What is functional allergy treatment?

Functional allergy and ENT treatment is a philosophy that I’ve developed over the last 20 years to address allergy and ENT (ear, nose, throat) issues.

The goal is to work with you as a patient to determine the root causes for your challenges. Sometimes there is one dominant cause, such as a sinus blockage, but many times there are a whole host of contributing factors. In a sense, it’s like putting a puzzle together. First, we analyze the pieces, then I can help you begin the process of putting things together.

Prior to going to going to medical school, I received an electrical engineering degree from University of Illinois. We were indoctrinated with systems analysis and various forms of problem solving. In order to troubleshoot, one first had to understand the design of the system.

Secondly, we were trained to look for factors that could be influencing and altering proper function. (Think bugs in an app). Medicine can at times be guilty of a “name it, blame it, tame it” approach. Although our medical sub-specialties allow us to reach an incredible depth in a specific realm, there can be a tendency to miss the interrelatedness of conditions when we miss the big picture.

From systems to individualized medicine
Apply that systematic approach to chronic sinusitis, for example. I am constantly refining my processes as new scientific revelations are discovered and from things I learn from experience. It is an incredible privilege to walk with patients on their individual journeys.

Let’s use the acronym AXES to convey my approach to analyzing chronic sinusitis.

A llergy

X factor

E xposures

S tructural

Let’s say a patient is suffering with chronic nasal congestion, facial pressure and fatigue. After trying a multitude of medical treatments without resolution, I evaluate them with this functional approach. First, I assess structural issues that may limit airflow and proper drainage of the nose and sinuses. A look with a telescope in the office or sometimes a CT scan to reveal important clues. I start here first since open sinuses are crucial to proper function. Imagine, if you will, a closed off sinus, continuing to produce mucus but unable to ventilate!

If the history and exam throw suspicion on an allergic component,  I may schedule them for an allergy evaluation in my office.

“It’s just an allergy, it just won’t go away…”
Most people associate sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes with allergic rhinitis. The most common reason people come to see me is because of the late effects of allergy including CONGESTION, FACIAL PRESSURE and FATIGUE. If a sinus passage is repeatedly swelling closed because of an exaggerated response to an exposure, scarring and blockage are likely to occur.

Another major contributing factor is environmental exposures. Whether it’s dust, chemicals, animal dander or pollen, identifying and addressing possible irritants is crucial for long term success.

Last, but not least is the X-factor. I’ve spent countless hours exploring the complexities of the immune system.  Some of you may know that I have a daughter with special needs. As my wife and I have searched for safe, practical approaches to help our daughter, I have gained insight into a multitude of arenas that I otherwise may never have stumbled upon.

Look at the big picture
Many patients can make incredible strides in the health of their sinuses addressing structural, allergy and exposures. Some, however, require a look at the forest instead of the trees. I like to tell my patients, “Desperate times don’t call for desperate measures. They require us to stop, take a deep breath, then look at the big picture.” I’ll write more about the x-factor over subsequent blogs.

Effective treatment of allergies, breathing issues, and ear-nose-throat trouble isn’t a drive-thru at McDonalds. It takes time, a shared commitment to analyze the underlying components and agreeing to a treatment strategy. The great thing is that it’s totally worth it!  Nothing beats seeing a patient’s quality of life dramatically improved — well maybe one thing: Seeing sustained health!

Paul A. Walker, MD, is a board certified Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist with Baptist ENT Specialists in Fleming Island.  He is a fellow of The American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy.  His office offers innovative and comprehensive testing and treatment for allergies and chronic sinus disorders.  He specializes in minimally invasive office procedures, including balloon sinuplasty. Contact Dr. Walker’s office at 904.592.1068 or request an appointment.


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