Fall is a popular time for travelers to visit tropical destinations due to smaller crowds and better fares compared to Summer months. These destinations often offer a variety of irresistible water-related activities, like scuba diving. But before you suit up and dive in, take a moment to learn the signs of Barotrauma and Barosinusitis, which often affects scuba divers and those who travel by plane.
Barotrauma is an injury sustained from failure to equalize the pressure of an air-containing space with that of the surrounding environment. For instance, pressure changes in the ear are commonly felt when flying. If that pressure becomes severe, barotrauma can occur. Barosinusitis, on the other hand, is caused by Barotrauma of the nasal sinuses; it is characterized by inflammation of one or more of these paranasal sinuses. If after a scuba diving adventure or frequent flights, you experience ear discomforts such as pain, stuffiness or fullness in the ear, difficulty hearing, or dizziness, you may have barotrauma. On the other hand, if after these activities you experience facial pressure, pain, headache, bloody mucous discharge, excessive tearing; then you may be suffering from barosinusitis.
Different areas of the ear or sinuses can be affected by barotrauma and barosinusitis. For those who scuba dive, the most common area of the ear affected by barotrauma is the middle ear, and the most affected sinuses are the frontal and maxillary sinuses. Pressure and pain can develop in the sinuses or the ear in as little as 2.6 feet of water or altitude changes of 1,000 feet. In severe cases of barotrauma, the eardrum can rupture or you can develop sinus block with hemorrhage (bleeding) from the nose.
How are Barotrauma and Barosinusitis Diagnosed?
If barotrauma or barosinusitis is suspected, it is best to visit an ENT specialist as soon as possible. Through a detailed history, symptom assessment, ear examination, and hearing/vestibular testing, an ENT specialist can accurately diagnose barotrauma.
Medical treatment for barotrauma and barosinusitis mainly consists of pain control with medications, promoting ventilation, and preventing infections. Ventilation helps proper healing and restoration of normal pressures in the ear. After trauma, the ear can be susceptible to infection so antibiotics may be recommended as well. While pain medication and some antibiotics are available over the counter, barotrauma and barosinusitis should be treated under the supervision of an ENT who will create the right environment for proper healing.
In more severe cases of barotrauma and barosinusitis, pain medications and antibiotics are insufficient treatments, and an ENT may recommend surgical treatments. Such treatment includes endoscopic surgery, which can be used to restore sinus ventilation, as well as tympanostomy (ear) tube placement to restore normal ear pressures. This treatment will give those with barotrauma or barosinusitis a higher chance to return to normal activity after healing, and help prevent lasting damage to the ears and sinuses.
If you have concerns about barotrauma or barosinusitis you should consult an ENT specialist. Dr. Carreño is an ENT specialist in the South Florida area. Through medical treatments and advanced technology, Dr. Carreño and his staff can meet all your ENT needs. Contact his office today to set up a visit.