Difficulty swallowing, sore throat and hoarseness are all common complaints that are brought to our ENT doctors. Tonsillitis, voice disorders, and even hoarseness all interfere with our ability to communicate and many of these conditions can be improved or corrected with the proper diagnosis and care.
Specific to otolaryngologists is expertise in managing diseases of the larynx (voice box) and the upper aero-digestive tract or esophagus, including voice and swallowing disorders.
Using small flexible fiberoptic endoscopes, we can visualize the voice box and the beginning of the esophagus and help determine the cause of the voice or swallowing problem. At ENT Specialists of Abilene, we provide the full spectrum of adult and child throat healthcare, including (but not limited to):
Head and Neck Cancers | Tumors
Although radiologists and oncologists are the specialists most people think of when they hear the word “tumor,” otolaryngologists can be instrumental in detecting, diagnosing and treating benign and cancerous masses of the head and neck (including the larynx, nasopharynx, paranasal sinuses, salivary glands, thyroid and parathyroid glands, ears, skin and bone, and mouth).
If a mass is found, tests will be run to determine whether the tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). This may involve blood or urine sampling, fine needle aspiration, biopsy, laryngoscopy, bronchoscopy, nasopharyngoscopy, or other tests. Treatment depends on the tumor site, size and type as well as involvement of other structures and the patient’s overall health and preferences.
Everyone experiences sore throats when they have a cold or flu. But there are other reasons for sore throats that may be symptomatic of more serious problems.
Strep throat is caused by streptococcal bacteria (strep) in the throat and often the tonsils. Symptoms include sudden severe sore throat, pain swallowing, a fever over 101 F, swollen tonsils and lymph nodes, and white or yellow spots on a reddened back of the throat.
Inflamed Tonsils and Adenoids
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils located in the back of the throat on both sides of the tongue. Tonsils are part of the body’s natural immune system. This tissue captures bacteria and viruses to either prevent them from entering the body or trigger the appropriate immune response. The back of the throat may appear red or swollen or have a white or yellow coating covering the tonsils.
The adenoids (tissue high in the throat behind the nose and soft palate) may also be inflamed and swollen, impeding swallowing and/or breathing. Symptoms include a severe sore throat, painful or difficult swallowing, coughing, headache, fever, chills and swelling of the cheeks and neck.
The larynx allows air to pass in and out of the lungs while preventing solids (food) and liquids from entering the lungs. The larynx also contributes to sound production by the vocal cords.
Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, the top portion of the windpipe (trachea). It is characterized by hoarseness, coughing, difficulty in breathing for some children and, occasionally, loss of voice. In addition to an infection, laryngitis may be caused by acid reflux or nodules, polyps or nerve damage on the vocal cords.
When to Contact an ENT Doctor?
If you have a sore throat that causes pain or won’t heal, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.
Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach. This may be caused by many factors, most of which are temporary and not threatening.
Difficulties in swallowing rarely represent a more serious disease, such as a tumor or a progressive neurological disorder. When the difficulty does not clear up by itself in a short period of time, you should see an otolaryngologist — head and neck surgeon where a full evaluation and treatment plan can be instituted.
Thyroid issues can be broken down into two main categories – dysfunction of the thyroid or neoplasms (growths) of the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid levels, is the more common type of thyroid dysfunction. In this case the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone and symptoms can include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, feeling cold most of the time, dry skin, and excessive hair loss. Hypothyroidism can usually be easily controlled by taking a daily thyroid replacement medication.
Hyperthyroidism, or elevated thyroid levels, is less common. In this case the thyroid is overproducing thyroid hormone and symptoms can include unexplained weight loss, feeling hot most of the time, diarrhea, and heart palpitations. Hyperthyroidism can be treated with medications, a radioactive iodine thyroid ablation, or surgery to remove the thyroid.
A growth with in the thyroid, often called a nodule, is very common and probably around one-third of people have a small nodule or cyst (fluid filled sac) in the thyroid. The majority of these are benign and never cause people any symptoms. Occasionally the nodule will enlarge and patients may notice a visible lump on their lower neck or experience compressive symptoms. Compressive symptoms are due to the nodule pressing on the surrounding tissues and are often described as a pressure feeling in the lower neck or mild trouble swallowing.
At ENT Specialists of Abilene we evaluate thyroid nodules on a daily basis. We perform in office ultrasounds to evaluate the overall size of the thyroid and identify the number and size of any thyroid nodules. If the nodules are over a certain size or have worrisome characteristics an ultrasound guided needle biopsy of the mass can be performed in the office. These biopsies are sent to a lab in Austin, Texas that specialize in thyroid needle biopsies. They do a great job at diagnosing the nodules as either benign or malignant.
If the nodule is benign and not causing symptoms, often observation will be recommended with a repeat ultrasound in 6-12 months to make sure the nodule is not growing or changing. If the nodule is benign, but large and causing compressive symptoms, then surgery would be considered to remove all or part of the thyroid. If the nodule is proven to be malignant then surgery to remove the entire thyroid is the normal treatment option.
This is just a brief overview of some common problems associated with the thyroid. If you have concerns about your thyroid our physicians are well qualified to do a full evaluation of a wide range of thyroid disorders. Please call to schedule a thyroid evaluation today!
Voice is the sound made by air passing from your lungs through your larynx, or voice box. In your larynx are your vocal cords, two bands of muscle that vibrate to make sound. For most of us, our voices play a big part in who we are, what we do and how we communicate. Like fingerprints, each person’s voice is unique.
Voice problems occur with a change in the voice, often described as hoarseness, roughness, or a raspy quality. People with voice problems often complain about or notice changes in pitch, loss of voice, loss of endurance, and sometimes a sharp or dull pain associated with voice use. Other voice problems may accompany a change in singing ability that is most notable in the upper singing range.
Many things we do can injure our vocal cords. Talking too much, screaming, constantly clearing your throat or smoking can make you hoarse. These can also lead to problems such as nodules, polyps and sores on the vocal cords.
Other causes of voice disorders include infections, upward movement of stomach acids into the throat, growths due to a virus, neck or throat cancer and diseases that paralyze the vocal cords. Treatment for voice disorders varies depending on the cause. Most voice problems can be successfully treated when diagnosed early.
A more serious problem is indicated by spitting up blood or when blood is present in the mucus. Additionally, changes in the voice that have lasted longer than a few weeks or associated with any breathing problems is a signal that something more serious may be going on.
If you experience these changes you should see one or our doctors right away. Contact us here to request an appointment.