Author: bell

Breathe Easier This Holiday Season with VivAer®

A woman standing by a Christmas tree with decorations tired, rubbing her nose and eyes, feeling nasal obstruction.

The holidays are full of joyful occasions like office parties, family get-togethers, and even cozy moments at home. The last thing you want is difficulty breathing, headaches, and fatigue while celebrating the most wonderful time of the year. We understand how challenging it can be to enjoy the festivities when you don’t feel your best.

If you suffer from difficulty breathing through your nose, fatigue, and headaches, you may have chronic nasal obstruction. Thankfully, VivAer® Nasal Airway remodeling is an innovative, non-invasive treatment designed to improve all your symptoms. In this blog, the team of experts at Excel ENT discusses all you need to know about VivAer® treatment and how it can help you.

What Are the Symptoms of Nasal Obstruction?

Nasal obstruction is caused by the enlargement, or swelling, of certain structures in the nose, like the septum, lateral wall, or turbinates. As these structures swell, the airway size becomes smaller, causing difficulty breathing. If you frequently have trouble breathing through your nose, you may have chronic nasal obstruction.

Some of the common symptoms of nasal obstruction include:

  • Trouble breathing through your nose
  • A sensation of something blocking your nasal passage
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to breathe through your nose during exercise
  • Loud snoring
  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Headaches

If you are experiencing these symptoms, we recommend you contact your primary care doctor. Your primary physician can refer you to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, throat, and nose doctor (ENT), who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of nasal obstruction.

How Can VivAer® Help Nasal Obstruction?

The VivAer® Nasal Airway remodeling procedure is an innovative technology that expands nasal passages. This non-invasive, safe treatment can significantly improve your quality of life and allow you to breathe easier.

After numbing the inside of your nose with a local anesthetic, your doctor will insert a small wand into the nasal passage. The low-temperature radiofrequency energy (RF) on the wand’s tip gently expands and remodels damaged or shrunken tissues and valves. With this procedure, doctors can also shrink turbinates, soft bony structures that often swell during cases of nasal allergies. Just a slight increase in surface area with the help of VivAer® can create significant relief and improve airflow for those suffering from chronic nasal obstruction.

What Are the Benefits of VivAer® for Nasal Obstruction?

There are a variety of benefits of the VivAer® procedure, including:

  • Non-invasive procedure: VivAer® involves no cutting and doesn’t damage any surrounding areas.
  • Comfortable treatment: Most people feel minimal to zero discomfort. Some describe a feeling of pressure if anything.
  • Clinically Proven: Over a 2-year clinical study, 97% of patients experienced vast improvements in nasal breathing.
  • No downtime: This treatment is quick and painless, and most people return to regular activities the same day.
  • The outer appearance isn’t affected: As opposed to other nasal surgeries, VivAer® doesn’t alter the appearance of your nose in any way.

Who Is a Candidate for VivAer®?

If you suffer from chronic nasal obstruction, you are most likely a candidate for the VivAer® procedure. Candidates typically have found treatments like medications and nasal dilator strips to be ineffective. Your provider may suggest the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation (NOSE) test and the Cottle Maneuver test to confirm a diagnosis.

The Cottle Mannuever is a test you can do at home and involves placing two fingertips on your cheek next to each side of your nose, then gently pressing and pulling outward. If you find relief from your nasal passage expanding, VivAer® is likely an excellent treatment option. Depending on your specific condition, there may be other criteria, but your ENT can provide more information about whether VivAer® is suitable for you.

Find the Relief You Deserve from Nasal Obstruction

Don’t settle for another night of nasal airstrips or frustration while trying to breathe through your nose; contact a provider to learn if the VivAer® procedure is right for you. This non-invasive, comfortable treatment can expand your airway in just minutes. Find the relief you deserve, just in time for the holidays, at Excel ENT in Birmingham!

Excel ENT: Sinus Experts in Birmingham AL

If you are suffering from chronic nasal obstruction or another sinus ailment, contact the sinus experts at Excel ENT. With years of experience, Dr. Davis and his team are experts in nose, throat, and ear treatments. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find the relief you deserve!

Chronic Cough: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

A girl experiencing a cough in a light purple sweater sitting on her couch.

This October, flu season, sinus infections, and other seasonal ailments are frequent as we head into the winter months. Many of us experience a cough along with these seasonal sicknesses, and it’s typically nothing to fret about.

But, when is it time to worry about a chronic cough? A cough that just won’t go away can be frustrating and can significantly impact your quality of life. A chronic cough can cause headaches and sleepless nights, and you may wonder if you’ll ever find relief from your pesky cough.

Fortunately, at Excel ENT, our speech-language pathologist, Amy Pittman, encounters many patients who suffer from chronic coughs. Learn more about chronic cough, its common causes, and how Excel ENT’s SLP can help you find a solution.

What is Chronic Cough?

Coughing can help you clear your throat, prevent infections and help protect your airway. But coughs can linger, lasting anywhere from 4 weeks in children and 8 weeks in adults. Usually, a chronic cough is dry and isn’t productive for your airway.

Common Causes of Chronic Cough

Chronic cough can be difficult to diagnose because there are several possible causes. Some of the most common causes include:

Asthma

When you have asthma, the muscles around your airways constrict. The lining of your airways swells, and your body produces thick mucus in response. Coughing is your body’s way of getting air into those tightened areas. Asthma can be triggered or worsened by infections, weather, stress, allergies, tobacco smoke, medications, exercise, and stress.

