Category Archives: News

Avoiding Food Triggers for Tinnitus

March 6th, 2018

tinnitusAround 50 million Americans get that annoying ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, clanging or shrieking sound in their ears. Tinnitus often occurs because the tiny hair cells in the inner ear are damaged, producing constant stimulation of aural nerves. There are many factors that contribute to this condition, including exposure to loud noise, aging, medications, hearing loss, allergies and stress. Several food or food additives can also trigger or exacerbate ringing in the ear.

If you have tinnitus, you may want to think about kicking that diet soda habit for good. Some researchers suspect aspartame might have a connection to tinnitus. Though a definitive link between the two has yet to be proven, the reason aspartame is considered suspect is that some components of it may be toxic to the brain and the inner ear – two organs that are particularly sensitive to neurotoxins. Specifically, phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol become toxic after periods of long storage or exposure to heat.

Many people with tinnitus report worse symptoms after eating salty food, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Salt restricts blood vessels, increasing blood pressure within the major arteries while reducing blood flow into the eyes, ears and brain. Snack foods, fast foods and processed foods tend to contain large amounts of salt.

Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that protect plants against bacteria, pests and disease. People with salicylate sensitivity can have adverse reactions to the accumulation of salicylates in their body. People with tinnitus can experience a worsening of their symptoms when exposed to salicylates, according to the Journal of Neurosciences. Foods that contain salicylates include fruits such as dried fruit, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberry, oranges, pineapples, raisins, raspberries, strawberries and tangerines. Vegetables with salicylates include peppers, tomatoes, and canned green olives. Other foods with salicylates include almonds, peanuts with skins on, coconut oil, olive oil, processed lunch meats, corn syrup, honey, jams and peppermint.

For various reasons, several beverages can trigger or worsen tinnitus symptoms. Red wine, grain-based spirits such as rum and beer, cider, sherry and brandy all contain high to very high levels of salicylates. Beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate and energy drinks also exacerbate tinnitus, according to American Tinnitus Association. Caffeine may exacerbate tinnitus in some people by increasing blood pressure and stimulating nerve cell activity.

A significant portion of people with tinnitus have a sugar metabolism problem called hyperinsulinemia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Hyperinsulinemia occurs when the body develops an insensitivity to insulin and therefore fails to break sugar down and deliver it to cells. This resulting excess of glucose in the blood stream causes the pancreas to release more insulin. People with tinnitus who maintain a diabetic diet may experience an improvement in their tinnitus symptoms.

Although fats do not necessarily cause an immediate exacerbation of tinnitus symptoms, foods with saturated and trans fats contribute to poor circulation and reduce blood flow. A diet high in these unhealthy fats increases bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol, affecting long-term heart health and potentially heightening the severity of ringing in the ears. Foods high in trans and saturated fats include fried foods, whole milk, butter, shortening, ice cream, fatty meats like pork and beef, chicken skin and fat, snack foods and candy.

Possible Signs Your Thyroid isn’t Working Correctly

February 4th, 2018

GTY_thyroid_tk_130829_16x9_992It may be a small part of your anatomy … but your thyroid (the butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your throat) is one of the most powerful parts of your body. It produces hormones that regulate everything from your appetite and energy levels to your body’s internal thermostat. It influences, in fact, almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. So when things go wrong, you notice. Although the effects of a misbehaving thyroid can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated.

At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder. Women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a problem. If you’re a woman over 35, your odds of a thyroid disorder are high – more than 30%, by some estimates. What causes your thyroid to go haywire? It could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment – experts aren’t entirely sure. Because thyroid hormones reach everywhere in the body, diagnosing a disorder can be a challenge. Here’s some possible signs that your thyroid might have issues:

You’re Beat
Feeling tired and lacking energy could be symptoms of many issues, but they’re also linked with hypothyroidism, a disorder that’s the result of too little thyroid hormone. If you’re tired after a full night’s sleep, that may be a clue that your thyroid is underactive. A lack of hormone in your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren’t getting the signal to perform.
You’re in the Dumps
Feeling unusually depressed or sad can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism. It’s thought that the production of too little thyroid hormone can have an impact on levels of serotonin in the brain. With an underactive thyroid turning other body systems down, your mood might sink too.

You Feel Anxious
Anxiety and feeling “wired” are associated with hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much hormone. When your body is flooded with messages to be on high alert, your metabolism and whole body may be working overtime.

