Ear, Nose, Throat

How do I treat a perforated eardrum caused by an ear infection?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a perforated eardrum caused by an ear infection. How will it be treated? Will my hearing be permanently affected?

DEAR READER: Your eardrum is a thin membrane involved in hearing. It separates your ear canal (the part that is open to the outside) from your middle ear. The eardrum is delicate -- and it has to be. Sound waves that enter your ear move the eardrum, which begins the process that allows you to hear.

Should I try to remove an earwax blockage?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a lot of wax in my ear. Should I try to remove it? How?

DEAR READER: Earwax is created when the oily substance made by cells lining the ear canal mixes with dead skin and debris. Normally, the mixture slowly moves out of the ear on its own. But sometimes earwax gets blocked in the ear. Certain conditions make this more likely:

What’s the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son suffers from occasional nosebleeds. What's the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR READER: Many people suffer from nosebleeds. I tend to get them this time of year when the air is cold and dry, as it irritates the normally warm, moist surfaces inside the nose. Most nosebleeds occur when a blood vessel in the nose's soft cartilage leaks.

What can I do to help reduce my tinnitus symptoms?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have tinnitus, and the constant sound is driving me crazy. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Tinnitus is commonly known as ringing in the ears. This phrase can be misleading, however. Some people hear ringing, while others hear whistles or a combination of sounds. Unusual sounds in your ears may seem like a trivial problem -- unless you have it.

Why do I sneeze when step outside from a dark room into the sunlight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Often when I step outside from a dark room into the sunlight, I sneeze. Why does this happen?

DEAR READER: My colleague, Dr. Robert Shmerling, looked into this question once. I learned from him that there are many people like you, and even more who suddenly sneeze when they move suddenly from a warm environment to a cold one (or vice versa).

I suffer from vertigo, I’ve heard that the Epley maneuver may help –Could you explain what this is?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I suffer from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. I've heard that something called the Epley maneuver may help. Could you explain what this is?

DEAR READER: Vertigo is the sensation that either your body or your environment is moving, usually spinning. Vertigo can be a symptom of many different illnesses and disorders. The type of vertigo you have -- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) -- is the most common form.

I often feel like I have a lump of mucus in my throat — What can I do about it?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I often feel like I have a lump of mucus in my throat. In the morning I spit some of it up, but the sensation doesn't go away. What can I do about it?

DEAR READER: Doctors sometimes use the term "globus sensation" for the feeling of a lump in the throat. The first question I ask when a patient says he has a lump in his throat is: Is it just a feeling that there is a lump there, or is there something you can spit up?

What medications will make allergy season more bearable?

DEAR DOCTOR K: This year I'm suffering from seasonal allergies for the first time. What medications will make allergy season more bearable?

DEAR READER: Sneezing; itchy, runny, stuffy nose; red, itchy, watery eyes; sore throat. Hay fever can cause great misery. If misery loves company, you'll be pleased to know that I and millions of other people suffer from hay fever. Luckily, many medications can help treat its symptoms.

Should I take steroids for my chronic sinus infections?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps. My specialist suggested trying oral corticosteroids. What do you think?

DEAR READER: "Steroids" is short for anti-inflammatory hormones called corticosteroids, and "oral" means steroids taken in pill form. I think a short course of five to seven days of oral steroids is worth a try. That's particularly true if your sinusitis isn't getting any better.