Ear Neck Throat
Most people are aware that sinus infections and sinus inflammations occur frequently during the springtime and the summer when pollen counts are on the rampage, and seasonal allergies are in full force. However, many people who persistently suffer from allergies can tell you that symptoms don’t always go away when the first freeze of the season hits, and pollen count theoretically takes a nosedive.
It can still happen that even during wintertime, sinus symptoms such as congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, runny noses, sinus pressure, and troublesome headaches occur with practically the same regularity as they might during spring or summer.
There are a number of reasons why this can happen, even in the absence of one of the biggest contributors to allergy symptoms, which is pollen from various plants. Here are some of the reasons why allergy sufferers may be just as miserable during the wintertime.
Mold and Various Kinds of Fragrance
Although they are seemingly innocent sources, holiday decorations such as plants, wreaths, and even Christmas trees and ornaments can trigger allergies, and all the associated symptoms, because of the dust which settles on them, and the mold which may be growing on them.
When decorations are stored for an entire year in the basement or somewhere else, it’s very easy for dust to accumulate on them, or for mold to begin growing on them. To prevent this, decorations should be stored in airtight containers, so that when they’re reopened at holiday time, you aren’t introducing fresh allergens into the household.
When you bring a Christmas tree into the household, make sure that it has been thoroughly shaken down, so it doesn’t have dried leaves or other material in the branches because these might contain mold.
Also, since windows and doors are generally tightly shut during the wintertime, it can intensify the fragrances from decorations and specially scented candles, which can act as irritants for your sinuses. It’s probably best to avoid using scented candles like this during the wintertime when doors and windows keep all those irritants inside.
Cold and Influenza
Extra mucus is generally produced when you have a cold or influenza, and it can also cause swelling inside the nasal passages. All this contributes to unusually difficult drainage, which promotes the buildup of mucus. When that happens, bacteria development is sure to follow, and a sinus infection may not be far behind.
The best way to avoid getting colds or flu is to conscientiously observe good hygiene throughout the entire wintertime, especially as it relates to washing your hands. You should also make a point of getting plenty of rest to help out your immune system, and when it’s available, you should always get a flu shot to protect yourself against the particular strain which is most prevalent this year.
Excessively dry Air
There is always considerably less humidity in the air during wintertime, than there is during summer, and as a result, the air in homes and in offices also becomes much drier. When the breathable air inside a building is that dry, it will have the effect of irritating nasal linings and the lining of the throat, which in turn will also trigger irritation in the sinuses.
To avoid the predominately dry air of wintertime, remember to use a humidifier to increase the moisture level in breathing air throughout the home. A good rule of thumb is to set your humidifier for about 50% humidity, so that dryness doesn’t bother your sinuses and trigger symptoms which are going to make you miserable through the holidays.
Pet Dander, Allergens, and Dust
It happens quite frequently that pet dander, dust, and other allergens become trapped indoors during the winter time, due to the fact that doors and windows are routinely kept tightly shut to keep the cold out. While it can be a bit of an undertaking to ensure that all these allergens are removed or suppressed, it will be worth it, in terms of your ability to enjoy the holiday season.
In the case of pet dander, you should make a point of bathing your cat or dog at least weekly, because allergens will naturally be attracted to fur, and they’ll stay there until removed. If you allow your pet to go outdoors regularly, you may want to perform the bathing routine even more frequently, because every time your pet goes outside, it will be a magnet for whatever’s floating through the air.
To eliminate, or at least reduce allergens elsewhere in the home, you can take such steps as vacuuming the carpets thoroughly, especially using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, that can pick up even the smallest allergens. You should also vacuum furniture and draperies to remove allergens which may have built up on those surfaces.
It’s a good idea to dust all around the home every few days, but when you do this, it should be with a damp cloth that retains the allergens, rather than using a feather duster which will simply relocate any allergies present.
Lastly, by changing your own clothes whenever you’ve come inside from the outdoors, you can be relatively sure you aren’t tracking in a number of allergens, which will be lying in wait to torment you during the wintertime.
Every time the fall season rolls around, millions of Americans are affected by fall allergens, which can cause a number of very uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these include itchy, watery eyes, persistent sneezing, feelings of fatigue and or nausea, and sometimes even headaches.
Most of these symptoms will last in varying degrees until the first frost of the season arrives, to put an end to pollen which gets circulated throughout the air and into homes. The most common kinds of fall allergens are discussed below, along with some recommendations on how you can avoid being affected by them.
Dealing with Ragweed
Ragweed is a plant which begins blooming in August, but which doesn’t really produce allergic symptoms until mid-September, and on into the next month. Once the first freeze arrives, the ragweed plant will be killed, and no further discomfort will be caused to allergy sufferers.
However, until that first freeze arrives, all of the symptoms mentioned above can be experienced in full force, making life miserable for an allergy sufferer. Something like three-quarters of all people who experience springtime allergies will also be affected by the pollen from ragweed, according to statistics maintained by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The best way to deal with ragweed is to maintain awareness of the local pollen count, which is usually broadcast by local television stations during the segment dealing with the weather. To the greatest degree possible, you should try staying indoors, especially during those hours which are the peak time of activity for pollen circulation. These times are considered to be all those hours from mid-morning up to about mid-afternoon.
