Ear, nose and throat – or ENT – is a term that most people are familiar with and it’s well-known that there are a variety of conditions that can affect these parts of the body. While some are common illnesses that most of us experience in our lifetimes, others are more serious and have the potential to cause serious problems with our daily lives.
Infections are extremely common, affecting most people at least several times in their lifetime, and are one of the leading reasons why a patient might seek the advice of an ear, nose and throat consultant.
There are a variety of infections that can cause ENT conditions, both bacterial – which are treatable with antibiotics – and viral. An infection could affect only the throat, ears or nose, or even just parts of these. Examples of common infections include strep throat, sinusitis and otitis media.
The ears, nose and throat are important parts of the body that assist with breathing, eating, drinking and balance. An injury to one of these can, therefore, be painful and inconvenient and it may be necessary to consult an ENT specialist should trauma occur. In the worst cases, surgery may be required to repair damage caused by an injury; at other times, a minor procedure might be possible.
More common among children, a foreign object that becomes stuck in the ear, nose or throat could cause complications and must always be removed by a medical professional. Many parents will be familiar with a small object being inserted by a young child into an ear or up the nose and becoming lodged; however, adults are not immune from this mishap, although the problem is more likely to be a piece of food that becomes stuck in the throat, affecting swallowing and breathing.
An ENT specialist with the right tools may be able to remove the object safely, so never attempt to solve the problem yourself.
Abnormal growths and lumps
A lump that appears anywhere in the body should always be investigated as a priority, including if it occurs in the neck, face or head. While the chances are that the condition is caused by a disorder of the ear, nose or throat, more serious possibilities, including cancer, should always be ruled out to ensure effective treatment can be given. In the unfortunate situation that cancer is diagnosed, early identification increases the long-term chance of recovery.
It’s important not to allow fear of cancer to delay seeking advice from an ENT consultant; lumps and growths can be caused by conditions such as swollen turbinates in the nose or benign throat nodules – disorders that require specific treatment, even if they are not indicative of a life-limiting illness such as cancer.
Functional ENT conditions
Sometimes, a patient may experience a functional disorder that interferes with the way that their ear, nose or throat works, making eating, sleeping, hearing or breathing more difficult. Some of the symptoms of these conditions may not present as serious and, therefore, may be dismissed with little thought. However, it is important to ask an ENT consultant for advice, as any change in the body should be properly investigated.
The symptoms of functions ENT disorders may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- A loss of taste
- A loss of smell
- Hoarseness when talking
- Hearing loss
- Sudden onset dizziness, sometimes accompanied by nausea
- Tinnitus or other unusual sounds in the ears
- Snoring, where this has not occurred before, or disturbed sleep patterns
- Shallow or ‘tight’ breathing
An ENT consultant will assess the symptoms objectively and arrange for any necessary tests or investigations to take place, to establish their cause. Left unchecked, symptoms could worsen, severely affecting your ability to live a normal life.
Ear, nose and throat specialists have the expertise and knowledge to be able to treat a variety of conditions effectively, so if you are experiencing unusual symptoms, have suffered an injury or become ill, arrange an appointment so that you can be assessed and treated quickly.