Ear, nose and throat disorders can affect people of all ages, causing discomfort and the ability to hear, breathe and speak properly. Understanding the causes and treatments of these disorders can help you seek timely medical attention and find the relief you need.
Difficulty swallowing is shared among all age groups, especially older adults. Dysphagia is the feeling of trouble passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be due to causes such as poor teeth, ill-fitting dentures or a common cold. One of the most common causes of dysphagia is gastroesophageal reflux, when stomach acid moves up the esophagus to the pharynx, causing inflammation or swelling.
Treatment is tailored to the particular cause of your swallowing disorder. Drugs that reduce stomach acid production may reduce symptoms. Many swallowing disorders may improve with swallowing therapy as well. If a narrowing or stricture exists, the area may need to be stretched or dilated. A swallow study can help determine the cause of difficulty and direct therapy. In addition, your provider may recommend an upper endoscopy, which allows the throat and esophagus to be examined.
Sinusitis is among the most prevalent sinus conditions. This disorder occurs when the sinuses become inflamed and swollen. Sinusitis can cause symptoms such as facial pain, nasal congestion and headaches.
Ear Pain & Infections
Ear pain and infections are collective health issues affecting individuals of all ages, from infants to mature adults. Various factors, including bacteria, viruses and allergies, can cause these conditions.
Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear that occurs due to an infection. It is the most common cause of hearing loss in children and occurs most frequently in winter and early spring. Antibiotics fight the infection and make the earache go away rapidly. A viral infection causes many ear infections, and in this case, antibiotics are of no benefit. This is best decided after an ear examination and discussion with your healthcare provider.
Swimmer's ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. Since the cause of this infection is moisture trapped in the ear canal, swimming, bathing or showering may trigger this bacterial infection. The most common symptoms are pain from tugging on the ear, an itchy ear, a sensation that the ear is full or drainage. Treatment includes careful cleaning and eardrops that inhibit bacterial growth. If the ear canal is too swollen for ear drops to penetrate, an ear wick may be placed for 2-3 days.
Otomycosis is a fungal infection of the ear canal. Patients with suppressed immune systems and diabetes are at particular risk. The symptoms include a blocked ear, itching and sometimes pain. Treatment includes topical drops or cream, careful cleaning of the canal and keeping the ear dry.
Hoarseness is a general term that describes abnormal voice changes; it may sound breathy, raspy, strained or have changes in volume or pitch. The variations are usually due to vocal cords or larynx disorders.
- Acute laryngitis
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Smoking or vaping
- Vocal nodules from voice overuse
A medical provider should evaluate hoarseness lasting longer than one month. Less common causes include benign and cancerous growths of the vocal cords, which are treatable if diagnosed early.
One of the most common throat disorders is tonsillitis. This condition occurs when the tonsils at the back of the throat become infected and inflamed. Tonsillitis can cause symptoms such as sore throat, difficulty swallowing and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment options for tonsillitis include rest, fluids, pain relievers or surgical removal of the tonsils.