You should also keep your windows and doors closed in the house, as well as when you’re traveling in a car or other vehicle. Vacuuming rugs and upholstery is a good idea because any pollen which has penetrated the interior would likely settle on these. Washing your linens, clothes, and draperies will help to remove any pollen which has settled on them, and you should make a point of changing your clothes whenever you come in from the outdoors.
Pollens attach themselves to all kinds of clothing very well, and that means you could be the agent of your own discomfort by bringing them into the household. If you have pets in the home, they should be bathed at least weekly, especially if they go outdoors at all, because there fur is natural for collecting pollen.
Dealing with Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew tend to develop and proliferate in areas which are subject to damp conditions, and these can include bathrooms, kitchens, and especially basements. Basements are somewhat likelier environments for mold and mildew to grow in, simply because they may not receive the same level of attention that bathrooms and kitchens do, in terms of cleaning and keeping them dry.
Unlike things like ragweed, mold and mildew are not killed off when the first frost arrives, because obviously, they are not plants. However, the good news is that both these contaminants do tend to go into dormant stages during wintertime. You should not rely on the fact that they are more dormant in the wintertime though, because they will spring back to life when the weather warms up, and that means you’ll be bothered by them all over again. It’s much better to root out mold and mildew wherever it exists in your living environment so that it doesn’t come back to plague you in the next warm season.
You can start by removing leaves from the gutters around your house, and by raking up all the leaves which have fallen from trees. These should not be left in piles around the home but should be disposed of by some means, so that mold and mildew don’t develop on them.
In the house itself, use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air, which will inhibit the growth of mold or mildew. This is especially true of the basement environment, again because it generally receives less attention than the upper rooms of the household. Ideally, the humidity level in household rooms should be maintained at between 35 and 50%.
Make a point of cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms regularly, using anti-mildew cleaning agents that will prevent any kind of build-up in those rooms.
Dealing with Dust Mites
The bad thing about dust mites is that they are not limited to the fall season, and they can bother allergy sufferers all year round. They thrive in temperatures which are somewhere in the range of 64°F to about 76°F. When the temperature dips below the 60’s or rises above the 70’s, dust mites will usually die off, and the same is true when the relative humidity falls below 70%.
This being the case, one of the most effective things you can do to rid your household of dust mites, is to ensure that the humidity level in the home is well below 70%. Although the temperature of the interior of your household will not be any deterrent to dust mites, the humidity level will be, if you can maintain it well below 70%. Using a dehumidifier, and setting it between 35 and 50% will do the trick, and it will ensure that you’re not bothered by dust mites in the home.
Dealing with Dander and Fur
Almost half of all people who have seasonal allergies also have to deal with pet allergies, which are triggered by your immune system reacting to contact with saliva, for, dander, or urine from your pets. The most effective way of dealing with dander and fur allergies is to simply avoid contact with furry animals.
If this is not feasible for you, you should at least make a point of washing and grooming your pets regularly, and then confining them to specific rooms within the household. Don’t allow your pets on furniture where allergens can be transferred to you when you use that furniture. In the case of cats, make sure to keep litter boxes away from air vents, which will circulate allergens all throughout the home.
Saliva is the fluid which keeps your mouth moist, shields your teeth from harmful substances, acts as an aid to digestion, and aids with the swallowing process. The glands which produce saliva are known as the salivary glands, and the fluid which is produced in them is carried into the mouth via small tubes which are known as ducts.
If anything happens to the ducts or the salivary glands, it can create a significant amount of discomfort for a person, and can also lead to infection. If you should experience symptoms which are warning signs of some kind of problem with salivary glands or the ducts, you should recognize these for what they are, and seek medical assistance from your family doctor.
Your salivary glands can produce up to a quart of saliva every single day, because there are three pairs of these glands, all engaged in the production of saliva – the sublingual glands which are positioned under the tongue, the parotid glands on the insides of your cheeks, and the submandibular glands on the bottom of your mouth.
In addition to these three major pairings, there are actually hundreds of minor salivary glands which are situated throughout the throat and the mouth. Problems with either the salivary glands or the ducts are generally recognizable as dry mouth, fever, pain, glandular swelling, and sometimes an unpleasant drainage which accumulates in the mouth.
Causes of Problems with Salivary Glands
There are a number of possible causes of salivary gland problems, some of which are situated in the glands themselves, and some of them constituting blockage of the ducts so that saliva drainage is disrupted. One of most common causes of swollen glands is salivary stones, which are crystallized saliva deposits that manage to accumulate in the glands.
These can often prevent the flow of saliva, and when that happens, saliva backs up into the gland, forcing the gland to swell, and causing discomfort. Pain is usually sensed in one gland or the other and is intermittent in nature, but it will get progressively worse until the blockage is cleared, and if it is not cleared promptly, the salivary gland can then become infected.