Your Appetite Changes
An increased appetite can be a sign of hyperthyroidism leaving you feeling hungry all of the time. The only upside is that the “hyper” part of the disorder typically offsets the caloric impact of an increased appetite so the end result sometimes isn’t weight gain. An underactive thyroid, on the other hand, can mess with your sense of taste and smell.

It’s Hard to Focus
This is another one that could be caused by lack of sleep or aging, but cognitive function can suffer when your thyroid is out of sync. Too much thyroid hormone can make it difficult to concentrate, and too little can trigger forgetfulness and brain fog.

Your Libido Changes
Too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, but the impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms – weight gain, low energy, and body aches and pains – could also play a part.

You’re Heart is all a Flutter
That feeling could be heart palpitations. It can feel like your heartbeat is irregular or beating too hard and quickly. You may notice these feelings in your chest or at pulse points in your throat or neck. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of too many thyroid hormones flooding your system.

You Use Lotion in Bulk
Skin that’s dry and itchy can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder. The change in skin texture and appearance may be due to slowed metabolism (linked to too little thyroid hormone production), which can reduce sweating. Skin without enough moisture can quickly become dry and flaky and nails can become brittle and may develop ridges.

Your Bathroom Schedule is Off
People with hypothyroidism sometimes complain of constipation. The disruption in hormone production can cause a slowdown of digestive processes. On the reverse side of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.

Your Periods have Changed
Longer menstrual periods with a heavier flow and more cramps can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Periods may also be closer together. With hyperthyroidism, high levels of hormone cause menstrual irregularities in a different way. Periods are shorter, farther apart and may be very light.

You have Painful Extremities or Muscles
If you have mysterious and sudden tingling or numbness – or actual pain – in your arms, legs, feet, or hands, that could be a sign of hypothyroidism. Over time, producing too little thyroid hormone can damage the nerves that send signals from your brain and spinal cord throughout your body.

You have High Blood Pressure
Elevated blood pressure can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder. By some estimates, people with hypothyroidism have two to three times the risk of developing hypertension. One theory is that low amounts of thyroid hormone can slow heart beat, which can affect pumping strength and blood vessel wall flexibility.

You Sweat or Wear a Sweater
Feeling cold or having chills is associated with hypothyroidism. The system slow-down caused by an underactive thyroid means less energy is being burned by cells. Less energy equals less heat. On the other hand, an overactive thyroid puts energy-producing cells into overdrive. That’s why people with hyperthyroidism sometimes feel too warm or sweat profusely.

Your Neck Feels Strange
A change in your voice or a lump in your throat could be a sign of a thyroid disorder. One way to check is to take a good look at your neck to see if you can detect any signs of thyroid swelling. You can do a physical check of your own thyroid at home. Using a hand mirror, watch your throat as you swallow a drink of water. Look for any bulges or protrusions in the thyroid area, which is below your Adam’s apple but above your collarbones. If you see anything that’s lumpy or suspicious, see your doctor.

Your Sleep Schedule is a Mess
Want to sleep all of the time? It could be hypothyroidism. A sluggish thyroid can slow bodily functions down to the point where sleeping (even in the daytime) seems like a brilliant idea. Can’t sleep? It could be hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid can cause anxiety and rapid pulse, which can make it hard to fall asleep or even wake you in the middle of the night.

You’ve Gained Weight
Going up a few dress sizes can be caused by so many things that it’s unlikely your doctor will look at weight gain alone as a potential thyroid disorder symptom. However, weight gain is one of the top reasons women see their doctor for a thyroid check. On the other end of the scale, a sudden weight loss can signal hyperthyroidism.

Your Hair is Thinning
Dry, brittle hair that breaks or falls out can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Too little thyroid hormone disrupts your hair growth cycle and puts too many follicles into “resting” mode, resulting in hair loss—sometimes all over your body including at the outside of your eyebrows. An overactive thyroid can also do a number on your hair. Hair issues due to hyperthyroidism typically show up as thinning hair just on your head.

Now What?
If you’ve read through this list and have concerns, get your thyroid tested. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physicians to address your concerns. Based on your symptoms, test results, and a physical exam, you may be prescribed synthetic hormones. Testing and treating a thyroid disorder takes a bit of trial-and-error so expect to visit the doctor a few times before the dosage is right.

