Allergy testing and treatment plays a very important role in our Detroit Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic. If not suspected, problems arising from allergies to house dust, dust mites, or animal dander might be hidden to both the patient and the treating physician. This “chronic” allergic reaction can cause prolonged ear and respiratory illness that can last months, years and a lifetime.
What is an Allergy?
People with classical allergies suffer from an inflammatory reaction after being exposed to a particular substance (called an allergen).
The first time someone is exposed to an allergen, in a process called sensitization, immune cells called lymphocytes produce specific antibodies (IgE) which attach to other cells called mast cells.
Repeat exposure to the same allergen causes a chain reaction, resulting in the release of inflammatory substances such as histamine. Histamine is largely responsible for many allergic symptoms.
Most people are aware of the classic symptoms of allergic rhinitis such as a stuffy nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat, repeat sneezing and coughing, watery nasal discharge, and postnasal drip. Less common symptoms include headaches, epistaxis (nosebleed), and even recurrent sinus infections.
The ears can feel plugged and pop frequently (eustachian tube dysfunction). Fluid can build up in the ear causing an ear infection. Occasionally even the inner ear can become involved, resulting in dizziness and nerve-type hearing loss.
This nasal inflammation can also affect the throat.
Thick nasal mucus can slide down the back of the nose, causing cough and throat clearing. Continuously swallowing this abnormal mucus can make the throat sore and can even cause nausea.
Allergy can also cause symptoms in the lower airway, the vocal cords, windpipe, or the lungs. Symptoms from these areas include prolonged sore throats, hoarseness (laryngitis), and bouts of coughing (bronchial asthma). Hidden allergies then can cause a wide variety of ENT disorders, some of which may even need surgery. Allergy testing is especially useful before any surgery is done.
A complete history and physical examination are the mainstays of diagnosis. Occasionally, adjuvant tests such as nasal endoscopy, nasal smears, peak-flow testing, bloodwork or Computer Tomography of the sinuses are required.
The Allergy Department at Lakeshore ENT has been functioning for almost 20 years. During this period it has been served consistently by its Director, Dr. Andrew Dzul, and its tireless supervisor, Linda States. A wide spectrum of allergy treatments is available.
First and foremost are products and advice to “clean up” the indoor environment and to avoid the offending allergens. Nasal irrigation and nasal steroid sprays are also mainstays. In selected patients antihistamines, mucous thinners, decongestants and/or oral steroids are also suggested.
Conditions such as sinusitis and reactive airway disease must frequently be addressed, as they often accompany allergic rhinitis.
When avoidance or initial medical therapy fail, we rely on an initial scratch test “screen” followed by additional intradermal testing to define the level of sensitivity for allergy shot dosing. Desensitization shots can be useful and may be necessary if the allergen cannot be entirely avoided.
At Lakeshore ENT we make a special effort to determine what role allergies are playing in your ENT problem.
For the last 15 years, we have been sampling the outdoor environment to define outdoor allergy. These usually include pollens and mold spores. Outdoor allergies are distinctly different from indoor allergies. Because of consistent sampling and study of outdoor air, we are always aware of the changing pollen and mold spore counts and can anticipate their changes based on weather predictions. For many years we have shared these pollen and spore count data with the media, and our counts and predictions have been presented on the major Detroit area news and weather reports.
The Allergy Department at Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat looks forward to meeting and discussing your allergy and sinus problems.