When ducts into the mouth become blocked, a bacterial infection of the parotid gland is often the result, a painful lump is created, and nasty smelling pus will begin draining into the mouth. This condition is far more common in older adults, but it sometimes also happens in babies soon after birth.
Whenever swollen salivary glands go untreated, they will very likely cause high fever, severe pain, and a collection of pus known as an abscess. Infections of a viral nature such as flu or the mumps can also cause salivary gland willing. When swelling of this type occurs in the parotid glands on both sides of your face, it can give the appearance of full cheeks like those of a chipmunk. This kind of salivary gland swelling is quite often associated with mumps since it occurs in as many as 40% of all mumps infections.
Other types of viral illnesses which may trigger swelling of the salivary glands are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Coxsackie Virus. When these kinds of viruses occur, they are generally single-sided gland swelling and are usually accompanied by pain and fever. The risk of developing these kinds of bacterial infections rises when a person is dehydrated or is suffering from malnutrition.
Cysts can also develop in the salivary glands when salivary stones block the flow of saliva, or when blockage results from infections, injuries, or tumors. In some cases, babies are born with cysts in the parotid gland because of a developmental problem with the ears. Anyone who develops cysts in the salivary glands will probably have difficulty speaking and with eating.
There are a few different kinds of tumors which can affect the salivary glands, and these can be either malignant or benign. The two most common kinds of tumors affecting salivary glands are Warthin’s Tumor and pleomorphic adenomas. Pleomorphic adenomas generally impact the parotid glands, but can also have an impact on the submandibular gland, or the hundreds of relatively minor salivary glands. These kinds of tumors are usually slow-growing, and relatively free of pain. They are non-cancerous tumors and occur far more often in women than in men.
Treatment for Salivary Gland Problems
Treatment for blockages of the ducts and for saliva stones generally starts with warm compresses and sour candies, since these are helpful in triggering an increase of saliva flow. Stones must generally be removed, and if simpler measures don’t achieve the desired results, surgery is generally indicated.
When surgery is necessary to remove tumors, they are often radiated in order to prevent them from returning at a later date. Cancerous tumors often require stronger radiation, as well as chemotherapy.
Large cysts are generally treated with surgery since these cannot generally be handled with medication. However, some other types of salivary gland problems do respond to medication, for instance, bacterial infections, and these can effectively be treated with antibiotics. Other problems such as dry mouth can also be treated with medications.
There are in excess of 20 million Americans who suffer in some way from disorders related to the thyroid gland, and those numbers make it a more common affliction than either heart disease or diabetes. Unfortunately, a majority of thyroid disorders actually go undiagnosed and are misconstrued as some other physical ailment which doesn’t require medical attention. This discussion should help you identify when you are truly having an issue with your thyroid gland, as opposed to some other bodily ailment which is causing the symptoms you’re experiencing.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is butterfly-shaped and is situated near the base of your neck. Its function is to release hormones which manipulate metabolism, i.e. the way your body consumes energy. These hormones issued by the thyroid regulate all kinds of important bodily functions, including the following and much more:
- menstrual cycles
- body temperature
- heart rate
- cholesterol levels
- body temperature
- muscle strength
- central nervous system
- peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid is an unobtrusive-looking gland only about 2 inches in length, and it lies forward of your throat, just below the Adam’s apple. It has two sides which are referred to as lobes (these are the objects that look like butterfly wings), and they are connected by a strip of thyroid tissue, medically referred to as the isthmus. Most people have this connecting isthmus, but it does happen that in some people the isthmus is missing, and the two lobes of the thyroid remain separate.
How the Thyroid Works
The thyroid gland is one component of the overall endocrine system, and that system is comprised chiefly of glands which produce and release hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones are ultimately carried into the cells of the body. To carry out its function, the thyroid uses iodine from the foods which you eat, primarily so they can manufacture two important hormones known in short as T3 and T4.
It’s very important that these two hormones stay in balance and do not reach levels which are too high or low. If either of the two hormones is in short supply in your bloodstream, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to produce more hormones, and when the levels of T3 and T4 are too high, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to reduce production.
