ENT Conditions


What You Should Know About Laryngitis

Some people like the sound of a raspy, scratchy voice, but usually not when it’s the result of a medical condition. Laryngitis occurs when the larynx, or voice box, is inflamed, causing a distortion in the voice as sounds pass through swelling. Luckily the condition often sounds more painful then it is, and unless it’s caused by something contagious, like a virus, it can’t be passed from person to person.
laryngitis

The Symptoms of Laryngitis

The tell-tale sign of laryngitis is hoarseness or voice loss. In some instances, you may also experience:

  • Sore throat
  • Tickling or irritation in throat
  • Dry throat
  • Cough
  • Pain when swallowing

Is all laryngitis the same?

No. Acute laryngitis is caused by minor irritation and is temporary. On the other hand, chronic laryngitis is much more persistent.The causes differ as well, with acute usually a result of a cold or flu and chronic often a side effect of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Mayo Clinic lists the additional causes of each type of laryngitis:

  • Acute:
    • Viral infections
    • Vocal strain, caused by yelling or overusing your voice
    • Bacterial infections
  • Chronic laryngitis (common to rare):
    • Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, allergens or smoke
    • Chronic sinusitis
    • Excessive alcohol use
    • Habitual overuse of your voice
    • Smoking
    • Bacterial or fungal infections
    • Infections with certain parasites
    • Cancer
    • Vocal cord paralysis, which can result from injury, stroke, a lung tumor or other health conditions
    • Bowing of the vocal cords in old age

Mayo Clinic also warns that chronic laryngitis “can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths on the vocal cords (polyps or nodules).”

If you suspect you are experiencing chronic laryngitis, it’s time to speak up. Our expert laryngology physicians at Connecticut’s own Westwood ENT provide comprehensive care for throat conditions and will be able to diagnose what is going on with yours. Once the cause is determined, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is the right fit for you.

Call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices — Kent, Litchfield, Shelton and Waterbury — and find your voice again.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog


What Are Tonsils and What Do They Do?

TonsilsTonsils: Some of us have them, some of us don’t, and many of us don’t have any idea what they do. In this blog, we are going to talk about just that.

First and foremost, there are three types of tonsils; which may come as a surprise to some people. U.S. National Library of Medicine explains:

The 2 palatine tonsils are found to the right and to the left. The adenoids are situated above the roof of the throat, and the lingual tonsil is located far back at the base of the tongue on its rear surface.Together, they are called the tonsillar ring.

As part of the lymphatic system, the tonsils are designed to help fight infection.They are positioned to stop germs, viral and bacterial, from entering through the mouth and nose.

All three types of tonsils are great when they’re healthy, but unfortunately because they are the initial defense for germs, tonsils often become swollen, or enlarged, and infected. The American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery warns:

[R]ecurrent infections of the nose and throat, and significant enlargement that causes nasal obstruction and/or breathing, swallowing, and sleep problems. Abscesses around the tonsils, chronic tonsillitis, and infections of small pockets within the tonsils that produce foul-smelling white deposits can also affect the tonsils and adenoids, making them sore and swollen.

The two most common conditions are called tonsillitis and adenoiditis. When you have tonsillitis, your palatine tonsils are inflamed — this is the type of infection you usually hear about — and you can see them clearly. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing as well as the sore throat and tender lymph nodes. You can’t see adenoiditis, but your doctor can through rhinoscopy, which is an examination of the inside of your nose. This issue is most commonly seen in children and in addition to throat pain and swollen glands, symptoms often include congested nose, ear pain, snoring, and/or difficulty sleeping. Your lingual tonsil can also become infected and enlarged, however because of its position, that condition is more linked to sleep apnea than other ear, nose and throat symptoms.

WebMD suggests that make an appointment if you have a sore throat with any two of these signs of bacterial infection:

  • Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
  • White or yellow coating on the tonsils
  • Swollen, tender tonsils
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Rash
  • Abdominal (belly) pain and headache
  • Severe pain
  • Severe difficulty swallowing
  • Pain on only one side of the throat
  • Tonsillitis or sore throat that starts after being exposed to someone who has strep throat
  • 7 episodes of tonsillitis in 1 year despite treatment
  • Persistent mouth-breathing, snoring, or a very nasal- or muffled-sounding voice
  • Signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth and tongue and urinating less than normal

At Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat, we specialize in tonsil and adenoid conditions and removal. Before we recommend any treatment, medicinal or surgical, we’ll sit down with you and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Next, we’ll perform a series of tests to find out what is causing your discomfort and what the right treatment is for you. Throughout the entire process, we’ll explain everything and take time to address all your questions and concerns.