Postnasal Drip

One of the most common causes of chronic cough is postnasal drip. Runny mucus drops down your throat if a virus, allergies, dust, chemicals, or inflammation irritate your nasal membrane. The mucus in your throat causes you to cough, and you may experience worsening symptoms at night.

Infections

If you’ve recently recovered from a cold, flu, COVID-19, or pneumonia, your cough may remain while your body heals and recovers from the infection. These illnesses can lead to lung inflammation and a lingering cough. To heal itself, your body produces a dry cough to reduce the infection.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) causes acid from the stomach to travel up the esophagus and into the throat. LPR is commonly confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but if you’re suffering from LPR, you may experience more pain in your throat. LPR may result in many voice problems, like swallowing problems, sinus drainage, and chronic cough.

Irritable Larynx Syndrome (ILS)

Various symptoms, including chronic cough, chronic throat clearing, the feeling of a lump in your throat, and others can be caused by irritable larynx syndrome. In ILS, the larynx (voice box) becomes sensitive to stimuli, including cold air, talking, and more. Common causes of ILS are viral illness, allergies, sinusitis, certain medications, stress, and others.

Smoking

Smoking negatively affects your lungs, as well as the rest of your body. A chronic cough can be caused by the body attempting to clear out the chemicals that enter the airway and lungs from tobacco. If you stop smoking, you may find relief from your chronic cough and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Testing & Treatment for Chronic Cough

If you’ve been experiencing a cough for longer than 8 weeks, contact your primary care doctor. Regardless of potential causes, if you have a chronic cough that has not been explained or diagnosed, we recommend you seek medical care.

At Excel ENT, our SLP, Amy Pittman, will begin with a consultation to learn the comprehensive history of your chronic cough. For further diagnosis, she may perform a thorough laryngoscopic and stroboscopic examination to examine patterns of vocal fold motion and vocal fold vibration.

Find Relief at Excel ENT

At Excel ENT, we can work to find out what triggers your cough so you can find the relief you deserve. Treatments can vary from medication changes to treatment for medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or LPR if those trigger your chronic cough.

The goal of treatment for chronic cough is to give you the tools to manage it better and improve your quality of life, and Amy can teach you more about keeping your vocal cords healthy.

Schedule an Appointment for a Chronic Cough Consultation

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our team can provide treatment for various ear, nose, and throat ailments. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find relief today!

Audiology Awareness: Why Audiologists Help with More Than Hearing Aids

A smiling female audiologist treats an older woman wearing a mustard-colored shirt.

Today, people can buy many types of hearing aids and devices over the counter without ever seeing a doctor. While this may seem like a convenient option, you lose the ability to have your hearing device fitted to your ear, which may make the device less effective.

This October, celebrate National Audiology Awareness Month with Excel ENT by learning about the importance of audiologists and how they can help protect your hearing for years to come.

What Do Audiologists Do?

Audiology became a profession following World War II as our Veterans were returning home with hearing loss. As a result, the field of clinical audiology was formalized to aid many young, healthy soldiers who needed rehabilitation.

Today, the role of audiology continues to grow and expand. Audiologists specialize in all things related to hearing health, including diagnosing any hearing issues, offering treatment plans, managing and diagnosing balance disorders, and custom fitting hearing aids and hearing protection for newborns to senior adults.

As technology has progressed, we’ve been able to treat hearing loss better and better. However, there is still no replacement for natural, healthy hearing, but audiologists across the globe are working to create new and improved hearing models and forms of protection.

Why Are Audiologists Important for People With Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is associated with a myriad of negative outcomes, such as:

  • Dementia
  • Social isolation
  • Balance issues
  • Cognitive decline

The best way to prevent these issues associated with hearing loss is to protect your ears from damage. The most effective way to protect your ears from harm is using properly fitting hearing protection. Custom hearing protection is more than just hearing aids; they’re an investment in your future hearing.

Custom Hearing Protection

While it may seem simple, hearing protection doesn’t function properly if not used correctly by the user. For example, most people do not properly insert foam ear plugs into their ear canal, making them almost useless. At Excel ENT, we are here to help you protect your ears and prevent hearing loss with custom hearing protection.

Custom hearing protection takes the guesswork out of proper fit, with the protection being molded individually to your ear. At EXCEL ENT, we offer two types of ear protection, active and passive.

Active

Our active hearing protection boasts a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Battery-powered
  • Rechargeable
  • Disposable Batteries
  • Apple and Android connectivity

While using active hearing protection, the device provides up to 30 dB amplification to hear what’s happening around you up to 22 dB NRR (noise reduction rating).

Passive

Passive hearing protection comes in two types for your unique lifestyle. These two types include

  • Filtered: We recommend filtered hearing protection for hunting, music, and other special situations.
  • Solid: Solid hearing protection is excellent for swimming, sleeping, and general use.

Make an appointment to have ear mold impressions made and discuss the different options for hearing protection. Project yourself from hearing damage today!

Custom Hearing Protection: Testimonials

Come and see our audiologists and have custom testing, custom fitting, and personalized settings for your hearing devices. Many patients at Excel ENT are already receiving the benefits from custom hearing protection.