Signs That you may have a Thyroid Problem
Here are the most common signals which might tell you that you have some kind of thyroid issue that requires attention:
- sudden weight gain – obviously weight gain can be attributable to many other factors, but when you have a sudden increase in weight without any corresponding increase in food intake, that’s a potential thyroid issue
- constipation – when you have constipation that persists despite your best efforts to restore natural flow, it could be due to a disruption in thyroid hormone production
- high blood pressure – when no medications that you take have an impact on your high blood pressure, particularly if you are eating healthy and exercising, that could possibly be a thyroid issue. Sometimes an underactive thyroid triggers higher levels of bad cholesterol, which can impact blood pressure and other things
- persistent muscle pain – when you feel unexplained random numbness in your extremities, or tightening in those same areas, your thyroid gland may be responsible. The thyroid hormone can damage nerves which send signals over the rest of your body, which you feel as tingling or numbness
- depression – your mood can be completely altered by an overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid. This can cause you to feel sluggish, tired, depressed, anxious, or restless
- excessive sleeping – if your thyroid gland is functioning in a very sluggish manner, that can trigger a great many body functions to adopt that same sluggishness
- hair loss and dry skin – hypothyroidism produces symptoms such as itchiness and skin dryness which simply won’t go away. The slowed metabolism you experience can also reduce sweating. When you have inadequate thyroid hormone production, it can disrupt the growth cycle of your hair, and trigger hair loss all over the body
- increased appetite – you may notice that things taste differently when you have an underactive thyroid, and if you have an overactive thyroid, it could be that you just can’t stop eating and you’re never satisfied
- throat discomfort or neck discomfort – thyroid disorders can cause changes in your voice, and possibly even lumps in your throat. This can sometimes be observed simply by looking in the mirror for swelling in the area of the Adam’s apple
- sensation of being hot or cold – because body temperature is one of the systems regulated by the thyroid gland, when there’s any kind of disorder in effect, it can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to regulate body temperature, which makes you feel hotter or colder than normal.
As you can see from the above, many of the warning signs for thyroid gland disorders could very easily be attributed to other malfunctioning systems in the body. In order to diagnose such disorders correctly as being attributable to thyroid problems, it will require evaluation by a skilled doctor who is familiar with the effects of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
The medical condition known as Ménière’s disease is characterized by severe dizziness or vertigo, a ringing which is sensed in the ears (tinnitus), and a sensation of fullness in the ear. Most commonly, this disorder affects only a single ear at a time. It can develop at any age but is far more likely to occur in adults aged between 40 and 60.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that somewhere around 615,000 persons in the U.S. currently are afflicted by this disorder and that each year there are approximately 46,000 new cases which develop.
Some people experience Ménière’s disease as attacks of dizziness, which either occur suddenly or following a brief period of muffled hearing. Sometimes these attacks are experienced one after another, for days at a time, and in other cases, people experience standalone attacks of dizziness, followed by episode-free periods. In some cases, attacks of Ménière’s disease can cause such extreme vertigo that the person afflicted will completely lose their balance and fall spontaneously.
What Exactly is Ménière’s Disease?
The symptoms attributable to Ménière’s disease are generally caused by an accumulation of fluid in those sections of the inner ear which comprise a structure known as the labyrinth. This labyrinth is home to the organs responsible for balance, which are the semicircular canals and the otolithic organs. The labyrinth also contains the organs responsible for hearing, known as the cochlea.
Compositionally, the labyrinth has two distinct sections, referred to as the membranous labyrinth and the bony labyrinth. The membranous portion has a fluid called endolymph, which stimulates certain receptors coincident with body movement. Those receptors then transmit signals to the brain, relative to the movement and position of the body.
In the cochlea, whenever sound vibrations are sensed, fluid compression occurs, and that triggers sensory cells to send data signals to the brain. When a person is troubled by Ménière’s disease, the endolymph accumulation in the labyrinth disrupts normal balance, as well as the signals which are transmitted between the inner ear and the brain. As a result, the affected person experiences vertigo and some of the other symptoms caused by Ménière’s disease.
Causes of Ménière’s Disease
Scientists and doctors are unsure of what the triggers are for this disorder, so there are various speculative answers which professionals ascribe to. Some believe that it is caused by blood vessel constriction similar to that which occurs during migraine headaches. Others believe that the causes of the disease are more attributable to autoimmune reactions, allergies, and viral infections. It has been noted that Ménière’s disease seems to recur in specific families, leading other scientists to believe that genetic variations may be the primary cause of the affliction.
Diagnosing Ménière’s Disease
The primary method for diagnosing Ménière’s disease is by observation of the symptoms generally associated with the disorder. Medically, these are considered to be the presence of tinnitus, a temporary hearing loss, the sensation of fullness in the ear, and at least two episodes of vertigo which persist for a period of 20 minutes or more.
A special doctor known as an otolaryngologist will generally be charged with diagnosing the condition, and since this kind of doctor is a specialist with ear, nose, and throat, he/she is best equipped to make the diagnosis. At the time of examination, a patient may be administered a hearing test to determine the extent of any hearing damage. It’s also possible that a doctor would request MRIs or CTs, to scan the entire brain.
Treatment for Ménière’s Disease
While there is no known cure for Ménière’s disease, your family doctor will probably recommend a combination of treatments which will at least help you manage the symptoms associated with the disorder. Those recommendations will generally include some of the following:
- cognitive therapy – this is a kind of talk therapy which encourages people to share their interpretation of life experiences and how they react to them. Some people benefit significantly by discussing their unexpected attacks and anxieties
- dietary changes – it appears that chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol may exacerbate symptoms experienced by someone suffering from the disorder, and by reducing intake of these, sometimes symptoms will subside
- medication – since one of the primary symptoms of the disorder is dizziness, there are some medications which can be used to manage that dizziness and shorten the duration of the attack
- lower salt intake – it can be helpful in some cases to ingest less salt and to use diuretics so that the body does not retain excess fluid, which can be a contributing factor in the ear
- surgery – when there are no other alternatives, surgery is sometimes carried out on the endolymphatic sac, so as to decompress it
- alternative medicine – scientists have not been able to determine the effectiveness of alternative types of approaches, but there are healers who insist that acupuncture or herbal supplements can have a positive impact on this disease
- injections – sometimes an injection of antibiotics into the middle ear helps to control vertigo experienced by a sufferer, but this is not commonly recommended, because it can promote hearing loss.
