Throat & Head Conditions
Adenoids are masses of tissue in the back of the throat that trap harmful germs that might pass through the nose or mouth. Additionally, the adenoids produce antibodies that help fight infections. When infected, they become inflamed and swollen in a condition called adenoiditis, most commonly seen in children. Symptoms include:
- sore throat
- congested nose
- swollen glands in the neck
- ear pain and other ear issues
- snoring, sleep apnea, or difficulty sleeping
Adenoiditis is typically treated with antibiotics, but in cases of severe and chronic infection or breathing problems, surgery called adenoidectomy may be necessary.
Learn more about adenoid removal procedures at Westwood.
Cancer (Head and Neck)
Cancer might arise in several areas of the head and neck, including the nasal cavity and sinuses, lips and mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx. Westwood ENT specializes in head and neck cancer resulting from childhood radiation, but it can also be caused by alcohol and tobacco use, human papillomavirus (HPV), occupational exposure to harmful materials, among other things. Initial symptoms of head and neck cancer depend on the cancer's location.
- In mouth cancer, you may experience white or red patches in the mouth, jaw swelling, or unusual bleeding and pain.
- In larynx cancer, you may experience ear pain or pain when swallowing.
- In nasal or sinus cancer, you may experience blocked sinuses, chronic infections, bleeding, frequent headaches, swelling or other eye problems, and pain in the upper teeth.
- In salivary gland cancer, you may experience swelling under the chin or jawbone, numbness of facial muscles, or consistent pain in the face, neck, or chin.
Facial trauma and scarring often are the result of physical activities or some sort of accident, most commonly car and motorcycle crashes, sports injuries, and wounds from violence. They can affect any area of the head, and while emergency care is sometimes needed, many injuries can actually be treated by an otolaryngologist. You will be able to tell that you have this condition if you are noticing:
- Changes in feeling over the face
- Deformed or uneven face or facial bones
- Difficulty breathing through the nose due to swelling and bleeding
- Double vision
- Missing teeth
- Swelling around the eyes that may cause vision problems
A doctor will perform a physical exam, which could show things you might not be able to see, yourself, like:
- Bleeding internally
- Nasal blockage source
- Degree of lacerations (breaks in the skin)
- Widening of the distance between the eyes, which may mean injury to the bones between the eye sockets
- Changes in the movement of the eyes
The following may suggest bone fractures and require a CT scan of the head and bones of the face:
- Abnormal feelings on the cheek
- Irregularities of the face that can be felt by touching
- Movement of the upper jaw when the head is kept still
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic digestive disease. It occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, the contents of the stomach, flows backwards and gets into your esophagus (food pipe). The backwash, known as reflux, can irritate the lining of your esophagus thus causing the GERD. Signs and symptoms include:
- Heartburn, which can be felt in the chest or sometimes spreads to your throat, accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth
- Pain in the chest
- A difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia)
- A persistent dry cough
- Hoarseness or sore throat
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (or acid reflux)
- The sensation of a lump in your throat
Treatment for heartburn and other symptoms usually begins with over-the-counter medications which work to control acid. If you don't experience relief within a few weeks, come see us, as we may recommend other treatments, including other types of medications or surgery.
Laryngitis occurs when the larynx is inflamed from overuse, irritation or infection, and causes hoarseness in your voice. Laryngitis can be acute (short-lived) or chronic. Most cases of laryngitis are only temporary and not serious, as they are simply triggered by a viral infection or strain on your voice (perhaps from shouting, singing, etc). However, if it continues for an extended period of time, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. So how do you tell the difference?
Acute laryngitis that is caused by a virus usually gets better on its own within a week or so. Self-care measures (like gargling warm salt water, taking throat lozenges, or resting your voice for a while) tend to improve symptoms for this type of condition. On the other hand, if your condition is chronic, your treatment will be aimed at the underlying causes, like heartburn, smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol. Antibiotics or corticosteroids may be used in some of these cases.
Parathyroid Gland Disorder
Located on the thyroid gland in the neck, most people have four pea-sized glands, called parathyroid glands. These glands make parathyroid hormone (PTH), which helps your body keep the balance of calcium and phosphorous in check. If your parathyroid glands make too much or too little of this hormone, it disrupts the balance. If they secrete extra PTH, you have hyperparathyroidism, causing your blood calcium to rise. In many cases, a benign tumor on a parathyroid gland makes it overactive. The other common problem is that there could be extra hormones coming from enlarged parathyroid glands. A cause can be cancer, but it is very rare, so before you get nervous, see one of us.