Singing Leads to Better Hearing

January 5th, 2018

Singing-3-singing-35633120-500-334Go ahead and belt that show tune in the shower — it’s for your health! It’s long been known that singing can reduce stress and increase mental alertness, but your melodies may also improve the way you hear and understand conversations in noisy places, according to recent research.

Deciphering speech in noisy situations can be hard for older adults. Hearing aids can only help so much, because separating speech from noise doesn’t happen in our ears as much as it does in our brains. As people age, something declines along the pathway between the inner ear and the brain’s auditory cortex. Although hearing aids are becoming increasingly better at suppressing extra noise, they can’t completely correct the problem of aging auditory systems.

But some people have less of a problem as they age. Older musicians do better than non-musicians at distinguishing speech from noise, even when their overall hearing is the same — and researchers wanted to know why. So some scientists invited older adults to join a choir (no musical experience or talent required), and tested whether the musical training changed how their brains processed speech in noisy environments. Each session lasts ten weeks, with one two-hour rehearsal each week.

“Singing is sort of like brain boot camp. You’re sort of whipping your neurons into shape,” said Ella Dubinsky, a graduate student in the lab where the choir experiment was conducted. “We wanted to see how short-term could we make the musical training. How quickly can we see these improvements?” she said.

In addition to the choir participants, the researchers followed two other control groups for comparison. One simply listened to music, and the other had no musical intervention. The result? The choir group’s hearing improved after singing training. The other two groups showed no improvement.

But don’t move to Broadway and addition for Hamilton yet. Besides singing, there are other ways that you can improve your hearing at any age.

Practice Focusing on and Locating Sounds.

Hearing exercises can help you hone in on where sounds are coming from and who or what is making the sounds. Create a noisy (but comfortable) environment. Have someone move around the room while reading sentences from a book or newspaper. Close your eyes, repeat the sentence back to them, and try to locate from where he or she is reading the sentence.

Practice recognizing various types of sound.

Close your eyes and listen to all the different sounds in your environment. One by one, try to decipher individual sounds that you hear, both near and far away. The more you practice, the more sounds you will learn to recognize.

Consider downloading software apps designed to improve hearing.

Examples include AB CLIX (based on identifying differences between words), Forbrain (based on recognizing pertinent sounds in voices), and Category Carousel (based on associating sounds with images).


Besides giving you strength, balance, and flexibility, did you know exercises like yoga, walking, and stretching can help with your hearing? Exercise increases circulation in your ear and brain, and good circulation is important for healthy nerve function. If your doctor agrees you’re healthy enough, chances are good that exercise will help you feel better as well as hear better, too.

Meet Dr. Amir Allak: South Valley ENT’s expert in cosmetic and functional facial surgery

October 28th, 2017

doctor-allakDr. Amir Allak is a doctor who believes in the whole person. His passion for science and talent for connecting with people led him to his career path … and have allowed him to be the kind of person who understands and connects with patients on a deeper level.

How did you first become interested in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery?

Dr. Allak: I’ve always loved both science and people, and medicine was the best crossroads between those two things. Some are drawn to the practice of surgery because it is so focused on a single objective, but the reason I love practicing ENT is because I get the opportunity to see who a person is … even during surgery. By looking at a person’s face, I never forget who they are. It is easy for some to reduce a patient to a statistic. I prefer to know more about them … maybe they are a mom, a teacher, someone who likes to sing, someone who reads mysteries. It’s much more personal, and something I really value.

Dr. Allak brings a strong background in both his education and practice. He attended medical school at the historic University of Virginia and went on to train extensively with a world-renowned expert in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Jonathan Sykes at the University of California, Davis. Through these experiences, Dr. Allak not only refined exceptional technical skill, but honed a strong person-centered philosophy about the practice of medicine. In addition to being board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology and treating general ENT disorders, Dr. Allak brings to the group a specialty expertise in cosmetic and functional facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.

What are your strengths as a surgeon?

Dr. Allak: There is a certain amount of technical ability that every good surgeon simply has to develop. Once you have those skills down, some may think that is enough. But there is more … interactions with patients are the discriminating factor between an enriching experience, and a mediocre one. My ability to explain procedures, allay fears, educate, break down stigmas, are what sets me apart. The basic technical ability is something you can expect from every good surgeon, but the interpersonal aspect is the real test … and enhances every other part of the experience for the patient and me alike.

When it comes to his medical approach, Dr. Allak believes that solid communication between doctor and patient is the key. He says that giving patients time to communicate, understanding expectations, and then really listening to what they have to say, makes him a better doctor.