Single-sided deafness, or SSD, is a condition in which a person has good hearing in one ear, and non-functional hearing in the other ear. By ‘non-functional hearing’, it is meant that even with the help of some system of sound amplification, the bad ear cannot be made functional again. The most common reason for this is that a person with SSD has sustained damage to the inner ear, so amplification has no effect whatsoever on hearing ability in that ear.
Problems Presented by SSD
One of the most serious issues presented by single-sided deafness is the loss of spatial hearing. Spatial hearing allows a person to identify sounds both distant and nearby, in addition to all those that occur within 360° of the head area. Because our two-tiered auditory system is oriented to evaluate very specific information that can localize and pinpoint sounds, there is a big loss sustained when one ear is completely subtracted from that model.
It creates some difficulties for the brain, in terms of evaluating the information it receives and trying to assess what kind of information is missing. When the non-functional ear is in the acoustic shadow of the functional ear on the other side of the head, there can be significant difficulty with interpreting speech and other sounds, versus normal background noises.
This is especially true when speech or other distinctive sounds reach the non-functional ear first, and are not really ‘heard’ until the sound signal travels around to the other side of the head, to be received by the good ear. The net effects of this kind of sound reception are: a serious degradation in listening quality, difficulty with the interpretation of sounds and speech, and in a broader context, lowering of a person’s quality of life.
Another of the difficulties with single-sided deafness, alluded to above, is the condition known as ‘head shadow’ effect. What is meant by head shadow effect is a situation where sounds originating on the side of the head where the non-functioning ear is, are actually obstructed by the head itself in traveling to the other side of the head where the good ear is.
The main problem with this is that some kinds of sounds become very difficult to hear with the good ear. Low-frequency sounds are mostly unaffected in this scenario, because they have a long wavelength and they can move around the head more readily to the good ear. High-frequency sounds on the other hand, are characterized by much shorter wavelengths, and many of these are typically reflected by the head, and become altered before they reach the good ear.
Since consonant sounds occur largely in the high-frequency wavelengths, this can have a big impact on communication, because it is much more difficult to differentiate those sounds from background noises. Therefore, the biggest impact of this head shadow effect is on communication, and it causes a person with SSD to miss a great deal of what may have been said by someone, even if they’re standing close by.
Causes of SSD
One of the more common causes of single-sided deafness occurs is when surgery is necessary to remove a tumor growing in the ear. This kind of surgical removal sometimes causes such damage to the auditory nerve that a patient loses most or all hearing in that ear. If such tumors are not removed, they will continue to grow slowly, and will eventually cause damage to the ear anyway, including possible loss of hearing. However, surgical treatment can end up being just as harmful, if the auditory nerve becomes damaged.
A secondary cause of SSD is known as sudden idiopathic hearing loss, which is generally attributable to some kind of viral infection. In this scenario, a virus infects the cochlea, which eventually leads to swelling and permanent damage to the delicate structure of the cochlea. It happens fairly frequently that the ear cannot recover from this kind of damage, and the person is left with no hearing in that ear.
A third cause for SSD stems from some kind of blunt trauma to the head. In such cases, there can be a transverse fracture of the critical temporal bone, which has the effect of rendering the cochlea non-functional from that point forward. It is also possible for people to be born with hearing loss in one ear, while having perfectly good hearing in the other ear.
Solutions for SSD
One of the most effective solutions for SSD is known as a Contralateral Routing of Signal (CROS) configuration, in which a microphone is placed in the non-functioning ear, and transmits received sound signals over to a receptor in the good ear. The first of these configurations relied on a tiny wiring system for the transmission of sound between ears, but this has now been improved and refined with a wireless system that makes the whole arrangement less bulky and more effective.
There are now also two additional high-tech solutions which build upon the idea that sound received on the non-functioning side is somehow transported to the good side so that relatively normal hearing is possible. These two processes are known as bone conduction solutions and bone anchored solutions.
In the first, sound is actually transmitted through the bone of the skull to the other side of the head, and in the second, sound is transmitted by a subcutaneous implant which transmits sound through the skin to the good ear. As you might expect, these solutions can be relatively costly, but they can also be a very effective means of restoring normal hearing to someone who has completely lost hearing in one ear.
With a name that confuses many, cholesteatoma is a delicate and troublesome problem within the ear. Describing an abnormal skin growth behind the eardrum, the middle ear, cholesteatoma is normally caused by multiple infections. However, there are other causes to note including a dysfunction in the eustachian tube.
