You may know someone who has been referred to an ENT for sinus problems, a chronic sore throat, or an ear infection. Or perhaps you’ve been struggling with these issues and been referred to one yourself. If so, you may be wondering what an ENT is and whether a consultation is in order. Here’s a closer look at what ENTs do and how they can help you breathe better.

What Is an ENT?

“ENT” stands for “ear, nose and throat,” which refers to the specific parts of the body treated by these doctors more formally known as otolaryngologists.

Says the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery of these specialists, “Otolaryngologists are physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck…Their special skills include diagnosing and managing diseases of the sinuses, larynx (voice box), oral cavity, and upper pharynx (mouth and throat), as well as structures of the neck and face.”

In addition to addressing many primary care problems in adult and pediatric patients, ENTs also diagnose, treat and manage disorders specific to the field, including chronic sinusitis. Otolaryngology is also the country’s oldest medical specialty.

ENTs are well-trained to do what they do. In addition to completing up to 15 years of college, medical school, and specialty training, they must also pass the American Board of Otolaryngology exam. Many also pursue fellowships in order to acquire more extensive training in subspecialty areas like allergies, rhinology (nose), and laryngology (throat).

Should You See an ENT?

Because ENTs cover so much territory, there are many possible reasons to see one. Some of the most common conditions that are treated by otolaryngologists include ear, nose and throat injuries; never problems in the ear, nose or throat; balance problems; dizziness; hearing impairment; ear infection; tonsil or adenoid infection; swimmer’s ear; ear, nose or throat pain; tinnitus; earn, nose or throat birth defects; Down’s syndrome; growth or tumors in the ears, nose or throat; cleft palate; nose bleeds; voice or swallowing problems; hoarseness; sore throat; and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

One of the most common health issues that spur patients to see an ENT? Sinus issues, which can include pain, snoring, sore throat, runny nose, cough, breathing problems, asthma, and allergies. In fact, more than 30 million adults in the US — 12.5 percent of the population — are living with diagnosed sinusitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Countless others may be suffering in silence. For these people, a visit to an ENT can be an invaluable lifeline to a more comfortable and pain-free life.

Not sure whether you have a health problem or condition that merits an appointment with an ENT specialist? Ask your primary care doctor.

It’s also important to remember that even if you saw an ENT in the past, new developments in the field, such as cutting-edge balloon sinuplasty, are supporting optimal outcomes for patients. To talk to an ENT specialist about treatments for chronic sinusitis and other sinus issues, book an appointment with leading San Antonio, Texas area otolaryngologists at the American Sinus Institute today.