When asked about his custom hearing protection, a patient said, “I am confident that I am maximally protected while still being able to hear conversations.” Another patient noted that her customer hearing protection is “so easy to insert and does an excellent job [protecting my hearing].” Discover the confidence and ease that comes along with custom hearing protection from Excel ENT!

Invest In Your Hearing Care at Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our staff at Excel ENT is committed to your well-being. Receive custom testing, custom fitting, and unique settings for your hearing devices to protect your hearing and prevent any long-term effects from improper hearing protection. Call us at 205-988-6858 or schedule an appointment online today!

The Newest Hearing Device on the Market: Phonak Audéo™

A man video chats a woman through Phonak hearing device.

In today’s world, technology is constantly evolving. With new technologies, the multitude of options for hearing aids can feel overwhelming. It can be difficult to choose the device that will bring you the most comfort, security, and best sound quality. Thankfully, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids combine clear, reliable hearing solutions with the latest technology features.

At Excel ENT our team welcomes growth and continual improvement of our patient’s hearing by embracing the latest and greatest technology. The most recent breakthrough in hearing technology involves the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aid. Learn more about this innovative hearing device and how our team at Excel ENT can help you benefit from cutting-edge technology.

Phonak Audéo™ Hearing Devices

For over 70 years, Phonak has been distributing life-changing hearing solutions for people in over 100 countries. Phonak hearing aids amplify sounds for the user, emphasizing sounds from specific directions, eliminating background noise, and compressing frequencies. Phonak boasts multiple kinds of hearing devices, each tailored to different kinds of hearing loss for optimal results. Discover Phonak’s latest device that delivers an unmatched hearing experience.

Phonak Audéo™ Lumity Hearing Aids: Benefits

Phonak’s already state of the art sound quality has been improved once again. The hearing aid’s all new Smart Speech feature allows for even better speech understanding and clarity in a variety of difficult listening situations. The Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids are available in a range of 8 colors, so you’re bound to find a shade that suits you. Beyond the range of colors, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids host a variety of benefits.

Crisp Sound

Hear the sounds of the world, uninterrupted, in real-time. Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids have been scientifically engineered to deliver crisp, rich sounds.

Innovative Technology

Featuring the ActiveVent Receiver, the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids automatically filter noise in hard-to-hear environments, or when streaming media, for optimized hearing and a naturalness to your own voice when speaking. Never struggle to hear in a noisy environment and enjoy exceptional sound when watching a movie with automatic, state-of-the-art sound technology.

Speech Understanding

It can be challenging to hear someone from far away, or if they speak softly. Thankfully, the Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids feature speech-enhancing technology so you can interact with friends, family, and others, without worrying about not hearing them.

Personalized Noise Canceling

If noise is coming from all sides of a room, the sound can feel overwhelming. With personalized noise canceling, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aid users can personalize noise-canceling settings at the drop of a hat.

Waterproof

Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids are waterproof and sweatproof in select models. Hearing devices that are fully waterproof not only allow you to participate in water activities, but also protect your device if you are prone to excessive sweating or live in a particularly rainy climate. The device can be submerged in up to 50cm, or 1.64 feet of water while delivering still crisp sound.

Amongst these features, Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids boast health tracking, connection to smartphones and TVs, and a rechargeable battery.

Connect with Phonak Audéo™

With the myPhonak app, users can control their hearing aids right from their mobile devices. There are a variety of features in the app, including remote control, support from your hearing care professional, capturing important health data, and providing status updates on your devices. Experience cutting-edge technology for full customization of your hearing device with the myPhonack app.

Phonak Audéo™ at Excel ENT

Take advantage of technological advances at Excel ENT. Discover crisper sound, customizable features, and stress-free hearing with Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids. Dr. Davis and his team can answer any questions you may have about fittings, models, and the next steps. Begin your journey to hearing the world uninterrupted today!

Learn More About Hearing Devices & Fittings at Excel ENT

Experience the benefits of technology like never before at Excel ENT. Technologically advanced hearing aids are a great option to consider, and Dr. Davis will work with you to determine what model is best for you. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you at 205-988-6858.

How To Deal With The Feeling That Something Is Stuck In Your Throat

Woman holding her throat and experiencing globus sensation.

There is nothing worse than the feeling that something is stuck in the back of your throat only to find there’s nothing physically there. This sensation, called globus sensation, can be alarming and frequently bothersome.

Most often, there’s no need to fret if you’re experiencing this feeling! Globus sensation is fairly common. Learn from our team at Excel ENT all about globus sensation and when it’s time to speak with a doctor.

What is Globus Sensation?

Globus sensation, also called globus pharyngeus, is the feeling of a blockage, or lump, in the back of the throat, even when there is no physical blockage. The condition used to be called globus hystericus, because doctors thought that people complaining of this sensation were “hysterical”. In today’s world, doctors are more knowledgeable about globus sensation. We now know that the symptoms are very real and that they can be caused by a physical or psychological issue in the body.

Globus sensation can be accompanied by soreness and swelling in the throat, persistent clearing of the throat, hoarseness, or a cough you just can’t shake. Globus sensation is a little different for everyone, and not all symptoms have to be present for the diagnosis of globus sensation.

What Causes Globus Sensation?