If you’re in pain, seek counsel about your tonsils. Call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices around the state.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Cut Out Chronic Cough

Chronic coughA cough is considered chronic when it lasts for eight weeks or longer. There is no doubt that having a chronic cough can be uncomfortable and annoying, and no one wants to deal with it. Making matters worse, the cough may be accompanied by the following things (listed in alphabetical order, not in order of seriousness or commonness):

Photo Credit: Harvard Health Publications

Photo Credit: Harvard Health Publications

  • Broken ribs
  • Chest pain
  • Congestion
  • Coughing up blood
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn or a sour taste in your mouth
  • Hoarseness
  • Passing out or fainting
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Sore Throat
  • Throat clearing
  • Urine leakage
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

 

 

Unfortunately, in many cases a chronic cough can be a sign of a larger underlying problem. Because of this possibility, it is very important to see a doctor so that the real problem can be addressed, especially if you’ve had your cough for a few weeks. Plus, who wants to live with a chronic cough if they don’t have to?

Some of the most common causes of chronic cough are:

For more causes of chronic cough, including some very rare ones, visit Harvard Health Publications “That Nagging Cough.”

If you are experiencing a chronic cough, there are cough drops, lozenges and throat sprays that may help. However, if you want a more permanent solution, make an appointment with our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. When you come in, we’ll sit down with you and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Next, we’ll perform a series of tests to get to the bottom of what is causing your cough and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Throughout the entire process, we’ll explain everything and take time to address all your questions and concerns.

Stop living with a chronic cough; call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment to find out for sure. With four conveniently-located offices around the state, getting to us is easy. Isn’t it time to cut out that chronic cough?

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


How to Talk About Hearing Aids

Hearing AidsAccording to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss is an extremely common condition — so much so that it is only surpassed by arthritis and heart disease. It is also common knowledge that the loss can lead to decline in the cognitive and emotional quality of life, because when a person can’t hear what’s going on around them, they become less engaged and more isolated. Typically, the more it’s ignored, the worse the condition gets. However, the good news is that with today’s technology, much can be done to restore hearing. And today’s hearing aids are non-invasive and barely noticeable (if seen at all). But if that’s the case, why are so many people reluctant to admit that they could benefit from a device?

Well, there are a number of different reasons:

  • Embarrassment
  • Fear
  • Belief it won’t help
  • Perceived cost and difficulty of use

If you know someone who is suffering from even the slightest hearing loss, you can help by talking to them about how hearing aids can help. That said, no matter how logical the matter may seem to you, the person in need may need to be convinced, so be gentle in your encouragement. To help you, we’ve compiled some tips for having “the talk.”

  1. Be prepared. In order to be truly persuasive, you have to be able to support your point. Do your research on available hearing aid options and their benefits.
  2. Be positive. Focus on the benefits and how they will enhance the person’s life. Do not use scare tactics (“You’ll never have fun with your grandchildren if you can’t hear what they say to you.”) or threats (“If you can’t hear us, why should we even bother talking to you?).
  3. Choose the right time to talk about it (or as right as it can be). For example if you’ve lost your temper at the person because they haven’t heard the thing you repeated four times, it is not a good time to have the discussion.
  4. Be there for them. Let the person talk openly about why they may be reluctant to get a hearing aid and really listen. No matter what the reason, to the person it is legitimate and you should treat it as so.
  5. Help. Remember, admitting to hearing loss and taking the next step can be scary, especially if the person has put it off for a long time. Offer to help find the right hearing loss specialist and if necessary, accompany them to the initial appointment.

The audiologists at our offices are experts in all types of hearing loss and solutions. At the first appointment, they will take the time to sit down with the person suffering the loss to thoroughly discuss their needs and answer any questions or concerns they have. Next, the physicians will use up-to-date diagnostic tools to determine the level of hearing loss, which they will then explain slowly in friendly, easy-to-understand terms.

If it is determined that a hearing aid is indeed necessary, the audiologists will fit the patient with one that best meets their needs and delivers the highest level of performance and comfort. Westwood provides primary hearing aids manufactured by Phonak and Resound, brands known for the highest performance and reliability, highest level of technology, best available environment adaptability, and top-rated sound quality and listening comfort.

