Medical Information

Following is a description of several common ear/nose/throat conditions including why they occur and common treatments.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

These two conditions occur while asleep. In breathing, air travels past soft tissues within the throat such as the soft palate, uvula, tonsils and tongue. While awake, muscles around these tissues tighten, holding the soft tissues open. During sleep, these muscles relax. If the soft tissue in your throat is too large, or if the muscles relax excessively, you may suffer from snoring or sleep apnea.

In the case of snoring, your air passage may become partially blocked. As the air travels through a narrow passage, throat tissues can vibrate and rattle producing the snoring noise. Snoring can be very disruptive, leading to a loss of sleep by yourself or your partner.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when the air passage becomes fully blocked. For lack of air, the brain will awaken the body and tighten the muscles around your throat's soft tissue. Aside from disrupting sleep, this condition can lead to more severe health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.

In the treatment of these conditions, improvements can be made through simple lifestyle changes such as sleeping on your side, avoiding alcohol and certain medications, losing weight and exercising regularly.

A variety of surgical procedures can also improve these conditions. One such procedure called Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) involves removal of the uvula, part of the soft palate and the tonsils. Another procedure is called Laser-assisted Uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) wherein a laser is used to remove part or all of the uvula and some of the soft palate. Lastly, Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) involves the usage of radiofrequency energy to reduce the size of the uvula and nearby tissue.

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Sinus Blockage

Blockage of the sinuses can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms including continually runny nose, difficulty sleeping, congestion, fullness in ears, loss of taste, headaches and facial pain.

The sinuses consist of hollow chambers within the bones of the face and head. As a normal function, the sinuses produce mucus which drains into the nose. Problems occur when the drainage path becomes blocked. Such blockage can result in infection.

Sinus Blockage

Multiple conditions can lead to sinus blockage. This can include colds which cause swelling and extra mucus. Allergies also cause blockage in that they irritate sinus tissues causing swelling. Prolonged allergies can lead to Polyps within the sinuses and nose. Polyps are sacs of swollen tissue which can grow large enough to block nasal passages. Lastly, a Deviated Septum (crooked) can block nasal passages. This condition is often the result of an injury.

Sinus problems are often treated with Endoscopy. This is surgery performed with a magnifying tool called an endoscope. The endoscope uses fiberoptic fibers to beam light into the nose and sinuses, giving the surgeon a clear view during the surgery.

Pending the specific sinus problem, Endoscopy includes a variety of procedures. This can include repairing a deviated septum by reshaping or trimming the cartilage and bone dividing the nose. Polyp removal can include a variety of techniques such as the usage of special powered instruments to safely remove polyps without harming surrounding tissue. Opening of the Ethmoid Sinuses is another process wherein the small air sacs that drain into the nasal cavity are opened. Lastly, the removal of the uncinate process may be performed such that mucus can drain.

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Cosmetic Issues

It can be said that there is no such thing as an "ideal nose", however, individuals can be unhappy with the appearance of their nose. In some cases they may feel it is too wide, too long, etc.

Through Rhinoplasty (aesthetic surgery for the nose), varying changes can be made. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including trimming or moving bone and cartilage and the removal of nose tissue. Generally any incisions are made on the inside of the nose such that scars are not seen.

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Post Nasal Drip

It is normal that the nose and throat produce mucus. This mucus serves many purposes including moistening and cleaning nasal membranes, filtering foreign matter and fighting infection. In some cases, it can feel as though the mucus is accumulating in the throat or dripping down the back of the nose. This sensation is called post-nasal drip.

Post Nasal Drip can be caused by excessive or thick mucus secretions. This can relate to a number of circumstances including colds and flu, allergies, cold temperatures, pregnancy, structural abnormalities, bacterial infections and more.

Post Nasal Drip

Another cause of Post Nasal Drip can be swallowing disorders. Swallowing disorders occur when the mouth, throat and food passage are not functioning properly. Overflow secretions can then spill into the larynx and breathing passages. Several factors can contribute to swallowing problems including age, stress, swelling and reflux.

The treatment of post nasal drip begins with a diagnosis and the treatments vary including antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants or other prescriptions. In some circumstances, it can be a matter of changing personal habits such as diet, avoiding caffeine and increased water intake may help.

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Ear Ache

Inflammation of the middle ear (known as otitis media) can cause earaches and loss of hearing. This can be especially damaging to children as it may impair learning and delay speech development. The inflammation can also be dangerous as it can spread to nearby structures within the head, such as the mastoid.

Ear Ache

Otitis media can occur during a cold, allergy or upper respiratory infection. An accumulation of fluid can occur behind the eardrum. The build up of pressurized fluid causes earaches, swelling, redness and difficulty hearing.

Treatment begins with an examination. Pending the nature of the ear ache, treatment may involve antibiotics and/or analgesic ear drops. In some cases, it may be necessary to perform a myringotomy. This entails a small surgical incision in the inner ear to promote drainage. Additionally, a ventilation tube may be placed in the incision, preventing fluid build-up.

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