When Should You See an ENT for Throat Issues?

Woman Getting Throat Exam

The human ear, nose and throat system is incredibly complex and highly interlinked, leading to the need for medical specialists who focus on this area alone. These specialists, known colloquially as ear, nose and throat doctors (ENT) offer expert guidance on the management of a wide range of health conditions. However, many people are unsure when a consultation with an ENT may be a suitable choice.

One of the reasons for this confusion is due to the three bodily areas that ENTs specialize in. After all, most specialists have a primary organ or bodily area that they focus on: cardiologists and the heart, dermatologists and the skin, pulmonologists and the lungs, and so on. ENTs, however, have three areas of specialization.

As a result, many people are unsure whether an ENT is the right choice if they are just experiencing an issue with one of the three areas – for example, if you have issues with throat health, but no symptoms related to the ears or nose. Below, we have put together a variety of instances when visiting an ENT specialist for problems with your throat is the right choice.

  • Infection: Throat infections are characterized by pain, inflammation and visible white spots on the tissue of the throat and tonsils. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit an ENT as soon as possible.
  • Injury: If you have injured your throat or suspect you may have done so, an ENT is the right choice to help ascertain the level of damage and provide the remedies you require.
  • A persistent sore throat: Sore throats are part and parcel of life and most resolve without any medical intervention whatsoever. However, if you have a sore throat that lingers for more than three weeks, then visiting an ENT is the best choice.
  • Problems swallowing: If you are struggling to swallow, or find that swallowing is uncomfortable, then an ENT is the right specialist to contact.
  • Voice loss: If you have lost your voice, also known as laryngitis, then a visit to an ENT can help to establish the cause and help you to find a solution.

You may have noticed that the points above are solely related to the throat. This is because you do not need to be experiencing problems with your ears or nose to visit an ENT.

This may sound strange, but to understand what ENTs do, it’s helpful to think of eating ice cream. Most people who have eaten ice cream will have, at some point, experienced the sensation that swallowing the cold ice cream makes their ear itch. This is entirely normal and transitory, but it’s also a great example of just how interconnected the ENT system is. The cold of the ice cream is “felt” in your ears due to how the nerves of the ear, nose and throat connect with one another – even though the ice cream goes nowhere near your ears, you can still feel it in (what seems to be) a completely separate part of the body.

This is why ENTs specialize in three bodily areas; because, medically speaking, they’re not really that separate from one another. The ear, nose and throat have nerves and structural connections which mean that to specialize in one area is effectively to specialize in all three; they cannot be treated distinctly, so there’s no requirement for an individual “throat specialist.” ENTs can treat each area separately, and as a combination.

So if you have throat problems, but no issues with your nose and ears, an ENT is still the right choice for you.