The most common causes of globus sensation are anxiety and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Usually, when a person holds back strong feelings or emotions, the sensation arises and becomes recurrent. Likewise, those dealing with GERD experience their stomach acid traveling up the food pipe and into the throat, which can cause globus sensation. Some other causes of globus sensation include medication side effects, enlarged thyroid gland, or cervical spondylitis. Other reasons for this sensation continue to be discovered, so if you’re experiencing a globus sensation, it’s never a bad idea to speak with a doctor.

How Can I Deal with Globus Sensation?

There isn’t a specific treatment for globus sensation, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options to ease symptoms. We recommend speaking with your doctor about evaluations for reflux or other potential causes of globus sensation. It may also be worthwhile to speak with a speech therapist about other treatment options for relaxing your throat.

When you encounter symptoms of globus sensation, swallow with or without water, yawn with your mouth wide open, and move your jaw up and down to help with discomfort. Additionally, drinking more water can help relax your throat and decrease the feeling of a mass.

When Should I see a Doctor About the Feeling that there’s Something Stuck in my Throat?

The sensation of a large lump in the back of your throat can be frightening as well as aggravating. If you are feeling an unexplained lump in your throat, we recommend you see a doctor for evaluation. Your provider will use a flexible endoscope that is passed through the nose to examine your throat and be able to provide treatment if necessary.

Find Relief from Globus Sensation

Our physicians at Excel ENT can help evaluate your symptoms and create a treatment plan for many throat conditions, including the globus sensation. There may be an explanation for your discomfort, and our qualified team of professionals is ready to help you get the treatment you deserve. With years of experience, our team of otolaryngologists are knowledgeable about providing quality, effective care.

Heal Voice & Throat Conditions at Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our team can provide treatment for a variety of ailments, specializing in ear, nose, and throat conditions. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find relief today!

 

What to Do About Frequent Throat Clearing

throat clearing

We all clear our throats sometimes without giving it much thought. We may do it to get someone’s attention, to clear our throats of mucus or the feeling that something’s stuck, or it may be a nervous habit.

While there are several reasons for throat clearing, when it becomes a chronic occurrence, it can cause problems, including damage to your vocal cords. 

So what are the underlying causes of chronic throat clearing, and what can we do about it?

Why We Clear Our Throats & When It Becomes a Problem

When we clear our throats, we are transferring mucus out of our airway and into the throat. It’s normal for us to secrete up to two liters of mucus per day! Throat clearing can become excessive when mucus is too thick or copious. 

When this throat clearing process happens over and over again, it can cause redness and swelling of your vocal cords. If the clearing is very extensive, small growths called granulomas can form. If these granulomas get large, they can affect your breathing and your voice and may require surgery for removal. 

In addition, the irritation and swelling produced by chronic throat clearing can cause even more mucus production, which causes more throat clearing. As you can see, it can become a never ending cycle. Without a conscious effort to break the cycle, chronic throat clearing will likely continue. 

What Conditions Can Cause Chronic Throat Clearing?

Keep in mind that chronic throat clearing itself isn’t really a diagnosis. It’s a symptom of an underlying condition. Some of those might include:

1. Reflux

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is a condition in which stomach acid escapes out of the stomach and goes into the esophagus and throat. The acid irritates the throat, the vocal cords, and even the nasal passages. It may result in voice problems, swallowing problems, sinus drainage, and the frequent need to clear the throat. The most effective treatment is usually a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain types of food and drink, reducing stress, and losing weight.

2.  Postnasal drainage

Another common cause of throat clearing is postnasal drainage, also called postnasal drip. Postnasal drip happens when your body starts producing extra mucus. You may feel it dripping down your throat from the back of your nose. Other symptoms may include cough, nausea, sore throat, and bad breath. Allergies are a common cause, along with viral infections, sinus infections, dry air, and changes in the weather.

Treatment for postnasal drip varies depending on the cause. If it’s related to allergies, avoiding the allergen or taking medications may stop the drip. Other treatments may include over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines, saline nasal sprays, and staying hydrated.

3.  Allergies

Nasal allergies and food allergies can contribute to frequent throat clearing. In some cases, a food allergy or sensitivity may cause a tickling in your throat that makes you clear it. Dairy is a frequent cause, but foods such as eggs, rice, and soy may also be culprits. The treatment in such cases is avoiding the food that leads to symptoms.

Nasal allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to the presence of substances, called allergens, that are usually harmless. Common allergens include pollen, dust, and animal dander. Nasal allergies can lead to excess mucus production, which can cause frequent throat clearing. Antihistamines, nasal sprays, and nasal rinsing can help with allergies, as well as avoiding the allergens when possible.

4.  Side Effect of Medication

Some blood pressure medications can cause a tickle in your throat that contributes to chronic throat clearing and chronic cough. If you’re taking blood pressure medication and are frequently clearing your throat, talk to your doctor about a potential substitute.

5.  Habit

Sometimes, there may be no underlying condition causing throat clearing. It can become a habit or something you subconsciously do when anxious or stressed. To break the habit, you can drink more fluids, ask someone to help you monitor your throat clearing, or look for an alternate activity to do when the need to clear your throat arises, such as tapping your fingers. Stress management can also be very helpful.

6.  Swallowing Problems

Swallowing problems can arise for many reasons, and there are many ways to address them, depending on the exact situation. In general, difficulty swallowing can lead to throat irritation and frequent throat clearing as well as hoarseness, coughing, and choking when eating.