And because wearing hearing aids can take getting used to, Westwood also provides a testing/trial period and help scheduling general maintenance appointments.You won’t find this quality and personalized care at any retail outlet.

Audiology services are available in all four conveniently-located offices. An evaluation can be scheduled by calling (203) 574-5997 or visiting EarNoseandThroatCT.com.

To learn more about Westwood ENT, and other ENT conditions, visit our website and blogs.


Face Pain Blame Game: Ear or Tooth

PainSometimes you have a toothache. Sometimes you have an earache. And sometimes you’re not sure if the pain is coming from your tooth or your ear. This inability to pinpoint exactly what is causing your pain is due to the proximity of your maxillary molars (upper back teeth) to your sinuses. Because the two areas are so close and when one is irritated, the other can be as well, when you are hurting, all you know is that something isn’t right. But how can you tell where the problem is?

Let’s start by comparing the symptoms of each ailment:

Tooth Pain

  • Pain (sharp, throbbing, constant, or only when pressure is applied)
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Hot/cold sensitivity
  • Bad taste in mouth
  • Drainage from tooth
  • Bad breath

Ear Pain

  • Pain in or around ear
  • Fever
  • Sinus Issues
  • Dizziness
  • Discharge
  • Hearing loss

As you can see, toothaches and earaches share some symptoms, but there are some tell-tale differences. If you have an unpleasant taste in your mouth or bad breath, or taking a bite of ice cream literally sends shivers down your spine, it’s more likely that your tooth is causing the discomfort. However, if your pain is accompanied by congestion, sneezing or any other sinus ailment, your ear could be the problem.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis isn’t always that easy, so if you are experiencing consistent pain around this area, you should be examined by a doctor or a dentist. Which one? Revisiting the symptoms we listed above will help you determine which type you should see first.

If you do think your ear is the problem, schedule an appointment with one of our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. When you come in, we will take the time to sit down with you and discuss your symptoms and medical history. Next, we’ll perform a series of tests to get to the bottom of what is causing your earache, including whether or not you have larger sinus issues at play. If we do discover that it’s an ear or sinus issue, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle. That said, if we figure out that it is indeed a dental issue, we’ll clearly explain our findings and refer you to a dental professional.

Stop trying to guess where the throbbing ache on the side of your face is coming from; call us at (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment to find out for sure. With four conveniently-located offices around the state, getting to us won’t be a pain.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Milk Allergy vs. Milk Intolerance

44842171 - milk splash

If you have a bad reaction to a food, it could be a number of things:

If you have a bad reaction to milk, it may be diagnosed as milk gone bad or lactose intolerance, and while in many cases that can be true, it could also be due to a milk allergy. According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (ACAAI), “between 2 and 3 percent of children younger than 3 are allergic to milk.” The good news is that most of them outgrow the allergy by the time they are 16, but for some it remains a lifelong issue.

Milk Allergy vs. Milk Intolerance

Food intolerance occurs when there is a problem in properly breaking down food in the digestive system. With milk, it is an inability to digest the sugar, or lactose, due to lack of the enzyme lactase. They symptoms of an intolerance are usually gastrointestinal-related. On the other hand, an allergy occurs when your body determines something is harmful and produces antibodies to attack it, causing the symptoms that the ACAAI lists below. The two conditions are not actually related.

Symptoms of a Milk Allergy

If a milk allergy is present, the following symptoms, which vary in intensity, will present within a short time after consuming the milk product:

  • Hives
  • Stomach upset
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody stools, especially in infants
  • Anaphylaxis, a rare, potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock

These symptoms vary in intensity and if they occur, especially in a young child, you should make an appointment with allergist, such as our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose & Throat, to confirm the nature of the reaction. Before doing any testing, we will talk with you about your medical history, symptoms, and instances of reactions. Next, we’ll perform a series of tests to determine if it is indeed milk causing your discomfort. Once a milk allergy is confirmed, we’ll help you develop a milk-free diet. WebMD provides this pretty extensive list of foods that include milk products that can be of help. On the other hand, if it turns out that it is a different type of allergy, or something else altogether, you will be in the right place for diagnosis and treatment.

So stop letting milk upset you, whether it spills or not. Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices to find relief.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.

