10 good reasons why it might be time to seek the expert opinion of a
specialist ENT practitioner
The prioritisation of different aspects of healthcare areas in the UK means that the treatment of common ENT conditions may soon no longer be funded by the NHS. Chronic tonsillitis, nasal obstruction and cosmetic deformities, for example, are just some of the conditions that can be treated successfully, but you may need to find your own specialist doctor. Here are 10 conditions that would benefit from prompt and expert ENT care:
Often a cause of stress in the home, but rarely serious, snoring can be a warning sign of an unhealthy lifestyle. It may be associated with sleep apnoea, in which periods of snoring are interrupted by long gaps in breathing. This can lead to sleepiness during the day, headaches and, if severe, an increased risk of heart and lung disease. Surgery is not the only option as there are some very effective non-invasive treatments available.
2. Hearing loss
The frustration of not quite hearing what was said is common and cannot be underestimated. It may be caused by a simple issue, such as wax blocking the ears, or there could be some damage to the eardrum or the small bones in the middle ear. In a single visit, the wax can be safely removed using a microscope and suction and a hearing test will establish the diagnosis. Surgery may be an option, but age-related deterioration needs early fitting of hearing aids to avoid the hearing part of the brain from shutting down.
Most of us will have experienced ‘ringing’ in the ears after exposure to loud noise, but it is usually temporary, if it persists or if it is in one ear only, it can be a sign of a more serious problem that needs to be investigated with a hearing test and possibly an MRI scan.
A blocked nose or pain in the face may be caused by allergies, polyps or infection. Sometimes, a bend in the septum of the nose can cause blockage and contribute to sinusitis. Video nasendoscopy will provide the answer and the latest endoscopic sinus surgery has revolutionised treatment.
5. Lump in the throat
A feeling of pressure at the base of the throat may be due to a condition called globus pharyngeus, often caused by anxiety. It’s harmless but worrying until a diagnosis is made by video laryngoscopy. Sometimes, reflux (acid flowing back up from the stomach into the oesophagus) causes irritation to the throat or, rarely, throat cancer can cause a feeling of a lump and difficulty swallowing.
6. Thyroid lump
A swelling at the base of the neck may be a thyroid nodule. These are more common in women than men and can often occur during pregnancy or the menopause. A single nodule could be a cyst or there may be multiple benign nodules causing a pressure sensation in the throat. An ultrasound scan can quickly give information about the lump and reassurance as most are harmless. Very occasionally, the lump may be due to thyroid cancer, which will need urgent investigation and treatment.
7. Halitosis and tonsil stones
Chronic tonsillitis can lead to foul-smelling/tasting tonsil stones that may need to be removed with the help of a mirror and toothpick. Surgical treatment can also be very effective in the right patient and should not be dismissed as an option for the treatment of this distressing condition.
8. Children’s hearing
Is your child listening properly? Listening skills develop naturally as children grow up, but are dependent on normal hearing from birth. Fluid in the middle ear (glue ear) is a common cause of hearing loss and may be the result of coughs, cold or enlarged adenoids. Surgery to drain the fluid through the ear drum and insert a ventilation tube, or grommet, restores the hearing. Removal of the adenoids may also help to clear the nose and relieve any associated snoring problems.
9. Is it really vertigo?
Hitchcock style ‘vertigo’ is common, but the spinning sensation of true rotational vertigo can be life changing. Positional vertigo can be cured instantly by a simple procedure (the Epley manoeuvre) carried out at an initial visit. Less commonly, Meniere’s disease causes intermittent attacks of vertigo, but treatment has been revolutionised by middle ear injections of steroids or the antibiotic gentamicin.
10. Husky voice
If that hoarse voice after the party or a cold gets better within two weeks, all is well. However, if it persists, a look at the vocal cords in a simple out-patient procedure using state-of-the-art fibre optics can rule out anything more worrying. Expert speech therapists can be called on to improve vocal function, if required.