7. Vocal Cord Growths

When abnormal growths, such as polyps, nodules, or cysts grow on the vocal cords, you may feel as though something unusual is in the back of the throat. If you do not know that this is a physical growth, you may try to clear your throat in an attempt to dislodge the perceived object.

Causes of these growths can include smoking; allergies; overusing or straining the vocal cords from excessive singing or shouting; and frequent or strenuous coughing.

Treatment for Chronic Throat Clearing

Long-term treatment for chronic throat clearing depends on determining the underlying condition causing it. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medications, or, in some cases, surgery.

Here are a few general tips for the treatment and prevention of chronic throat clearing:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep the throat moist, which may relieve or lessen the feeling that something has become lodged in the throat. When you feel like you want to clear your throat, take a sip of water instead. Also, increase your water intake to help thin mucus and make it easier to swallow.
  • Eat and chew slowly if you have difficulty swallowing.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist, which may help reduce throat irritation.
  • Clear your throat as few times as possible. Instead of clearing your throat, hold your breath and swallow.

Find the Cause of Chronic Throat Clearing at Excel ENT of Alabama

Our Speech-Language Pathologist, Amy Pittman, is an expert at working with patients to find the cause of chronic throat clearing and treating the underlying condition. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

Lingering Loss of Smell After COVID-19? Here’s What to Do

covid-19 loss of smell

Smell is one of our five senses that we often think little about even though it’s strongly linked to emotion and memory. It can alert us to danger and works with our sense of taste to allow us to experience the flavor of food.

To lose your sense of smell (also called anosmia), and most likely your sense of taste to some extent as well, can pose several challenges, both mentally and physically. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on anosmia, and doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out more about this common symptom.

Here’s information about why COVID-19 may cause us to lose these senses and some advice about how to manage it.

Loss of Smell After COVID-19 Infection

Many people wonder how common this symptom really is. A recent study collected data regarding COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste from 69,841 individuals who self-reported symptoms. The findings provide a genetic link to the biological mechanisms underlying COVID-19-related loss of smell or taste.

Of those who reported a positive test, 68% said they experienced loss of smell or taste (47,298 out of a total of 69,841 individuals). Female respondents were more likely than male respondents to report this symptom and those with this symptom were typically younger than those without it (mean age of 41 years for those with loss of smell or taste versus 45 years for those without).

While we can clearly see that a large fraction of COVID-19 patients report loss of smell or taste, the underlying mechanism is unclear. The most likely cause is that damage occurs to the cells that support and assist the olfactory neurons, called sustentacular cells. These cells can regenerate from stem cells, which may explain why smell recovers quickly in most cases.

Most often, smell dysfunction does improve soon after the infection. Approximately 90% of those affected can expect improvement within four weeks. But for others, it can take months or recovery may be incomplete. 

Tips to Help Recover Sense of Smell

Currently, there is no proven treatment for lasting smell dysfunction. Topical corticosteroid sprays are often used in the short-term for treatment, but they are unlikely to help outside of the acute illness period. 

One type of treatment that has shown promise is smell retraining therapy, or olfactory retraining. This involves exposing the patient to different strong scents for several minutes for an extended period of time. Smell retraining therapy can be effective for many different causes of smell loss, and not just from COVID.

Typically, you will smell a series of four strong scents that can be found in the home, or in the form of essential oils. Each scent is gently sniffed for 20 seconds. This process is repeated three times daily for six weeks. Long-term commitment is usually required to see improvement.

Smell training may be most effective if you work on the same four scents each day, rather than alternating. It’s also recommended that you concentrate on the scent fully, giving it your full attention, for the entire 20 seconds.

The following scents often work well:

  • ground coffee
  • rose
  • citrus
  • eucalyptus
  • vanilla
  • clove
  • mint

Another good option to consider is ginger, powdered or raw. It has a distinctive, pungent scent that makes it beneficial for use in smell training. Drinking ginger tea may also help. It can help reduce inflammation in the nasal airways and reduce excess mucus formations that block nasal passages, which may be a factor in loss of smell.

If you are unable to smell the above essences at all, try remembering what they smell like. Our brains are powerful tools and may be able to engage your senses. It does take time and commitment, but many people notice an improvement in their ability to smell within a few weeks.

Nasal irrigation can also sometimes help by flushing out allergens and mucus from the nasal cavity. This may help in COVID cases, but it can also help when other common viral upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold, cause dysfunction with the sense of smell.

Get More Advice About Correcting Loss of Smell from Excel ENT of Alabama

While these are methods you can try at home to help recover your sense of smell, it can be a good idea to work with an ENT, such as Dr. Davis from Excel ENT of Alabama to come up with a more specific treatment plan. We are happy to offer additional advice and options. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

 

All About Nasal Congestion

nasal congestion

There are two words we hear a lot at Excel ENT all year round, but especially during these cold winter months: “nasal congestion.” While it can be short lived, and it may resolve quickly without intervention, it often comes out of nowhere and it’s usually the first of many symptoms. 

Nasal congestion can be tricky though, because there are many causes. Our doctor, Dr. Davis, wants to help you figure out not only the cause, but also a treatment plan so that you can get back to living your life without a stuffy nose! 

Causes of Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion, which many of us refer to as a “stuffy nose,” occurs when the blood vessels inside the nose (in addition to the adjacent tissues) become inflamed and swollen with excessive fluid. This fluid is what gives the nose the feeling of being “stuffy.”

