The eustachian tube is a tube that runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat and nose. Many factors may lead to its infection or make it plugged. When it becomes infected, we call it Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. This condition is curable at home, but when symptoms persist for longer times, the patient has to visit a doctor. Following is a comprehensive discussion on this topic.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: What Is Eustachian Tube?
Eustachian Tube starts from behind the nose, from a part that is adjacent to the soft palate and runs slightly uphill. It continues and ends in the middle ear space. This tube is connecting the rear of the nose that is behind the soft palate with the middle ear space. The hollowed-out portion of the skull bone is called the middle ear space. It contains the apparatus of hearing. Eardrum covers it from one side. Two-third of the Eustachian Tube is protected by the cartilages, whereas the third part is made of bone. These tubes run on each side of the face. They help in the regulation of ear pressure. They also help to drain out extra fluid from the middle ear and transfer it to a throat that eliminates it. Eustachian tubes are 35mm (1.3 inches) long in adults and 3mm in diameter.
These are small and tiny canals. Many factors may lead to their blockages and cause discomfort. They may also cause hearing problems. When such symptoms arise, we call this Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD). Many factors and reasons are behind these blockages and infections. These symptoms are curable at home, whereas sometimes patients have to visit a doctor. It may lead to painful or uncomfortable circumstances.
Symptoms Of Eustachian Tube Dysfunctio (ETD)
Many symptoms of ETD include plugged ears, fullness in the ears, hearing problems, tinnitus or ringing in the ear, popping or clicking sounds, pain, and others. The patient feels like his ears are filled with water. Tenderness around the ears, trouble with balance, and tingling or tickling sensation are other symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. These symptoms may arise at once or one after another. How long these symptoms will persist depend upon their initial cause. Sometimes symptoms arise due to a change in altitude. These symptoms are resolved when the person returns to his normal altitude. These symptoms may also last for longer periods depending upon their initial causes. When ETD occurs due to some infection or illness, it may last for more time.
When a person experiences the symptoms of ETD for more than two weeks, he must visit a doctor. When children are facing such symptoms and problems, they should visit a doctor as soon as possible. The reason behind this is that children may have an ear infection. Ear infection can be more severe and serious. Its consequences may lead to serious damages.
Causes And Risk Factors
We know that there are many symptoms of ETD, and therefore it may occur due to many causes. Seasonal illnesses or allergies may become the cause of ETD. These illnesses include cold or flu, and they may cause inflammation in that area. They may become a potential cause of this disorder. Sinus infection causes a Eustachian Tube to become filled with mucus or inflamed. This may also become a cause of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Changing altitude can also become a reason for triggering ETD. Sitting in a plane or driving up a mountain can also become a cause of ETD. Sometimes, when a person rides an elevator may develop unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms of this disorder. Hence, its causes may vary from person to person.
When we talk about risk factors leading to the development of its symptoms, we should know that everyone is vulnerable to damage by this order, but some people may have more chances to develop symptoms. Obese people may develop symptoms more easily as they contain higher amounts of fatty deposits. These deposits may accumulate around the Eustachian Tube. Hence, they are more prone to develop symptoms. Smoking is another risk factor that may lead to this condition. Smoking is the main cause that damages protective hair or cilia in the middle ear. The absence of cilia increases the chances of mucus getting stuck. We know that some people are allergic to some conditions.
People who have allergies may face more congestion and mucus. They are more prone to develop symptoms of ETD. This condition affects children more because their Eustachian Tube is smaller in length. Smaller length increases the chances that germs and mucus will become trapped or clogged. They are also experiencing more colds and infections. Therefore, they are more prone to get damaged by this condition. Moreover, the immune system of children is still in the developing phase, and they can’t resist such problems.
How To Diagnose ETD?
When your symptoms are persistent and severe, you should preferably visit a doctor. When symptoms are persistent for more than two weeks, then you should necessarily see a doctor to consult about the problem. When your ears are facing these symptoms, you should consult a doctor as early as possible because they are more vulnerable to get an infection. An early visit to a doctor may protect them from a serious illness.
A doctor may diagnose the illness via a physical exam. A doctor may ask you about different symptoms that you are experiencing. He may ask about hearing problems, pain, or other signs. After that, he will see inside the ear to get an estimation of the disorder. Sometimes, a doctor may ask random questions to see whether it is ETD or something else. Visiting a doctor at the right time may help to know about the correct disorder and start the treatment.
Treatment Options For Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
When you have seen a doctor, and he has diagnosed you with ETD, you should immediately start treatment of your problem. Different doctors may have different treatments. Mostly, symptoms of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction may disappear automatically. Following are some of the treatment options.
When you feel that your symptoms are painful and bothersome, some simple and easy home remedies can work to get relief. When you have minor symptoms due to alternation in altitude or air pressure, you may treat it by forcing a yawn or chewing a piece of gum. When you have visited a mountain place and experiencing symptoms, you should have a piece of gum for chewing to eliminate symptoms. It has also been seen that when people with minor symptoms swallow something, their symptoms disappear. Therefore, in such conditions drinking water or eating a snack, or something else can help to recover. These simple remedies help to open or close Eustachian Tube. They help to relieve pressure and remove symptoms.
When children are experiencing symptoms of ETD, they may have chewing gum to relieve symptoms. You should give them a snack or piece of biscuit to help relieve symptoms. When you want to relieve symptoms in infants, you may give them a pacifier or a bottle. When people may have minor to moderate symptoms, doctors may treat them using an irrigation system or saline nasal spray. Sometimes, dried mucus or other particles may stick in the Eustachian tube and lead to the development of symptoms. Different ways to clear the passageways can also help to relieve symptoms.
Over The Counter Medication
Some over-the-counter medicines can help to treat ETD depending upon the initial causes of the disease. When a patient is experiencing symptoms of ETD due to allergies, doctors treat them by using antihistamines. These antihistamines include cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). These drugs can help to cure people who are facing ETD symptoms and possess allergic nature. Different doctors may recommend an antihistamine medicine. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help to get relief from pain or swelling. These non-steroidal drugs include ibuprofen. Most doctors may recommend ibuprofen to persons experiencing ETD pains so that they can get relief.
When the main cause for ETD symptoms is a bacterial infection, doctors may recommend the usage of antibiotics. Medical treatment may be either oral or topical. Doctors may ask to use antibiotics orally. Sometimes doctors may recommend oral steroids to treat severe symptoms. Long-lasting ETD cases are very common. When a person is experiencing long-lasting symptoms, doctors may recommend invasive or extensive treatments. Sometimes, a patient’s eardrums may have an accumulation of fluids that don’t let them escape through dysfunctional Eustachian tubes. In such cases, doctors may go for surgical treatments. People experiencing frequent and severe ETD symptoms may be cured through pressure equalization tubes.
These implants help to balance the ear pressures that lead to a decrease in the chances of middle ear infections. Eustachian tube balloon dilation is a new strategic method to cure these symptoms. We have described all the symptoms, causes, and risk factors of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. This is not a major medical problem, and home remedies can help to get relief. Only specific symptoms may require invasive or extensive treatments. Sometimes over the counter medicines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help to get relief from pain.