How do you empower people to make decisions that are right for them?

Dr. Allak:  Ultimately, the decision to have elective cosmetic surgery or procedures is a very personal choice. The way I see it, people work hard for their money, and it is up to him or her to decide how to use those resources to bring happiness to their life without judgment for deciding how best to navigate that path.

As far as empowering patients, it is really less about what I do, and more about what I can understand from each person that makes for a better experience. It’s about listening … absorbing and learning from each interaction. I want to understand what your goals and expectations are and tailor my approach to meet your needs. Every person is unique … in what they want, in how they think. No two surgeries are the same because no two people are the same. I work to match my skills to what each person desires out of the experience. This allows me to apply my skillset to enhance the overall service to the next level.


With his education, skills and experience, Dr. Allak could have gone almost anywhere … but he chose South Valley ENT for his practice. It’s a good fit, he says, and he already feels at home here.

  1. Why did you choose South Valley ENT?

Dr. Allak: The doctors at here share a philosophy that I believe in … that people come first. There is a positive energy in this practice – you can see it on the faces of people as they leave their appointments. There is a level of trust, expertise, and caring. I know that each of the doctors here actually cares about their patients, and each one goes about their craft with that sort of empathy and nurturing attitude. It makes for a seamless interaction when we collaborate knowing that we all hold these principles as top priorities.

Dr. Allak brings to South Valley ENT a special expertise in cosmetic and functional surgery of the face. This includes cosmetic rhinoplasty, functional nasal surgery (for nasal breathing), eyelid rejuvenation, aging face surgery (facelift, necklift, browlift, etc.), reconstruction after Mohs skin cancer surgery, facial trauma surgery, as well as non-surgical facial rejuvenation (botox, fillers, etc.) and others.

What’s Making My Throat Itch?

July 15th, 2017

itchyYou can’t scratch the inside of your throat — but sometimes it gets dog-gone itchy. Almost everyone has had the experience of an irritating itchy feeling inside your throat. It can be caused by a variety of things. To solve the puzzle, it’s helpful to look at symptoms that come along with an itchy throat.

Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common causes of itchy throats. The histamine reaction can make your throat feel irritated. Other common allergy triggers are pollen, dander, dust, and irritants such as cigarette smoke or exhaust fumes.

Itchy throats caused by allergies may be accompanied by:

  • sinus pressure
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • itchy eyes and skin
  • sneezing
  • tiredness
  • swollen, red, or watery eyes

Food and drug allergies can also cause an itchy throat. The allergy may be mild, ending with an itchy throat or mouth. But they can also be life-threatening, so care is needed. Common trigger foods include peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, and wheat. 
Many people have allergies to certain medications including penicillin and other antibiotics. Some medications cause dry coughs and itchy throats even if you aren’t allergic to them. People taking ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure should know that they can cause an itchy throat and dry cough.


When caused by food or drug allergies, itchy throats may come with:

  • hives
  • redness of skin around the eyes
  • itchy ears
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • sense of doom
  • drop in blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness


Strep throat, tonsillitis, and viruses may start with an itchy throat before progressing to a sore one. If it is just a cold, the itchy throat likely won’t progress beyond mildly sore. If a person has a flu infection, their throat will be more severe and accompanied by fever, body aches, and chest discomfort. If the itchy throat is caused by an acute illness, it will probably be short-lived and accompanied by a combination of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • swollen glands
  • muscle aches
  • weakness
  • headache
  • cough
  • nasal congestion


Dehydration is common during hot weather, after exercise, or during illness, and can make your throat feel itchy. When the itchy throat is caused by dehydration, other symptoms can include

  • extreme thirst
  • dry mouth
  • infrequent dark urine


Heartburn can cause an itch. Some people have a condition called silent reflux and may only notice a chronic, itchy throat as a symptom. But this is the exception. Normally, reflux or heartburn comes along with:

  • difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • burning sensation in chest or throat
  • gas
  • inflamed voice box
  • worn down tooth enamel
  • inflamed gums
  • bad taste in mouth


What To Do About It


A doctor does not always need to examine an itchy throat. Many times, home treatments are effective. How to best treat an itchy throat depends on what is causing it. Here there are some tried and tested remedies that may help:

  • a spoonful of honey to coat the throat
  • salt water gargles
  • lozenges and cough drops
  • nasal spray
  • hot tea with lemon and honey
  • over-the-counter allergy or cold medications
  • nasal sprays


There are also steps you can take to avoid getting an itchy throat in the first place. If you smoke, try to quit. Drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, which can irritate your throat.