Symptoms of nasal congestion include stuffy/runny nose, nasal pain, mucus buildup, and/or nasal swelling. There could be a number of issues causing your nasal congestion symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Allergies
  • Benign tumors
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Common cold
  • Deviated septum
  • Flu
  • Hay fever
  • Nasal polyps
  • Sinus infection
  • Various irritants, like tobacco smoke

With so many possible causes, it is important to seek medical attention, especially if your symptoms have lasted several days without relief, or new symptoms have appeared. 

Treatments for Nasal Congestion: Home Remedies

A good place to start may be with home remedies. Some of our patients do find that these work to alleviate symptoms. 

  • Sleep with a humidifier at night. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can help break up mucus and soothe inflamed nasal passages. 
  • Place a warm cloth over your face.  This can also help sooth your nasal passages. You might also want to try this method while using pillows to prop your head up during the night, which can help you breathe easier. 
  • Take a hot shower. This can assist in clearing up your nasal congestion, as the steam from the shower can improve breathing by allowing the mucus to drain through the nose. 

Nasal Rinsing

Another great option you can do at home is nasal rinsing, which is the process of flushing your sinuses with a saline (saltwater) rinse. One of your nose’s primary functions is to filter air before it enters your lungs. The mucus lining your sinuses is vital to the filtration process. However, dryness and inflammation make it hard for mucus to drain, which leads to congestion and pressure. Nasal irrigation thins mucus and cleanses your nasal passages. The saline solution used in a rinse also helps restore moisture in dry sinuses. 

Performing a nasal rinse is simple, and we recommend the pre-measured sinus rinse packets from NeilMed that you mix with eight ounces of lukewarm distilled water. NeilMed offers several types of irrigation devices including squeeze bottles, a neti pot, and a battery-operated cordless pulsating nasal washer. Read more about how to perform a nasal rinse in this article.

Treatments for Nasal Congestion: When to See A Doctor

If home remedies don’t work, it may be time to see Dr. Davis so that he can give you a more specific diagnosis and treatment plan. This might include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Nasal spray, which includes an antihistamine 
  • Nasal steroid
  • Prescription-strength decongestants
  • Surgery, if caused by nasal polyps or tumors
  • Non-surgical treatment options

Nasal Polyps

For some people, the source of long-lasting congestion is nasal polyps. These are soft, painless, benign growths inside the nasal passages. When polyps are small, you may not know they’re there. However, polyps that grow in clusters can block the nasal passages and inhibit sinus drainage causing congestion.

Nasal polyps can develop in people of all ages, but they are most common in young adults and middle-age adults. Patients with prolonged inflammation from allergies, infections, or chronic sinusitis have an increased risk of developing obstructive nasal polyps. Unfortunately, polyps are a chronic problem. It’s likely that once they occur, they will persist throughout a patient’s life.

Treatment often starts with a nasal steroid spray to reduce polyp inflammation, and we may also recommend nasal rinses, but these are temporary solutions. The next option is surgical removal of the polyps, also known as sinus surgery. 

We are excited that we have a new sinus implant called SINUVA, which is a nonsurgical treatment option if a patient’s polyps return after surgery. This innovative treatment involves a sinus implant made of bioabsorbable polymers. It delivers an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid right into the polyps. The medicine shrinks the polyps, opening a patient’s airway and allowing better sinus drainage.

Address Nasal Congestion with Excel ENT of Alabama

Nasal congestion is common, but it shouldn’t be long-lasting. If you are experiencing persistent congestion, we’d love to help you find the cause and make a treatment plan. We are always happy to answer questions about nasal congestion and any other ear, nose, and throat issues. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

Causes of Chronic Cough

chronic cough

A cough that just won’t go away is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor. Many people initially visit their primary care physician, but if the issue isn’t easily resolved, other doctors and specialists may become involved, such as allergists, pulmonologists, otolaryngologists (ENT), and speech-language pathologists (SLP), such as Excel ENT’s SLP, Amy Pittman.

Amy sees patients often who complain of a chronic cough. It’s annoying for the person experiencing it and others in the home, and it can disrupt sleep and cause headaches. We’re thankful that there are many ways in which Amy can help get to the bottom of the cause and find an effective solution.

Definition & Causes of Chronic Cough

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, coughing helps you clear your throat and lungs and can prevent infection. But sometimes a cough can become chronic, lasting more than four weeks in children and more than eight weeks in adults. Aside from the extended duration of the cough, signs and symptoms include the frequent need to cough and having a rough-sounding voice due to that frequent coughing.

Chronic cough can be tricky because there are several possible causes. Here are the most common ones we see.

Postnasal Drip

Also called upper airway cough syndrome, postnasal drip is a common cause of a persistent cough. When a virus, allergies, dust, chemicals, or inflammation irritate your nasal membranes, they make runny mucus that drips down your throat. This makes you cough, especially at night when you lie down.

Asthma

When you have asthma, the muscles around your airways tighten, the lining of your airways swells, and cells in your airways produce thick mucus. Coughing is your body’s way of trying to get air into those restricted areas and can be triggered by infections, weather, allergies, tobacco smoke, medications, exercise, and emotions.

