What Is An ENT? 

We often talk about asthma specialists on this site. The two most common types of asthma specialists noted are allergists and pulmonologists. Yet, another type of asthma specialist is an ENT. I personally have benefited from their services. So, what are they? How might an ENT help you control your asthma? Here is what to know.

What is an ENT?

ENT is an acronym. It stands for Ear, Nose, and, Throat. A fancy term for this type of doctor is an otolaryngologist. They are doctors who specialize in diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. They also specialize in surgery of the head and neck.1

Asthma is a disease of the lungs. Asthmatics can also have comorbidities involving the head and neck. When this is the case, they may benefit from the services of an ENT.

When would you see an ENT?

You may be referred to an ENT if you have:2-10

  • Allergic Rhinitis. An older name for this is hay fever.  The new modern name is rhinitis. It is when your nasal passages become red and inflamed due to exposure to your common allergens, such as dust mites, mold spores, and animal dander. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, runny nose, and sneezing. About 80% of people with asthma have this.
  • Chronic Rhinosinusitis. It is when your nasal passages and sinuses are inflamed for three or more consecutive months, despite treatment. It makes it so your nose is stuffy and difficult to breathe through. It may be caused by rhinitis, nasal polyps, or infection.
  • Nasal Polyps. Polyps are soft growths inside your nasal or sinus passages. They are caused by chronic inflammation. They are common in asthmatics or those with allergies. They may contribute to chronic rhinosinusitis. They may also contribute to loss of smell, stuffy nose, and difficulty breathing through your nose. Nasal polyps have been linked to a subgroup of asthma called Eosinophilic Asthma.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is a condition where you periodically stop breathing in your sleep. When you stop breathing, it is called apnea. It is caused by an airway that is abnormally narrow.
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction. Your vocal cords do not open fully. The symptoms are similar to asthma. So, it is often misdiagnosed as asthma. It is also true that many with asthma have VCD.
  • Deviated Septum. There is a thin membrane separating your two nasal passages. Sometimes it can become bent or deviated to block or partially block one of the passageways. This can make it difficult to breathe through your nose. Asthmatics seem to be more prone to these than the general population. An ENT can perform surgery to repair it.

An ENT can help diagnose and treat any of these conditions. They also specialize in treating asthma and allergies.

My experience with an ENT and asthma

I was referred to an ENT twice in my life. In my early 20s, an ENT diagnosed me with a deviated septum. He said it was probably caused by constant nose rubbing as a child due to allergies. He did surgery to repair my nose. And the results were terrific.

A few years ago, I complained to my primary care physician (PCP) about a chronic cough. He diagnosed me with sinusitis and said the cough was due to nasal drainage. He referred me to an ENT. And, interestingly, my ENT disagreed with my PCP. He said I did not have sinusitis. And he said I did not have any signs of nasal drainage. Instead, he told me my chronic cough was probably due to a side effect of Lisinopril, my blood pressure medicine.

He did, however, confirm my allergic rhinitis diagnosis. And he also diagnosed me with vasomotor rhinitis. This is a form of non-allergic rhinitis where the nerves in my nose are irritated. This causes my nose to run at awkward times, such as when I am eating. He prescribed various nasal sprays to see if they would help.

And he also ordered allergy testing and started me on allergy shots. I went through allergy shots before, but he said it might be worth me trying them again. He said studies show they work in about 80% of people with allergies. He said they might also help me with my allergic asthma.

There is one other thing that impresses me about my ENT. Yesterday I talked to him about my asthma acting up. He gave me his advice and called me in some prescriptions. So, I was impressed with his swift response when I needed him.

So, that is my experience with an ENT. So far, I am pretty impressed.

What to make of this?

ENT's are another form of asthma specialist. If you have asthma along with symptoms affecting your upper airway, a referral to an ear nose and throat doctor may benefit you, too. Considering my comorbidity of upper and lower airway ailments, I probably should have been seeing an ENT all along.

What about you? Have you been seen by an ENT? Let us know in the comments below.

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