When most people experience physical discomfort or difficulty, the first person they consult with is their primary care physician. Your primary doctor can do a lot for you when it comes to little every-day concerns like winter colds, minor infections, and achy joints. However, if a medical concern becomes more serious, like repeated infections or an underlying problem that may require surgery, their job is to refer you to a more specialized doctor.
For serious issues involving your sinuses, they will likely refer you to an ENT specialist for tests and more expert care. ENT stands for Ears, Nose, and Throat, as these physicians specialize in all issues relating to your sinus system including the bones and lymph nodes associated with these areas. Because your sinuses are so delicate, it's important that each sinus-related issue is treated with the utmost care.
Your doctor's recommendation to see an ENT might be a surprise or they may have mentioned this was a possibility before. But before you see someone new or go looking for an ENT to help you, it's important to ask your doctor a few key questions first. Today, we're here to share five of the best questions to ask your primary care physician before looking for an ENT.
Why Do I Need to See an ENT?
First and foremost, you want to understand why you need to see an Ear Nose Throat specialist. Chances are that you have been having trouble in one or more of these areas, but there's a difference between a sore throat your normal doctor can cure and issues that require the help of an ENT.
According to VeryWellHealth, ENTs treat a wide variety of medical concerns ranging from severe allergies to neck tumors. If you have been having trouble breathing or repeated sinus infections, these are both very good reasons to get help from an ENT. People who suffer from severe allergies also work with ENTs who can help them both control the symptoms and even desensitize to the allergens themselves.
Frequent headaches, earaches, or general discomfort around your sinuses may also be a reason to see an ENT, as they can help you find the source of the discomfort.
What Can an ENT Do for Me that a Primary Care Physician Can't?
It's true that your doctor can examine your ears and help you fight infections, but an ENT has a much more specialized practice, with a wider variety of possible solutions. Unlike a primary care physician who runs a general practice, an ENT can perform more precise tests to get the information you need about your condition. They can also administer or recommend more specific treatments beyond prescribing medicine.
If asked, your doctor will tell you exactly why they think you need to see an ENT, and what an ENT can do for you at this point that they cannot. It might be allergy treatments to eliminate symptoms instead of just taking antihistamines. It could be because your doctor suspects you will need sinus surgery. Or your symptoms may be elusive enough that an ENT has a better chance of diagnosing your problem.
Is This a One-Time or Long-Term Recommendation?
There is a big difference between working with an ENT for an ongoing problem and visiting an ENT once for a few tests. If your doctor recommends seeing an ENT, ask them if this recommendation is for long-term work with the ENT or just a quick visit to give your physician more information.
Their answer will give you more perspective on what is going on and what to expect when you search for an ENT to work with. A one-time test could be with any ENT but for a long-term treatment plan, you will want to spend some time looking for the right ENT for you.
What Do I Need to Bring to See the ENT?
Just like with any doctor's appointment, it's important to have all the right identification and paperwork when you go to see your new ENT. What you need will relate both to new patient forms for the ENT and any documentation on the medical issue you've been dealing with. Your primary care physician will have a good idea of what medical information your ENT will want when you go to consult with them and can tell you what paperwork to bring.
By asking what you need with you to see the new ENT, you may also remind your doctor to print up or send over any necessary medical records. However, if your physician doesn't have any records or test results relating to your hearing, breathing, or sinus issue, they may encourage you to go only with your identification so the ENT can take a fresh look at the problem.
Do You Recommend a Specific ENT?
Finally, get a clear idea from your doctor whether they want you to go to a specific ENT or if you should go find one your own. A specific recommendation is quite different from an encouragement to 'consult with an ENT' in general. If your doctor knows an ENT or if their office is partnered with another ENT office nearby, it may be easier for paperwork and logistics to take their recommendation.
However, if your doctor is suggesting that you find your own ENT, you'll need to take this search seriously. Not only do you need an ENT who accepts your insurance and whose office is close to home. You also want to find someone who listens to your problems and has a good rapport with you when working together.
When you fully understand why your doctor is recommending an ENT and what is expected of you, it's time to find an ENT to work with. If you have any unanswered questions that you forgot to ask or that your doctor couldn't answer clearly, that's okay. Consult with an ENT doctor to learn more about your condition and what it's important to know before choosing an ENT to work with.