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The Doctors Lounge - Primary Care Answers

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Forum Name: Ear Nose and Throat

Question: Ear problem

Driftwood - Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:50 pm

I'm a 19 year old Male from Canada with no health card or way to get a new health card as my wallet got stolen recently.

Today I was sitting in class and I swallowed my saliva and heard a kind of cracking or popping sound and now, since that point, any time I try to swallow anything, I get this sharp near-unbearable pain in my left ear area and end up choking on whatever I was trying to swallow.

Up until this point, there had been some slight discomfort in that area when I swallowed for the past week or so and I just let it be thinking that it was related to the toothache I have on the upper part of that side of my mouth. After today though, I'm convinced that it's something in my ear.

Any idea what this could be?
Dr. Chan Lowe - Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:09 pm

You may have a middle ear infection. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the nose. Swallowing causes pressure changes in the ear via this tube. With an infection this can be quite painful.

Tooth pain may be related to an ear infection also. Commonly pain from the ear is referred to the teeth.

If it has been going on for more than a few days, the likelihood of spontaneous resolution is less and you may require Antibiotics.

Decongestant medicines may help clear the eustachian tube if it is clogged but given your pain I think this is less likely. A clogged eustachian tube often gives the feeling of an ear that needs to "pop" but can't.

Hope this helps.
Driftwood - Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:18 pm

Not as much as I'd hoped. It means that somehow, I've got to go see a doctor...but in Canada, if you've lost your health card(or if your walet has been stolen as is my case), seeing a doctor is a no-go. I might be able to get in at the ER, but I might not as well. If I do manage to see a doctor somehow, I won't even be able to afford the prescription.

What else is associated with an ear infection? Coughing? Sore Throat? A cold of any kind?

Thanks for the help on the first post.
Dr. Chan Lowe - Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:59 pm

Often ear infections follow an upper respiratory infection. Typically what happens is first the nose gets congested, then the eustachian tube is not as able to drain fluid. This fluid then becomes a media for bacteria to grow in causing the infection.

Colds are not required for ear infections, though. They can arise spontaneously. This is less common but does happen.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the details of the Canadian health system so I can't give you any advice about how to proceed.

One note for you. Typically, ear infections will improve on their own. Much less commonly, they can proceed into an infection of the bony area behind the ear (termed mastoiditis). This can be a severe complication so if you begin to develop tenderness behind your ear you really need to be evaluated. Tylenol and Ibuprofen can be helpful for pain control until it resolves.

Best wishes.
Driftwood - Tue Mar 06, 2007 10:02 pm

Ok, Thanks...One last question though. Specify tenderness behind the ear. do you mean the arearight behind the ear being soft or sensitive? I want to know exactly what to look out for.
KellyCostello - Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:16 am

I am a 32 year old female with no prior health problems/surgeries. Family history includes Diabetes and Atrial fibrillation.

Problem: When I push on an external part of my ear (hard cartilage part just above the lobe closest to my cheek) it is very painful and makes me nauseous. I do not have an issue chewing, swallowing or even using a Q-Tip. There is no drainage or excess wax. Some times I head ringing (like a phone) in this ear but not often. When I don't push on this part of my outer ear, there is no pain. Only when pushing on it. I noticed it when using my cell phone. It's been this way for about a week. I have to fly in a few days and I am worried it's going to hurt during flight.

Any advice?
Thank you.

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