer together. Your voice is an extremely valuable resource and is the most commonly used form of communication. Our voice is invaluable for both our social interaction as well as for most people’s occupation. Proper care and use of your voice improves the likelihood of having a healthy voice for your entire lifetime.

How Do I Know If I Have A Voice Problem?

Voice problems occur with a change in the voice, often described as hoarseness, roughness, or a raspy quality. People with voice problems often complain about or notice changes in pitch, loss of voice, loss of endurance, and sometimes a sharp or dull pain associated with voice use. Other voice problems may accompany a change in singing ability that is most notable in the upper singing range. A more serious problem is indicated by spitting up blood or when blood is present in the mucus. These require prompt attention by an otolaryngologist.

What Is The Most Common Cause Of A Change In Your Voice?

Voice changes sometimes follow an upper respiratory infection lasting up to two weeks. Typically the upper respiratory infection or cold causes swelling of the vocal cords and changes their vibration resulting in an abnormal voice. Reduced voice use (voice rest) typically improves the voice after an upper respiratory infection, cold, or bronchitis. If voice does not return to its normal characteristics and capabilities within two to four weeks after a cold, a medical evaluation by an ear, nose, and throat specialist is recommended. A throat examination after a change in the voice lasting longer than one month is especially important for smokers. (Note: A change in voice is one of the first and most important symptoms of throat cancer. Early detection significantly increases the effectiveness of treatment.)

Six Tips To Identify Voice Problems

Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you have an unhealthy voice:

  • Has your voice become hoarse or raspy?
  • Does your throat often feel raw, achy, or strained?
  • Does talking require more effort?
  • Do you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat?
  • Do people regularly ask you if you have a cold when in fact you do not?
  • Have you lost your ability to hit some high notes when singing?

A wide range of problems can lead to changes in your voice.  Seek out a physician’s care when voice problems persist.