 

 


What are Ear Tubes?

Ear tubesMost children will have an ear infection at some point in their life, and all of us experience fluid buildup in our eardrums every once in awhile. However some kids suffer from recurrent ear infections and/or have fluid that remains behind the eardrum causing hearing loss. In those cases, an otolaryngologist may decide to temporarily or permanently put ear tubes in the ear drum (tympanic membrane), a procedure called myringotomy. WebMD explains that this procedure is done to:

  • Allow air to enter the middle ear
  • Allow fluid to flow out of the middle ear through the tube into the ear canal
  • Clear the fluid from the middle ear and restore hearing
  • Prevent future buildup of fluid in the middle ear while they are in place
  • Decrease the feeling of pressure in the ears, which reduces pain

The procedure is done under local or general anesthesia on an outpatient basis and only takes about one to three hours. Most kids can return to their regular activities the next day, with a few restrictions that mostly have to do with getting water in the ears, such as when bathing and swimming.

What exactly are ear tubes?  The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery explains:

These tubes can be made out of various materials and come in two basic types: short-term and long-term. Short- term tubes are smaller and typically stay in place for six to eighteen months before falling out on their own. Long-term tubes are larger and have flanges that secure them in place for a longer period of time. Long-term tubes may fall out on their own, but removal by an otolaryngologist may be necessary. They also may be called tympanostomy tubes, myringotomy tubes, ventilation tubes, or PE (pressure equalization) tubes.

Regular follow-ups are required while the ear tubes are in place, and there are a few risks associated with them, such as  tearing, scarring or infection. In rare cases the tubes may fall out before expected or stay in longer than expected, however these conditions are rare and treatable.

If your child is experiencing hearing loss or frequent ear infections, talk to your doctor about ear tubes. They will likely refer you to an ENT such as our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. Our staff will make you and your child feel at ease from the moment you walk in the door and throughout the entire process. We’ll begin by talking to you and your child about their medical history and symptoms. Next, we’ll perform thorough testing including one using a pneumatic otoscope, an instrument that gently puffs air against the eardrum and assesses eardrum movement. Once we determine the what is causing the issues, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is perfect for your child.

Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices and have your child feeling great and yelling “Hear! Hear!” in no time.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


The Burning Truth About Scented Candles

burning candles According to the National Candle Association (yes, there is such a thing), 7 out of 10 households in the United States use candles. If you suffer from allergies, you may wonder if burning candles, especially the scented kind, is safe. In fact, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not candles (and their wicks) are safe whether or not you have allergies. Unfortunately, the jury is out on that with many sources saying that they are completely harmless and others warning that they emit toxins when they’re burned. Much of the talk has been around paraffin candles, which are made from petroleum products and can produce harmful soot. It seems that the only thing that the two sides can agree on is that as long as candles are burned safely and properly, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, as with anything else, there is always a risk that a material or fragrance will trigger an allergy.

Other interesting facts from the NCA include:

  • U.S. retail sales of candles are estimated at approximately $3.2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories (Source: Mintel, 2015).
  • Major U.S. candle manufacturers typically offer between 1,000 and 2,000 varieties of candles in their product lines.
  • More than 1 billion pounds of wax are used in producing the candles sold each year in the U.S.
  • It is estimated that more than 10,000 different candle scents are available to U.S. consumers.
  • ASTM International standards organization currently exist for the fire-safety labeling of candles, the heat resistance of glass candleholders, the fire-safety design of candles and the fire-safety design and labeling of candleholders and candle rings.

What does it mean to burn a candle safely and properly?

First and foremost, when burning any candle, you should adhere to all fire safety requirements and never leave a burning candle on it’s own for an extended period of time. But you know that.

What you may not know is that it is also highly suggested by a number of sources that candle use should be done in moderation. The line of thinking is that even if the candles do release toxins, there is no proof that they are harmful in the short amount of time they are being released.

If you want to avoid the issue altogether, but aren’t ready to give up your candle addiction, you can look for candles made from only natural products. Green America shares some resources for natural candle alternatives as well as candle-free aromatherapy.

If you think your candles may be triggering your allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment with our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat and find out exactly what is causing them. Through patient-centered care and state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment techniques, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan perfect for you.

Call (888) 230-3715 and schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices and find out how living without allergies can brighten your life.

For information on all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.


Middle Ear Disorders: Can You Hear Me Now?