If your symptoms last for more than 10 days, get worse, or don’t respond to self-care, you should see a doctor. Get help immediately if your itchy throat comes with trouble breathing, wheezing, hives, swelling in the face, a severe sore throat, fever, or difficulty swallowing.

Are Antibiotics Always the Best Path to Treat Sinus and Ear Infections?

May 18th, 2017

antiIf you have a painful sinus problem or ear infection, you just want relief … and swallowing antibiotics can seem like the easiest path to recovery. About 90% of adults in the U.S. end up getting an antibiotic for acute sinusitis from their general practice doctor. Ear infections tell the same story; millions of parents take their children to the pediatrician for ear infections, and most of them end up going home with antibiotics.

But antibiotics may not always be the best remedy, according to recent research. Many medical groups are now recommending that doctors prescribe antibiotics with more caution. Research has shown that 60% to 70% of people with sinus infections recover without antibiotics. About 70% of children get better from ear infections on their own within two or three days, and about 80% are better within a week to 10 days.

There are some real downsides to using antibiotics when they’re not necessary — they can cause upset stomachs, allergic reactions and other problems. And they can contribute to the development of superbugs — infections that are getting harder and harder to cure.

It is difficult for doctors to know what is causing an infection just by observation. Sinus and ear infections can be caused by bacterial infection (for which antibiotics generally work)… but they can also be caused by viruses, drainage problems, and other conditions for which antibiotics definitely offer no help. Antibiotics may be more appropriate to give to certain patients who are less able to fight off infection, such as those with diabetes, or serious heart or lung disease. And antibiotics should be considered in patients with severe sinusitis symptoms.

And there are some kids who definitely should get antibiotics for ear infections, such as those ages 6 months to 2 years who have infections in both ears or any child who has severe symptoms, such as severe pain for several days and a fever of at least 102.2 degrees. Any child who has a ruptured eardrum should also get antibiotics.

The new guidelines recognize the need for physicians to decide the best way to treat each person. Sometimes a “wait and see” approach will give people flexibility … they get a prescription for antibiotics, but are instructed not to use it until they are more certain that the infection won’t resolve on it’s own. The longer symptoms last, the more likely a sinus problem is to be a bacterial infection, some experts say. The new guidelines also recommend ways parents can protect their kids from ear infections in the first place, such as by breast-feeding and keeping kids away from cigarette smoke.

At-Home Treatments for Nasal Congestion

April 18th, 2017

ouchA stuffy nose is an annoying, distracting, and very common problem. Most of us get an occasional stuffy nose from viral infections (such as a cold), from allergies, or as a side-effect of pregnancy. Inflammation and swelling inside the nose make you feel stuffed up and uncomfortable. Mucus and drainage may also join the party. You don’t necessarily need to run to the doctor every time you get the sniffles. In most cases nasal congestion can be treated effectively at home.

Steam Up the Bathroom
Take a hot shower or soak in a warm bath to decrease nasal congestion. The steam helps mucus drain from the nose and improves breathing. Although the benefits of the steam may not last, it provides temporary relief … which can be all you need to get through the day or get some precious sleep.

Warm Compress
Warmth may decrease sinus congestion and tightness in the nose and face. Wet a washcloth with very warm water and apply it to the face (be sure it isn’t too hot). You can add slices of fresh ginger or lemon to the water while soaking the washcloth for a pleasant aroma and additional relief.

Saline spray
A shot or two of store-bought saline spray (a mix of salt and sterile water) may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose. These sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. You can buy them over-the-counter in many stores.

Sinus Flush
There are several kinds of bottles that can be used to flush out sinuses. Neti pots are used to effectively wash mucus out of sinuses, but they require you to “sniff” in liquid, which can be hard for some people. A specially-designed squeeze bottle and saline solution can also be to flush the mucus out of each nostril. Distilled or previously boiled water (that is cooled) can be used to avoid bacteria from tap water.

Cool moisture
Adding moisture to the air from a cool mist humidifier can help to thin mucus and make draining easier. It can also help to reduce inflammation inside the nose. It’s important to keep a humidifier clean to prevent bacterial growth inside the machine. Follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.