Infections

After you have recovered from a cold, flu, or pneumonia, you may continue to have a cough as your body completely heals and gets over the infection. COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, sometimes leads to lasting lung inflammation and a lingering dry cough. The prolonged cough from COVID-19 is no different than any other virus that affects your lungs. The injured parts of your lungs are trying to clear out the infection and heal.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

LPR, sometimes confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which acid escapes from the stomach and goes into the esophagus and throat. This causes irritation to the throat, vocal cords, and even the nasal passages. It may result in voice problems, swallowing problems, sinus drainage, the frequent need to clear the throat, and chronic cough. 

Blood Pressure Medications

ACE inhibitors for blood pressure can cause a chronic dry cough. When a patient has a persistent cough and takes an ACE inhibitor, a slight change in medication often helps resolve the cough.

Smoking

Smoking damages your lungs, as well as the rest of your body. Smokers often experience chronic cough because chemicals and particles in tobacco smoke irritate the lungs. In response, the body makes mucus to try to get rid of it through frequent coughing. In all situations, we recommend stopping smoking to address a chronic cough and for many other reasons.

Irritable Larynx Syndrome (ILS)

ILS involves a range of conditions including chronic throat clearing, chronic cough, and others. With ILS, the larynx (voice box) becomes very sensitive to stimuli, such as strong smells, cold air, talking, and more. There are several possible causes, including viral illnesses that cause inflammation of the nerve that supplies the voice box, GERD, allergies, sinusitis, certain medications, environmental exposures, and stressful life occurrences.

Symptoms of ILS usually last longer than three weeks and have no other identifiable cause. Symptoms may include frequent non-productive throat clearing, chronic coughing attacks that bring up little or no mucus, and difficulty breathing with the sudden onset of stridor (noisy breathing).

Testing & Treatment for Chronic Cough

Our SLP, Amy Pittman, will likely work with you to get a comprehensive history regarding your chronic cough. She may perform a thorough laryngoscopic and stroboscopic examination to visualize patterns of vocal fold motion and vocal fold vibration. She may also test your voice to see if there are any changes in vocal quality that the cough might be causing.

We can work to find out more about what triggers your cough so that you can avoid those triggers. In some cases, treatment is straightforward, such as recommendations to stop smoking or making changes to medications. In other cases, you may need treatment for medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or LPR if those are triggers for your chronic cough. 

Many times, the goal of treatment for chronic cough is to give you the tools to better manage it, and Amy can teach you more about keeping your vocal cords healthy.

Address Chronic Cough with Excel ENT of Alabama

We are happy to answer questions about chronic cough and other ear, nose, and throat issues. Schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.

The Driving Force Behind All Sinus Issues: Inflammation

sinus inflammation

Many patients often wonder WHY they continue to have sinus problems. What’s the root cause and the driving force behind sinus headaches, drainage, congestion, and pain? The answer is inflammation, and knowing what this means will result in a better overall understanding of your sinus issues.

More About Sinus Inflammation

Chronic sinusitis occurs when the spaces inside your nose and head (sinuses) are swollen and inflamed for three months or longer, despite treatment.

This common condition interferes with the way mucus normally drains, and makes your nose stuffy. Breathing through your nose may be difficult, and the area around your eyes might feel swollen or tender.

Chronic sinusitis can be brought on by an infection, by growths in the sinuses (nasal polyps), or by swelling of the lining of your sinuses. Also called chronic rhinosinusitis, the condition can affect both adults and children.

Common signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis include:

  • Nasal inflammation
  • Thick, discolored discharge from the nose (runny nose)
  • Drainage down the back of the throat (postnasal drainage)
  • Blocked or stuffy (congested) nose causing difficulty breathing through your nose
  • Pain, tenderness and swelling around your eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste

Other less common signs and symptoms can include:

  • Ear pain
  • Headache
  • Aching in your upper jaw and teeth
  • Cough or throat clearing
  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue

Chronic sinusitis and acute sinusitis have similar signs and symptoms. However, acute sinusitis is a temporary infection of the sinuses often associated with a cold. The signs and symptoms of chronic sinusitis last at least 12 weeks, but you may have several episodes of acute sinusitis before developing chronic sinusitis. 

Many things can cause inflammation that leads to sinus issues, such as:

  • Deviated nasal septum — A crooked septum, the wall between the nostrils, may restrict or block sinus passages, making the symptoms of sinusitis worse.
  • Respiratory tract infections — These types of infections are most commonly colds, and they can inflame and thicken your sinus membranes and block mucus drainage. These infections can be viral, bacterial, or fungal.
  • Nasal polyps — These are painless, benign growths inside the nasal passages. Prolonged inflammation and swelling of the sinuses from infection and allergies may increase your likelihood of developing polyps.
  • Allergies — Inflammation that occurs with allergies can block your sinuses. 
  • Regular exposure to pollutants — Tobacco smoke and air contaminants can irritate and inflame your lungs and nasal passages.

How Inflammation Causes Sinus Symptoms

Pain in your sinuses — Pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes as well as behind your nose. Any of these can hurt when you have a sinus infection because inflammation and swelling cause your sinuses to ache with a dull pressure. You may feel pain in your forehead, on either side of your nose, in your upper jaws and teeth, or between your eyes. This may lead to a headache.

Nasal discharge — When you have a sinus infection, you may need to blow your nose often because of nasal discharge, which can be cloudy, green, or yellow. This discharge comes from your infected sinuses and drains into your nasal passages. The discharge may also bypass your nose and drain down the back of your throat. You may feel a tickle, an itch, or even a sore throat. This is called postnasal drip, and it may cause you to cough at night when you’re lying down to sleep and in the morning after getting up. It may also cause your voice to sound hoarse.