Learn more about parathyroid disorder treatment at Westwood.
Snoring & Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that could potentially be serious due to the fact that your breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly or you repeatedly feel tired even after getting a full night's sleep each night. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax) and central sleep apnea (when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing). For mild cases, a doctor may simply recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don't improve your symptoms or if your apnea is more severe, of other treatments are available. There are certain devices you can get that can help open up a blocked airway, but in some cases, surgery may be necessary.
Learn more about snoring & sleep apnea treatments at Westwood.
- Apraxia: Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder. This is not due to a weakness in the muscles but rather occurs when the messages from the brain to the mouth are disrupted, rendering the person unable to move his or her lips or tongue to the right place needed to say certain sounds correctly. The severity of apraxia depends on the nature of the damage to the brain. In children, it does not necessarily point to brain damage but just can be a difficulty in coordinating the different parts of their mouth to form the sounds, a big step while they are developing.
- Dysarthria: Dysarthria is another motor speech disorder. It results from impaired movement or weakness of the muscles used in producing speech sounds, including the lips, tongue, vocal folds, and/or diaphragm. The type and severity of dysarthria depends on the area of the nervous system that is affected. It can be heard in slurred and mumbled speech sounds.
- Stuttering: Stuttering affects your speech’s fluency. It can begin during childhood and, in some cases, last throughout life if nothing is done to correct it. This disorder is characterized by disruptions in the production of speech sounds, for instance, some words or parts of words are repeated over and over, making communication difficult.
- Voice: Voice disorders can include hoarseness or lack of vocals being produced all together, caused by situations like having a colds, allergies, bronchitis, being exposed to irritants, or screaming too loud/too often. Explore out site to learn more about specific types of conditions that could be causing a voice to sounds ‘off:’
- Vocal Cord Nodules and Polyps
- Vocal Cord Paralysis
- Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement
- Spasmodic Dysphonia
Swallowing Disorder (Dysphagia)
Swallowing is a lot more of a complex and remarkable act that a healthy human body carries out than many people realize. If you are having difficulty swallowing, it means it is taking more time and effort to move your food or liquid from your mouth into to your stomach. Dysphagia may sometimes be associated with pain, or in some cases, swallowing may be impossible—these are more severe cases. If you have persistent dysphagia it may indicate a serious medical condition, so you should seek consult. Other symptoms could include feeling like food is stuck in your throat, causing you to cough or gag, as well as some drooling, hoarseness, or heartburn.
Learn more about swallowing disorder management at Westwood.
The thyroid gland plays a key role in many of your bodily systems, so having a healthy one is very important. With the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of your metabolic processes—it can effect weight, energy, and more. The most common thyroid problems involve abnormal production of thyroid hormones, as in too little or too much (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Synthetic hormone medications can be given to replace the missing thyroid hormone in hypothyroidism. When it is a case of hyperthyroidism, medications can be used to decrease production of thyroid hormone or prevent it being released from the gland. Surgery can be used to remove a large goiter (lump) or a worrisome growth.
Learn more about thyroid disorder treatment at Westwood.
Tonsil Infection (Tonsillitis)
Tonsillitis is when your tonsils are inflamed. The tonsils are the two oval-shaped sections of tissue at the back of the throat (one on each side). Symptoms of tonsillitis include swollen tonsils, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and tender lymph nodes in that area. Most cases are caused by infection from a common virus, but bacterial infections also can sometimes be a cause of it. If caused by a viral infection, it can usually only be treated using home remedies or over-the-counter drugs. It tends to resolve itself fairly quickly, within about a week. If your tonsillitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will probably be prescribed. Surgery to remove tonsils is not always necessary, although once a very common practice, since there has been a lot of success with medications. Only if your condition doesn't respond to other treatments or causes serious complications do you need to consider this option.
Learn more about tonsil removal procedures at Westwood.
Vocal Cord Disorders
Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords don’t open correctly. It is sometimes confused with asthma because a number of the symptoms are similar (such as wheezing and difficulty breathing). The distinguishing factor lies in what is going on inside your body. With asthma, the airways tighten, making breathing difficult. With VCD, the vocal cord muscles tighten, which also makes breathing difficult, but unlike asthma, VCD is not an allergic response. It can also be confusing because many people with asthma have VCD as well. The treatment for VCD is very different than treatments used to manage asthma despite them having similar signs, so proper diagnosis is essential.