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ENT Problems Caused by Smoking

Big Neck Lumps

Despite its serious health hazards, smoking remains a widely adopted – and addictive – practice in Singapore and around the world. This may explain why smoking continues to be a leading cause of death and disease. Due to smoking’s long-term consequences to the nose and throat, ENT doctors in Singapore strongly discourage smoking.

Smoking is a risk factor in developing head and neck cancers

ENT clinics in Singapore have found a strong connection between smoking and an increased risk of developing head and neck cancer. Almost 80% of head and neck cancers are associated with using tobacco products that are present in cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

Chemicals in cigarettes can negatively affect the DNA inside the cells, potentially causing them to become cancerous. Researchers also found out that the amount of tobacco consumed is a contributing factor in the chances of recovery from this cancer.

The link between sinuses and smoking

Ear, nose, and throat clinics everywhere advise their patients on the repercussions of smoking and how it can lead to the increased risk of various ENT cancers and other diseases. Cigarettes contain ammonia and formaldehyde that can irritate the upper airway. When the airways are irritated, the nose and the sinuses generate more mucus, thereby, providing an environment for infections to enter.

Can smoking lead to hearing loss and ear infections?

Smoking has been known to have detrimental effects on various parts of the body, and this includes the ears.

A person who smokes is likely to have a weaker immune system, thereby placing cells in the nose and throat at higher risk of disease and infection. Considering the nose and throat’s proximity to the ears, the ear can also be affected.

Furthermore, smoking itself damages tissues in the nose and throat, making them (and the ear) more susceptible to medical issues as well.

Ear, nose, and throat specialists have also found that children are more prone to ear infections due to their ear anatomy, and this can be more serious when they are exposed to second-hand smoking.

Aside from hearing infections, smoking is a leading cause of hearing loss. This is because the inner ear relies on good and steady blood flow, and when an individual smokes, he or she is susceptible to changes in blood pressure that can cause difficulty for the inner ear to process the sound it receives.

Can smoking cause allergies?

While smoking is not considered an allergen, otolaryngologists found that smoking is a serious irritant. This means that allergy-like symptoms that happen after or during smoking may not be the body’s reaction to the smoke, but rather the body’s reaction to harmful ingredients and irritating chemicals present in tobacco products like cigarettes. Furthermore, individuals who have allergic rhinitis are more inclined to be sensitive to these kinds of chemicals.

Non-cancerous ENT problems caused or worsened by smoking

Otolaryngologists in Singapore specialise in treating diseases affecting the ears, nose, and throat. Common non-cancerous ENT problems caused or exacerbated by smoking that they see include:

  • Hoarseness of the voice
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Ear infections
  • Bad breath
  • Cleft Lip and Palate
  • Throat pain
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Ringing in your ears or tinnitus
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Sinusitis—acute and chronic

For personalised medical advice or screening on your ear, nose or throat (especially if you notice abnormal symptoms or you smoke), be sure to seek medical attention promptly. Dr Luke Tan is an ENT physician who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of ENT diseases and cancers related to smoking, and more.

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