Drink Up
Be sure to drink enough water. Being well-hydrated causes the mucus to be more thin and makes it easier to push fluid from the nose.

Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is a concentrated natural oil from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. For adults without allergies to eucalyptus, inhaling the oil can decrease inflammation of the nasal lining and make breathing easier. Place a few drops of the oil in a pot of simmering water to fill your room with the scent and steam, or use an essential oil diffuser.

Over-the-Counter Medicines
Some stuffy noses are due to allergic reaction. Some allergy medications contain antihistamine to block this reaction. Read the directions and understand the side effects before taking these medications.

Decongestants also help with nasal congestion. They work by causing small blood vessels in the nose to narrow, which decreases swelling. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor before taking decongestants. Decongestants can have side effects, so be informed before taking them.

If your nasal congestion continues for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor. Other things that might signal a more serious problem and require a visit to our offices include:

– green mucus
– facial pain
– pain in the ear
– headache
– fever
– coughing
– chest tightness

If you have any questions or concerns, grab your tissues and make an appointment today!

Nasal Spray Long-Term Use: Is There Cause for Concern?

October 19th, 2016

466764395_XSWhen you have a stuffy nose, a squirt or two of the right nasal spray can help you feel better. But even though many of these medicines are sold over-the-counter, you still need to know how to use them in order to avoid problems – and even damage to the inside of your nose.

There are several types of nasal spray. Some are safe to use every day for several months. Others can cause what is known as “nasal spray addiction” if used for more than just a few days. This is not a true addiction, but can cause swelling and long-term stuffiness that may lead to further misuse of the spray. It could become a serious problem. Sometimes a person may need additional treatment – even surgery – to correct damage. It’s important to know the different types of nasal sprays and how to use them safely.

Saline Nasal Sprays
Saline sprays can help loosen and thin mucus in the nose. They do not contain medications, and have no side effects. They are generally considered safe for all ages. They contain sterilized water and a small amount of salt (sodium chloride). Some also contain preservatives that prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. Saline sprays are not addictive.

Steroid Nasal Sprays
Steroid nasal sprays don’t contain steroids like those sometimes used for body building (anabolic). They instead have corticosteroids, which calm inflammation caused by an overactive immune system response. This drug is used to treat nasal allergy symptoms like sneezing and runny nose. It can provide relief from hay fever or nasal allergies. It takes several days to work, and must be used every day during the allergy season to be effective. Some corticosteroids may slow growth in children, especially if used for a long time. Children should only use steroid nasal sprays under the guidance of a doctor.

Steroid nasal sprays are commonly available in stores, although some may require a prescription. The active ingredients may be listed as fluticasone propionate or triamcinolone acetonide. Steroid nasal sprays are not addictive, and are safe to use daily for most people up to six months, although they can have some side effects.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
Antihistamines have been used for years to treat seasonal allergies by blocking a chemical responsible for allergy symptoms. Cromolyn sodium is an antihistamine spray available over the counter and can be used in ages 2 and up as directed. It may take a week or more of daily use before a person feels complete relief. Antihistamine nasal sprays are not addictive, and can be used up to 12 weeks. Those who need to use them for longer should ask their doctor.

Decongestant Nasal Sprays
Decongestant sprays are available over the counter and are designed to temporarily shrink the blood vessels in the nose. The active ingredient is oxymetazoline, although they are sold under several brand names. Decongestant nasal sprays ARE addictive. If a decongestant nasal spray is used too frequently or for too long, you can develop “rebound congestion.” You may find that you want to use the spray more frequently than recommended. Each time the spray is used, the blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing the tissue inside the nose to shrink. After the medicine wears off, it swells again, sometimes even more than before. This swelling can become more severe and may even lead to permanent swelling of the tissue. Long-term use of these sprays can also damage tissue, causing infection and pain.

The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology recommends using decongestant nasal sprays for no more than twice a day for only 3 days. If you use the spray more frequently, you should see a doctor. The nasal tissue will be checked for damage or excess swelling. Typically, a person will need to stop using the spray and may need a different medication to relieve the swelling, such as a steroid nasal spray.

If you have questions about how to use nasal sprays, or which one is best for you, call South Valley Ear, Nose & Throat to make an appointment with our knowledgeable physicians.