Nasal congestion — Your inflamed sinuses may also restrict how well you can breathe through your nose. Infections cause swelling in your sinuses and nasal passages. Because of the nasal congestion, you probably won’t be able to smell or taste as well as normal. Your voice may sound “stuffy.”

Sinus headaches — The ongoing pressure, swelling, and inflammation in your sinuses can give you symptoms of a headache. Sinus pain can also give you earaches, dental pain, and pain in your jaws and cheeks. Sinus headaches are often at their worst in the morning because fluids have been collecting all night long. Your headache can also get worse when the barometric pressure of your environment changes suddenly.

Throat irritation and cough — As the discharge from your sinuses drains down the back of your throat, it can cause irritation, especially over a long period of time. This can lead to a persistent and annoying cough that can make sleeping difficult. Sleeping upright or with your head elevated can help reduce the frequency and intensity of your coughing.

Sore throat and hoarse voice — Post nasal drip can leave you with a raw and aching throat. Although it may start as an annoying tickle, it can get worse. If your infection lasts for a few weeks or more, the mucus can irritate and inflame your throat as it drips, resulting in a painful sore throat and hoarse voice.

How to Lessen Inflammation & Improve Sinus Issues

Avoiding things that irritate your nose and sinuses can help decrease sinusitis. While this is not always possible, there are several lifestyle changes and at-home strategies you can try, such as:

  • Using a cool-mist humidifier
  • Nasal rinsing several times per day
  • Wearing a pollen mask when mowing the grass or cleaning the house
  • Keeping windows closed when pollen counts are high
  • Using HEPA filters in your vacuum
  • Changing heating and air conditioning filters often
  • Avoiding nasal irritants, such as smoke, perfume, aerosol sprays, smoke, smog, and car exhaust
  • Washing bedding often; ideally weekly in hot water

Treatments for Sinus Issues at Excel ENT

If you have had sinusitis several times, and the condition doesn’t respond to treatment; if you have sinusitis symptoms that last more than 10 days; or if your symptoms don’t improve after you see your regular doctor, it’s time to see an ENT specialist, such as Dr. Davis. 

He may have new at-home remedies to suggest, and he may feel that there are other treatment options that may be beneficial. Which treatment option may be right for you will vary greatly depending on your specific situation, including what is causing your sinus problems. Here are a few of our treatment options.

Balloon Sinuplasty 

This treatment promotes sinus drainage through a minimally invasive technique for mild to moderate chronic and recurrent sinusitis. During the procedure, Dr. Davis threads a small catheter through the sinus opening and inflates a balloon with water. The balloon dilates the sinus opening and widens the outflow tract, which encourages it to drain. The procedure is a quick, non-invasive way to improve drainage, reduce the potential for bacterial infections, and improve breathing. Numerous studies have shown that 90 to 95% of balloon sinuplasty patients benefit from the procedure for at least two years.

Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery

This is a procedure we use to treat moderate to severe sinus problems. If you’re no longer responding to treatments like nasal irrigation, antibiotics, and decongestants, you may be a good candidate. During the procedure, Dr. Davis uses an endoscope to locate and remove bone and tissue in the sinuses that are preventing drainage. Sinus surgery creates larger drainage pathways to reduce the chances of mucus buildup after recovery. General anesthesia is often required for the procedure, which usually takes between one and three hours. Recovery is typically quick, with very little pain.

SINUVA

This is an innovative treatment for nasal polyps. For many people, nasal polyps are a chronic problem that persists throughout their lives with symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sinus pressure, postnasal drip, snoring, headaches, and more.

SINUVA is a non-invasive nasal implant that delivers an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid (mometasone furoate) directly to the polyps. Dr. Davis can place the SINUVA implant in the office if you have had previous endoscopic sinus surgery. The implant stays in place for approximately 90 days, after which he will remove it. SINUVA successfully reduces polyp inflammation without surgical intervention.

VIVAER Nasal Airway Remodeling

The VIVAER treatment, performed in our office, is a non-invasive procedure that involves no cutting. Your nasal valve area is gently and permanently reshaped using low-temperature radiofrequency energy. Immediately after treatment, you’ll begin to experience a noticeable improvement in nasal breathing.

Septoplasty

The nasal septum is the wall between the nostrils that separates the two nasal passages, and problems in this area can make breathing difficult. Surgery to straighten the septum is called a septoplasty, or deviated septum surgery.

The procedure usually takes 60 to 90 minutes and is performed in an outpatient surgery center. Before the surgery, we look at your nasal passages and view the shape of your septum. Dr. Davis then uses surgical tools to enter the nostrils and straighten the septum.

Dupixent

Dupixent is a new biologic option to treat and manage sinus conditions for those who may have been candidates for sinus surgery in the past. It is a game-changer for managing sinus disease! 

Dupixent is a treatment used with other medicines to treat chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyposis in adults to reduce the size of nasal polyps, improve congestion, improve loss of smell, and reduce the need for surgery.

Discover how the team at Excel ENT of Alabama can help manage inflammation and sinus issues.

If you are experiencing sinus issues, schedule an appointment online, or call to discuss coming in at a time that’s best for you: 205-988-6858.