Throat & Neck Disorders

The neck has the essential role of supporting the head and connecting the brain to organs in the torso. One of the main features of the neck is the throat, which contains the pharynx, or the tubes traveling to the stomach and lungs, and the larynx, also called the voice box.

The throat and neck work with the mouth, ears and nose as well as many other parts of the body to eat, swallow, breathe and talk. Any throat pain or soreness should be addressed as soon as possible.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is interrupted periodically throughout the night. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax and droop during sleep, blocking the airway and causing breathing difficulty.

Central sleep apnea is the result of the brain failing to properly control breathing during sleep; this is rare. The preferred method of treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Other options for treatment include oral mouth guards that reposition the lower jaw and tongue, nasal breathing strips and surgery.


Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a chronic digestive condition that causes painful heartburn and regurgitation. It occurs when the contents of the stomach seep backward into the esophagus. An effective way to treat acid reflux is to avoid the triggers that cause painful heartburn and other symptoms.

Change your eating habits: stick with smaller, more frequent meals, and avoid eating too closely to bedtime. Quit smoking, and ask your doctor if the medications you are taking might be responsible for your symptoms. If you are overweight, exercise to take off excess pounds.

Over-the-counter antacids taken immediately after meals will help neutralize stomach acids and can prevent heartburn from occurring, or relieve the symptoms.

Head & Neck Masses

Head and neck masses are defined as abnormal growths in the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. Many are nothing more than benign lumps, but some do turn out to be cancerous.

It’s important to have any unusual growth checked out by an ear, nose and throat specialist they persist for more than two weeks. If a cancer is present, earlier detection provides the highest chance of successful treatment.

Throat Cancer

Tumors that develop in the throat, voice box, vocal cords or tonsils are referred to as throat cancer. People who smoke, use smokeless tobacco or drink alcohol are most at risk of developing this type of head and neck cancer.

Common symptoms include: chronic cough, hoarseness or other changes in your voice, difficulty swallowing, lumps or sores on the neck, ear or neck pain, sore throat and weight loss.

Treatment for throat cancer depends on the tumor’s size, location and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy – or a combination of the three – may be employed.


Hoarseness is an inflammation of the larynx that results in a change in the voice, making it sound breathy, raspy, scratchy or strained. There may be changes in volume and pitch, as well.

Many times, hoarseness clears up with the use of home remedies that include resting the voice, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

If hoarseness lasts longer than three weeks, is not accompanied by cold or flu symptoms, affects your ability to swallow or breathe or otherwise interferes with your livelihood, schedule an appointment with ENT Associates of Santa Barbara.