Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions – Infections and Their Treatments

Ear, Nose and Throat Conditions
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.


The medical abbreviation for ears, nose and throat, is ENT. A doctor that specializes in treating conditions related to the ears, nose and throat is called an “ENT” or otolaryngologist. There are many conditions and disorders that can affect the ears, nose and throat. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the most common conditions that affect the ear, nose and throat.

Ear Infections

Ear Infections

Ear infections happen when germs enter the ear and they become trapped there. This is a common problem for small children especially those who frequently play outdoors. It is also a common problem of people who regularly swim especially in public pools or lakes. The primary cause of ear infection is bacterium or virus. The infection is usually a result of another illness like the flu, a cold or allergy. The symptoms of an ear infection include hearing loss, pain, balance problems, upper respiratory infections, and drainage from the ear, irritability and fever.

Children usually pull and tug at their ears especially during bedtime. If the infection is left untreated for a long time, it can cause developmental delays in children including hearing and speech delays. There are different treatments that may include medical procedures like the use of myringotomy tubes or medication specifically antibiotics if the problem is bacterial. Pain management techniques, like using a warm compress, eardrops and taking pain medication, are often included in the treatment plan for ear infections.

Sinus Infections

Sinus Infections

The sinuses are cavities located in the skull surrounding the nose and eyes. It is primarily responsible for vocal resonance. Sinusitis is a problem caused by bacterial or viral infection. The symptoms of sinusitis are difficulty breathing, runny nose, headache, sneezing, coughing, bad breath and pain across the bridge of the nose. Sinusitis can be acute, sub-acute, chronic or recurrent depending on how long it lasts and how many attacks occur in a given period.

Treating sinusitis depends on how severe it is. For acute sinusitis or if the infection is simple, health care providers usually recommend the use of decongestants and steam inhalations. However, decongestants should only be used for a week or two. Antibiotics may be prescribed in some cases that are taken for about two weeks. The symptoms usually disappear within 2 weeks of treatments. For severe or chronic sinusitis, a vaporizer and saline drops may be used. Nonprescription decongestants are also useful for controlling symptoms. Antibiotics and oral steroids may also be prescribed by the physician depending on the case.



The tonsils act as filters trapping germs that can cause infection when they enter the airways. The tonsils also produce antibodies that help fight infection. The problem is that sometimes the tonsils can become infected and get overwhelmed by bacteria or viruses. They can swell and become inflamed and this is a common condition called tonsillitis. The condition is common especially in children and it can occur occasionally or recur often. The causes of tonsillitis include bacterial and viral infections. One common cause is Streptococcus bacteria, but adenoviruses, influenza virus, Epstein-Barr virus and other viruses can also be the cause.

The primary symptoms of tonsillitis are inflammation or swelling of the tonsils. It usually causes pain or tenderness especially when swallowing. Hoarseness or voice loss can also occur together with painful blisters on the throat, redness of the tonsils and difficulty breathing. The problem usually resolves itself in a few days but when breathing is affected, it is important to consult a doctor immediately. The treatment for tonsillitis depends on the cause. The doctor usually performs a rapid strep test to determine the cause. If it is not positive, a throat swab culture will be performed. Viral infections will not show on any test, but it is assumed if the test for bacteria is negative. For bacterial infections, antibiotics will be prescribed and some home remedies can help.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is simply a brief cessation of breathing when a person is asleep. It occurs both in adults and children. There are many causes of being overweight, structure defects of the nose and throat and enlarged tonsils. The symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, waking up feeling tired, headaches, fatigue and depression. One common indicator is when you wake up with a very dry throat. If the condition is left untreated, it can cause heart failure, mood changes, depression and other diseases.

The treatment for sleep apnea often includes diet and lifestyle changes like exercising regularly. ENT surgery may be needed when there is an abnormality of the airway or other throat and nose structures. Continuous positive airway pressure may also be recommended by the health care provider. Changing your sleep position by sleeping on your side can help with simple cases of sleep apnea. This prevents the tongue from collapsing preventing snoring.


Tinnitus is noise or ringing in the ears. This is a common problem affecting about 20% of the population. It is not a condition itself but is a symptom of an underlying condition like an age-related hearing loss, injury to the ears or disorder involving the circulatory system. It is bothersome but is usually not a sign of a serious health problem. The sound may be ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing. The common causes include age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, earwax blockage and ear bone changes.
Treating tinnitus primarily involves identifying and treating any underlying condition that may be causing the symptom. If it is due to a health condition, the doctor may be able to take action to reduce* the noise. Some examples are earwax removal, treating a blood vessel condition and changing medication. In some cases, white noise can help suppress* the sound making it less bothersome. Drugs can help reduce* the severity of the symptoms or prevent complications, but they cannot cure* tinnitus. The drugs commonly used for tinnitus are tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline and nortriptyline) and alprazolam.

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Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.

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