Who should a patient see for treatment of problems involving the nose and sinuses?
Ear, nose, and throat specialists, or otolaryngologists, are doctors who receive five or more years of training after medical school in treatment of nose and paranasal sinus disorders, as well as other problems of the ear and throat. When an ear, nose and throat doctor is consulted for such problems, he or she will look in a patient’s nose using a nasal speculum and a small mirror with a bright, reflected light or with a magnified endoscope with a built-in light. This is not painful and is made even more comfortable if the inside of the nose is anesthetized with a medication sprayed or painted over the nasal membranes. The medication also opens up the nasal passages, making it easier to see the structures well. Some of the sinuses can also be examined directly using a small lighted instrument. However, thorough evaluation of sinus problems usually involves some form of imaging study such as a CT scan. Fortunately, most sinus conditions are benign, but like nasal disease, sinus symptoms should not be ignored. Serious problems such as fungal infections and even cancers can occur in the sinuses; and the sooner they are diagnoses, the more easily and safely they can be treated and generally cured.