When you hear people talking about problems with their hearing, it often has something to do with the middle ear, which consists of three small bones (called ossicles) that sit behind the eardrum and connect the middle and inner ear. This is the part of the ear that assists hearing by changing sound waves to mechanical vibrations.

middle ear

When you experience any type of damage to your middle ear, you may experience impaired hearing and hearing loss, spread of infection to nearby tissues, and tearing of the eardrum (which usually repairs itself within a few days). The Merck Manual provides the following types of middle ear disorders:

  • Blockage of the eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear and the back of the nose)

The symptoms of a middle ear disorder vary and can include:

  • Pain
  • Drainage
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever
  • Hearing loss

If you or someone you know is suffering from ear discomfort, it’s important to consult a doctor, such as the expert physicians at Westwood ENT. During your initial appointment, we will sit down with you and discuss all of your symptoms and medical history before we even start the diagnostic process. Once we discover what is causing the disorder, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that is the right fit for what you are experiencing. Treatment may include:

  • Medication: Antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers to help with infection and pain, respectively
  • Myringotomy: Tubes temporarily or permanently placed in the ear to drain fluid, which may remain after an infection
  • Middle Ear Reconstruction: An outpatient procedure that replaces the damaged middle ear bones with prosthesis

If you suspect discomfort stems from a middle ear disorder, don’t let this advice go in one ear and out the other. Call 203-574-5997 and make an appointment at one of Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat’s four conveniently-located offices today.

For more information on all things ear, nose and throat, Visit Westwood ENT’s website and blog.


Is Your Asthma Misdiagnosed Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

vocal cord dysfunctionHave you or someone you love been diagnosed with asthma, but are finding that the asthma medication you’ve been prescribed isn’t really helping? It could be that you are actually suffering from vocal cord dysfunction (VCD), also known as Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM). This misdiagnosis can happen because the two have similar symptoms and asthma is a common diagnosis for breathing issues. In addition, it is common for someone to have both asthma and VCD, making a proper diagnosis even more difficult.

 

Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) , the symptoms of VCD can include:  

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Throat tightness
  • Hoarse voice
  • Voice changes

Adding to the confusion, AAAAI tells us that “breathing in lung irritants, exercising, a cold or viral infection, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) may trigger symptoms of VCD.” However, where asthma involves airways and the immune system and is an allergic reaction, VCD does not. The latter occurs when the vocal cords aren’t working properly. Usually, the vocal cords remain open as you breathe in and out, closing (and vibrating) when you speak. In VCD, they inappropriately tighten as you inhale, subsequently making it difficult to take air in. It is the reverse for asthma sufferers who have trouble exhaling.

Another difference between the two conditions is that vocal cord dysfunction is not life-threatening and requires little more than the person relaxing for the issue to subside. Asthma, on the other hand, can be fatal if not treated properly; therefore, it is extremely important to have a correct diagnosis.

 

Diagnosis

In order to properly diagnose your condition, your doctor will first discuss your symptoms and your medical history. He or she will then have you take a breathing test called spirometry. This test measures how much air you inhale and exhale as well as how quickly you can exhale. Basically, it detects how well your lungs are working. Your doctor may also perform a laryngoscopy, which involves looking at the vocal cords with a camera that is attached to a flexible tube inserted in your throat. Both procedures can usually be done right in the doctor’s office.

 

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with vocal cord dysfunction, there is no need to panic. Treatment that teaches how to relax and open up the vocal cords through speech therapy and deep breathing techniques is highly successful. In addition to these techniques, your doctor will help you manage any conditions that trigger VCD including asthma, GERD, post-nasal drip and stress.

If you believe you are experiencing vocal cord dysfunction, make an appointment with one of our expert physicians at Westwood Ear, Nose and Throat. From the minute you pick up the phone and call, you will experience our patient-centered philosophy of care. When you come in, we’ll take the time to sit down with you and talk about all of your symptoms and concerns. Next, we’ll administer thorough, state-of-the-art testing to figure out exactly what is causing your breathing problems. Once we do, we’ll sit back down with you and discuss the pathology and develop an individualized treatment plan for you. We’re not horsing around and before you know it, you’ll be breathing and speaking comfortably again.

 

Call us today at (203) 574-5997 and schedule an appointment at one of our three conveniently-located locations.

For all things ear, nose and throat, visit the Westwood ENT website and blog.