What is the Eustachian Tube?
Running to the middle of the ear from the back of the nose, this tube is essential for our hearing. Since it allows air to reach the ear, ear pressure is equalized efficiently and our hearing works as expected. Sadly, an issue can occur with a simple cold along with allergies, sinus infections, and chronic ear infections.
With a failure in the eustachian tube, the middle ear can experience a partial vacuum and, in turn, the eardrum, or certain sections of the eardrum, is pulled out of position. As you can see, each step of the process causes another problem and it ends with a growth or cyst in the middle ear.
When left untreated, willingly or unknowingly, the size of the cholesteatoma can change while causing severe damage to the delicate bones located in the middle ear. If left for too long, hearing loss is experienced and surgery becomes one of just a few select options. Fortunately, there aren’t any serious side effects when the issue is treated which means that permanent hearing loss and muscle paralysis in the face are both unlikely. This being said, there has been cases of all three when the cholesteatoma is allowed to keep growing.
Causes of Cholesteatoma
As we’ve seen, the main causes are problems with the eustachian tube and chronic infections but there are also small numbers of people who are born with a cholesteatoma. Ultimately, this is seen as a birth defect and should be picked up on soon after birth. If children experience numerous ear infections, cholesteatoma can also become a problem at a young age.
Symptoms of Cholesteatoma
With any health issue such as this, the key information comes in knowing the symptoms so it can be recognized early. With cholesteatoma, many are actually drawn to a foul odor before anything else and this is where the ear drains fluids. After this, you might feel building pressure or a sense of fullness in the ear where the sac enlarges over time.
As with ear infections themselves, cholesteatoma will cause discomfort whether it comes through an ache in the ear, a difficulty to fall asleep at night, or a slight loss of hearing. Finally, there may be muscle weakness on the side of the cyst in addition to dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, we advise you to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Even if it turns out to be a simple ear infection, this will still need treatment.
As you visit your doctor, they’ll examine the inside of the ear because the signs of a cyst can often be seen early whether it’s a congregation of blood vessels or excess skin cells. If they don’t find anything but are still a little worried, they may ask for you to attend a CT scan which will show the cyst or whatever it may be causing your discomfort.
As with any other cyst, a cholesteatoma is something that needs surgery for removal. Unfortunately, cysts don’t just go away on their own; in fact, they do the opposite and grow. While you’re waiting for surgery, your doctor might suggest ear drops, antibiotics, careful cleaning, and other forms of light therapy.
During surgery, most cases are completed under a general anesthesia with the main aim of removing the cyst. If the cyst is removed, this is great news but it might not be the end of the problem depending on how serious the issue was and the state of your ear now. Typically, a second surgery will be planned at the very least to check the cyst has gone. However, you may also require a reconstruction of the damaged bones in the middle ear; this will improve your hearing and reverse other symptoms experienced. Of course, this will be judged on a case-by-case basis as not all patients would benefit from reconstruction if the damage is too severe.
In terms of the logistics, you’ll be an outpatient and a certain percentage will stay in the facility overnight as a precaution. If the cholesteatoma was extremely damaging, you might be required to stay in hospital for a few days with a course of antibiotics. On the whole, you can expect to need one or two weeks away from work. In the months ahead, check-ups and evaluations will ensure the problem has gone for good.
Although we can’t provide any prevention tips for congenital cholesteatomas, we do advise visiting the doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms we’ve listed. Whether it’s yourself or your child, quick action is the best way to remove the problem and ensure the middle ear bones aren’t damaged. Despite cholesteatoma being a serious ear condition, it is treatable with the right steps.
As the known term for a blister-like ulcer within the mouth, herpangina occurs typically in childhood. Unfortunately, being an infection, herpangina can cause other health issues – we’re here to discuss what you need to know.
What is Herpangina?
In the past, the infection has been compared to hand-foot-mouth disease since they’re both viral infections found mostly in children. As a group of viruses known to affect the gastrointestinal tract, enteroviruses are to blame for herpangina. The immune system will typically jump into action as soon as it detects an enterovirus. Since young children and infants aren’t always equipped with the right antibodies, they’re more susceptible to these viruses.
When it comes to herpangina, the main issue is its contagiousness. After spotting or hearing of an ulcer in the roof of the mouth or back of the throat, you should look to treat the symptoms and have the infection cleared as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can spread around a nursery or classroom.
Although herpangina can affect anyone of any age, those around the age of 5 to 10 years experience it most frequently. Since it’s highly-contagious, breeding grounds can form in classrooms, camps, and other locations where children regularly congregate. In the U.S., researchers have found the problem to be most common in fall and summer.
Symptoms of Herpangina
Both for yourself and your children, some health conditions can be hard to diagnose since the symptoms are very similar to other health issues. Luckily, the signs of herpangina can be spotted and tested more easily. For example, the primary symptoms one might experience include swollen lymph glands, sudden onset of fever, neck pain, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, loss of appetite, and a headache.