The World at a Twirl: Dizziness and Your Health

October 19th, 2016

o-MATURE-DIZZY-facebookJust moments before you were planted on solid ground, but now you seem to be standing upright on a tilt-a-whirl. Feelings of lightheadedness and vertigo can be unsettling – they can make your day less efficient, less pleasant, or sometimes cause it to come to a screeching halt. Problems with balance are not uncommon. Around 40 percent of Americans will see a doctor because of dizziness at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Dizziness is an important issue for older adults. Falls and falling are a leading cause of injury in people over 65. Older adults are more likely to take medications and have conditions that lead to dizziness. And as you age, the systems that create balance are affected. But young or old, nobody is immune.

A solid sense of balance is an important part of good health. It requires the coordination of three bodily functions; vision, the ability to sense your body’s position, and receptors in the inner ear. For many, dizziness simply goes away after a time. But dizziness can sometimes be a sign of other problems. Dizziness has many potential causes and can be linked to more than one factor. As a result, diagnosing the cause can take time.

Potential Causes of Vertigo and Light-headedness

  • Blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure can cause light-headedness.
  • Overheating. Being active in hot weather can cause dehydration and lead to feelings of dizziness.
  • Low blood sugar. This can prompt unsteadiness, sweating, and anxiety, especially in those with diabetes.
  • Medications. Side effects of many medications include feelings of light-headedness: antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and drugs for high blood pressure and seizures.
  • Anxiety. Feeling faint is a common symptom of panic attacks and anxiety-related disorders, such as agoraphobia.
  • Neurological disorders. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may cause lightheadedness.
  • BPPV. If you feel like you are spinning when they lie down or turn your head, you may have BPPV. This is an inner ear disturbance caused by loose particles. Most cases of BPPV improve on their own within 6 weeks, although treatment can speed up the process.
  • Meniere’s disease: This disease is associated with hearing loss and ringing in the ears. Meniere’s disease is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Your ears may feel blocked or plugged.
  • Labyrinthitis: This condition is caused by a virus and can result in vertigo and sudden hearing loss.
  • Migraine: Some migraines can be accompanied by vertigo, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.
  • Pregnancy: Dizziness is fairly common during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. Hormonal changes alter the stretchiness of blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the uterus but may lower blood pressure. Low blood sugar, due to demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy, can also cause dizziness. The weight of the baby pressing on blood vessels can have a similar effect.

Symptoms that go along with your dizziness can be clues to the underlying cause, so pay attention to the following before your appointment:

  • Vision problems
  • Buzzing or ringing in the ears
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Speech problems
  • Sweating

If you have serious symptoms such as vomiting, garbled speech, fainting, chest pain, high fever or head trauma along with feeling dizzy, seek medical care immediately, as these may be signs of a serious condition.

Most often, dizziness goes away on its own. But if you have questions, or want help finding the cause of your dizziness, give us a call today to make an appointment with our knowledgeable doctors.

Decibels and Keeping Your Ears Healthy

August 22nd, 2016

What do the following items have in common?

  1. Mowing the lawn
  2. Indoor/outdoor concerts and parades
  3. Vacuuming the floor
  4. Demolition derby
  5. Using a blender
  6. Rodeos/Concerts
  7. Water skiing/wake boarding/wave runners

All of these activities involve elevated decibel levels which can lead to hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels and knowing how much noise can damage hearing is a good step to protect your ears. We only get one set of ears, so let’s keep them healthy.

Experts agree that hearing damage can happen if a person is around noise that is 80-85 dB–which is the sound level of a busy city street. Lawn mowers, screaming children and rock music clock come in around 110 dB with ambulance sirens, jet engines and firecrackers taking the top spots at 130-140 dB. Exposure to noise around the 105 dB level for just 15 minutes each week can cause permanent hearing loss.  However, continued exposure to sounds around the 80-85 decibel level over time can be just as damaging if you are exposed to them each day.

Use earplugs whenever you will be around noises with elevated decibel levels. Turn down the music or the television. Keep that digital music device at safe levels and be cautious when driving with the radio cranked up. Small space and big noises are not a winning combination for your ears.

Stand up for your hearing and acquire appropriate ear protection if you work in loud conditions.  Give your hearing a holiday by by refraining from loud music or other noises.  Your ears will need around 16 hours of rest after two hours of 100 dB entertainment or work.

If you suspect your hearing may be waning, please schedule an appointment with South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.  Our audiologists and physicians can determine the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing and will create a treatment plan to help you preserve and possibly correct your hearing issues.