For smaller children, there may be an issue with verbal communication of symptoms, but indicators include excessive drooling or vomiting. Of course, ulcers may also be visible on the roof of the mouth or towards the back of the throat. In appearance, specialists suggest a gray color with a red border for ulcers; in the majority of cases, they clear within a week.
Should I Contact a Doctor?
For many, especially with worried parents, this is the key question because you want to help your child feel better but you don’t want to exaggerate what may be a small issue. Therefore, we advise contacting the doctor if a fever measures above 106 degrees (or stays for longer than usual), if there are signs of dehydration, and if mouth sores remain for longer than five days.
After paying a visit to your doctor, they can typically diagnose the issue with ease since the ulcers are unique in their appearance. With a simple physical examination of yourself or your child, they can see the problem while also assessing all symptoms and your medical history. With herpangina, specialized diagnostic tests aren’t required.
Regarding treatment, the goal is to reduce the symptoms while also keeping them under control in the days ahead. Depending on your age and a number of other factors – including your medical history and symptoms – doctor’s can recommend different types of treatment. A course of antibiotics won’t be especially useful since herpangina is a viral infection.
With this in mind, the first suggestion would be acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It’s crucial that the patient doesn’t take aspirin since herpangina has been linked to the potentially life-threatening Reyes disease that is associated with a severe aspirin allergy.
Elsewhere, topical anesthetics could be used to relieve any mouth pain (and sore throat), including lidocaine. Regardless of the treatment, the doctor will suggest an increased intake of liquids with a focus on water and milk; hot drinks and citrus-based beverages will worsen the symptoms. Strangely enough, many sufferers have found popsicles to ease throat issues so this could also be advised.
Finally, you might be wondering whether you can avoid this disease altogether. First and foremost, you can take preventative measure by practicing good hygiene habits. For example, all the necessary rules apply such as covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, washing hands after using the toilet, and washing hands before meals. If you teach your children the basic hygiene rules, you’ll decrease the likelihood of them suffering from herpangina too.
If your child currently has herpangina, remember these rules when helping them to recover. Throughout the day, wash your hands and pay particular attention before and after changing diapers or dealing with mucus. Furthermore, try to keep areas of high activity clean for your child including toys, surfaces, and their beds. To avoid becoming the enemy of all other parents, we also advise keeping your child from school or day-care while recovering too. If you follow these tips, you or your child will be back to full health in no time!
If you’ve never heard of the term ‘hyperacusis,’ it refers to a condition in which a person’s normal tolerance to sounds in their everyday environment is severely diminished. With hyperacusis, the sound of a car braking at a traffic light can sound like a horrible screech, and a group of people applauding a speaker can sound like a huge thunderclap in a storm. In short, it’s as though someone was toying with the volume control of Life, and left it stuck on the highest setting – just about everything sounds extremely loud.
On the flip side, someone who has hyperacusis usually has lost most of the dynamic range generally associated with hearing, which means there isn’t much difference in the loudness of various sounds. For example, an actual explosion might sound very much like a book dropping off the edge of a table.
Most hyperacusis patients have a sensation of inner ear pain or a feeling of pressure in the ears which is similar to what you might feel when making a rapid descent in a commercial jetliner. On an airplane, this feeling can be easily overcome by yawning or chewing gum, but a hyperacusis patient feels this ear pressure all the time. This constant discomfort can have an enormous impact on a person’s life, affecting their job as well as their home life and relationships.
For someone with hyperacusis, operating a lawn mower, listening to the radio in the car, or running a vacuum cleaner at home may not be possible. This condition has less to do with volume, and more to do with particular sound frequencies, which can make attempts to muffle out noise entirely futile as well.
What can be done to help people who have hyperacusis?
Noise Has Color
The pink spectrum of noise is the one which most closely matches the broad range of sounds which we hear in our normal environment. That’s why treatment for patients with hyperacusis generally involves building up a tolerance to pink noise, rather than white noise, which includes higher frequencies. The higher frequencies are the ones most troubling for hyperacusis patients, so trying to build a tolerance to white noise is not nearly as effective an approach.
The goal of any program of sound therapy is to slowly and incrementally build up a tolerance to noise, but this can be a very frustrating and difficult experience for someone with hyperacusis. Many patients find that they just don’t have the patience to undergo this kind of slow therapy, and search for something that will produce faster, less uncomfortable results. If nothing helps, a patient may have few options other than to wear earplugs a majority of the time during waking hours.
How Sound Therapy Works
The whole idea of sound therapy is to get a person re-familiarized and tolerant of the noises which populate our day-to-day world. Sounds are delivered to the ears by one of the several methods, like listening to CDs with recorded everyday sounds. But this can be an inconvenient kind of session for the hyperacusis patient because therapy sessions should last at least two hours per day, and if you’re stuck with one CD for that long, it can get to be uncomfortable and restrictive.
An alternative method of sound delivery calls for custom-fitted sound generators made for your head and ears and having pre-recorded pink noise sounds played for the duration of your therapy sessions. With a sound generator, you’d be free to walk around and do other things, but it can be quite expensive. Whereas a pink noise CD costs less than $100, a sound generator delivering the same pink noise sounds might cost several thousand dollars.
Counseling: A Critical Part of Hyperacusis Therapy
Whichever kind of sound delivery system you choose, there is another essential part of sound therapy: counseling. Having a trained counselor or advisor can make all the difference sometimes, which can ease the difficulties and frustrations that come with sound therapy.
To begin, any sound therapy program requires a high degree of self-motivation from the participant, since no amount of cajoling will persuade a patient to undergo the uncomfortable sessions required. There will be days when the patient wants to shorten or skip the course, or even quit the process altogether. Those are times when a skillful counselor can serve as a cheerleader, and convince the patient to keep eyes on the prize and continue to forge ahead.
It is quite normal for hyperacusis patients to feel that the therapy is hurting them instead of helping since pink noise can be torturous to their hyper-sensitive ears. At times, it takes some skilled counseling to assure a patient that the process is doing them some good, and not harming their ears at all.
It is often a long and uncomfortable process getting re-acquainted with the sounds of our everyday world, but for the patient who sticks with it, it is possible to lessen and maybe even cure the adverse effects of hyperacusis.
As technology has evolved over the years, many different industries have benefited. As prime examples, science and medicine have perhaps been at the forefront of the transition into the digital world. Not only have we seen more technology used in hospitals and saving lives, but there has also been a lot of work behind-the-scenes in laboratories. With this in mind, it has opened up a brand-new world allowing us to learn how to prevent illnesses, how to treat diseases, and how medical conditions can affect one another. Today, we’re focusing on the latter and the relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Often spotted and diagnosed during childhood, ADHD causes hyperactivity and certain disruptive behaviors in the patient which can have a direct impact on academic performance, work, and other areas of life. Due to uncontrollable impulses and urges, ADHD patients find it hard to stay in control, and this leads to a loss of concentration and focus. Every year, millions of children are affected, and some cases will continue into adulthood. Interestingly, the issue affects boys significantly more than girls; as both age though, it seems to level out, and the rates in adults are relatively equal.
Despite the many advancements in technology, the causes of ADHD outside of neuro-chemical imbalances, are largely unknown even today. According to experts, the most likely cause is a combination of environmental factors and genetics. In addition to this, there isn’t a definite cure which makes the condition somewhat of a mystery for the most part. That being said, many have developed ‘treatments’ that lessen the effects and make the condition more bearable.
Symptoms of ADHD
Nowadays, even children at the age of two years can be evaluated for ADHD. Generally speaking, the symptoms will become more manageable as time goes on, but this doesn’t help childhood because the symptoms can be destructive. For example, they include;
- Frequent daydreaming
- Forgetting information
- Lack of organization
- Difficulty in staying focused/concentrating on a task
- Difficulty in following even simple instructions
- Excessive talking
- Trouble sitting still
- Interrupting the conversations of others
- Frequent impatience
In addition to having an impact on school and work life, people living with ADHD can also struggle to maintain relationships while also becoming more susceptible to ill mental health including depression, anxiety, and, as you may have guessed from the title, sleep disorders.
Connection Between ADHD and Sleep Disorders
For those who have ADHD, you’ll know that even thinking about going to sleep can cause anxiety. With nights disturbed by physical restlessness as well as constant mental activity, sleep can be a huge issue. However, the link between sleep disorders and ADHD was overlooked for a long time. For many years, the American Psychiatric Association suggested that all ADHD symptoms are made clear within the first seven years of life. Considering sleeping disorders commonly start at 12 years of age, the connection was never made.
As the issue has become more prevalent, many studies have taken place and created the link, but the link between ADHD and sleep disorders hasn’t been made clear in all the literature currently available. That being said, patients are in no doubt their condition causes sleep disturbances, and four tend to stand out more than others.
Even after falling asleep, the sleep can be restless and not what you would consider ‘quality’ of any kind. Waking up at the quietest noise and tossing/turning all night, bed partners often choose to sleep elsewhere on bad nights.
With this issue, patients simply can’t ‘switch off’ at night, and this is said to affect up to 75% of all people with ADHD. With some, they even say they feel nocturnal because they receive a sudden burst of energy when the sun disappears (despite feeling tired for most of the day). There is statistical evidence that there is a connection between ADHD and sleep disorders: before puberty, up to 15% of children who have ADHD have sleeping problems – twice the amount compared to children with no ADHD.
Thirdly, some sufferers have reported drowsiness as soon as they lose interest in a task. While active and interested, they feel ready to partake in whatever it is that has their attention. As soon as the interest has disappeared, this is where the trouble commences.
According to some practices, up to 80% of people living with ADHD can have trouble waking up in the morning. Unfortunately, many awake every so often until around 4 a.m. before then struggling to wake up when the alarm goes just a couple of hours later.
Although it still hasn’t been recognized by the appropriate bodies, sufferers and doctors alike know the relationship that now exists between ADHD and sleep disorders, and it’s one that requires treatment if any improvement is to be made.