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Avatar universal

Blocked eustachian tube, no infection, facial and arm nerve trouble

For the last month, I've had a pain in the middle left of my head.  It feels like it is at the top of the back of my nose....if that makes sense.  After the first week, it seemed to migrate down a bit and I felt like I had a deep ear infection in my left ear.  Simulataneously, I noticed problems with a numbness/tinglyness/warmness or weird feeling in my left arm.  It seems weakened.

I'm no stranger to ear infections, as I had them occasionally as a child (I never had tubes, though) and I get them as an adult usually at the tail end of a cold/flu.  So this seemed out of place because I have not had any cold or flu.

I went to the ER back in the middle of October and was shocked when they told me my ear was NOT red.  It hurt so bad and felt so much like an ear infection, I was convinced it was.  They gave me Roxicet for the pain and sent me on my way.

After 4 days, the intenseness pretty much went away, but I still felt a "sensation" in the middle left of my head.  I had an MRI for my arm numbness and blurry vision (to rule out MS) and although they found asymmetry of a gyrus in front of the right occipital lobe and under the corpus callosum, two neurologists agreed that it is normal "anatomical variation" like if you have one foot slightly bigger than the other.  

Well, that sensation has intensified in the last week in my head and ear and added was a slightly painful sensation under my left eye to the side of my nose.  It feels like compression of the nerve in my face.   I am still having trouble with left arm feeling strange.  

It occured to me that maybe my eustachian tube was blocked.  I noticed I could not get my left ear to pop.

I went and got Sudafed and had a lot of relief for about 12 hours.  I took the maximum dosage and quickly noticed that although the medication was being taken regularly, all the symptoms returned and failed to be alleviated again.

It seems to me that I have more trouble with the symptoms the later in the day it gets.  I feel best in the morning.  (I do have an anxiety issue and wonder how much of this is actually physical and how much is psychological.).  

I can finally pop my left ear on occasion by plugging, blowing, and wiggling my jaw.  But it seems to close right back up and I feel the ear squeeze pain.  I still have that weird sensation in my head and my arm.  I can also still feel it under my eye, but that symptom is better.

I can't find anything anywhere about a blocked eustachian tube causing nerve problems other than the nerves in the face.  It just seems to me that after a month of dealing with these symptoms, that my arm issue is directly related to the pain in the middle of my head/ear.

What could all of this be???

I hope someone can help me.

51 Responses
Avatar universal
I am convinced this is an infection afterall

Back in October when I went to the ER and they gave me Roxicet for the pain and no antibiotics, I dug up my old partial leftover one of Erythromycin in the medicine cabinet.  I took all that was left which was only a couple days' worth, but it responded and I felt so much better.  I thought I'd pretty much killed it.

Then it came back last week.  I've suffered with it all week knowing the doctors were going to say my ear looked fine and was not infected and here's some Roxicet for the pain.

So I posted here and then searched high and low and found another partially unfinished antibiotic  Cephalexin. (I know I'm not supposed to do that and I only did so in desperation since these doctors do not believe I have an infection)   I took 2 yesterday and it is like a MIRACLE!  My tube is still somewhat blocked, but the pain is completely gone and my arm feels normal!  I can feel junk running down the back of my throat.

I'm calling my regular doctor tomorrow as I will be out of that antiobiotic I found and I really don't want this cycle to start all over.  I hope he recognizes this is a very deep infection and apparently doesn't show in my ear drum, but is much higher up.

I'm relieved.
242516 tn?1368223905
eustachian tube is probably blocked causing serous otitis media (otitis media with effusion), the MRI may have mentioned something about the ears?
Saline nasal rinses and steroid nasal inhalers help. Ask your doctor today for this.

Don't take old partient leftover antibiotic prescriptions like the cephalexin or erythromycin, who knows if it's still good?  A couple days of antibiotics doesn't do anything for sinusitis, it takes 10 days or more.
Avatar universal
Thanks for your response.  Yes, I did check the Erythromycin before taking it and it was not expired.

My doctor checked my ear yesterday and said that the drum appeared "sucked in".  He said he could not see "the cone of light" which apparently the reflection from the otoscope when the ear drum is flat as it should be.  

He prescribed 3 days of Prednisone and a course of Azithromycin.  Hopefully this will do the trick, otherwise my next stop is an ENT.
242516 tn?1368223905
Ear exam (otoscopy) that shows "sucked in" eardrum is what we call "retraction" with negative pressure in the middle ear.

"the cone of light" is seen when the drum looks normal, and reflects light off of its convex surface

Prednisone is an oral steroid, to fight inflammation

Zithromax is an antibiotic to kill bacteria

An ENT is a good idea if you have recurrent sinusitis, chronic symptoms.
Avatar universal
I think my doctor was very optimistic the steroid and antibiotic would knock this out. Now that I've completed the 3-day course of the Prednisone  (40 mg every day), I'm convinced it won't.

Of most note, is that I notice I feel MUCH better in the mornings.  As the day wears on and by afternoon, my symptoms worsen and into the evening I'm MISERABLE.  I'm now wondering if this is likely due to the fact that this problem is positional?

I can feel that my ear drum is still sucked in and my eustachian tube slams shut almost as soon as I open it and it is getting harder to open again.  My arm (same side as ear) numbness and strange sensation is directly proportional to my ear.  The worse my ear feels, the worse my arm feels.  The better my ear feels (in the mornings) the better my arm feels.

Can you comment on the likelyhood of my arm problems being connected to my ear situation?

It appears as soon as I finish the Z-pack, I'll be calling my doctor for that referral to the ENT.  What would the likely treatment be?
242516 tn?1368223905
Your arm problems in your arm are not likely to be connected to your ear problem

It may take a few days for the prednisone to help

An ENT may place tubes if you have recurrent, chronic infections:

Avatar universal
I have been having more-or-less the same problem for almost 2 months. Its terrible!

I have seen 3 GPs, 2 ENTs, and 2 Chiropractors, and 1 internist. A lot of those docs just gave me BS diagnoses because I look generally young and healthy but this is not going away!!

Exact SAME thing. Pain started in left ear. Swore it was ear infection, ever doc who looks in my ear says its fine.. yada yada. Pain shooting down side of my neck, different areas different times.. not muscular.. nerves!!!

Going to a new ENT tomorrow and I am going to beg.

How did you ever resolve your problem???? ?/?

The pain is getting worse, just like you said as my last Doc recommended trying sudafed.. thought I was getting better then I crashed worse than ever.
Avatar universal
I can't believe I've finally googled an almost exact description of what I've been going through since March 2008.

March - My problem first started with severe deep eye pain in my LEFT eye.  Went to an Optometrist who said there were "some" inflamed cells on the surface.  Gave me steroid drops.  Drops instantly took the pain away but the pain was back by the end of every day - just not severe.  

April - Went back to Optometrist because of severe pain again.  He gave me more steroid drops.  

May - Severe pain in LEFT eye again and LEFT ear clogged up, then became painful.  Went to my Primary Care doctor.  He figured it was allergies.  Gave me Nasal Spray, Steroid eye drops, Singulaire and Cipro (just in case there was an infection going on.)  Did great until the Cipro treatment was over.

June - Severe pain in LEFT eye, LEFT ear that was always worse after doing PT stretches for my cervical stenosis.  I became completely deaf in my LEFT ear - with odd sounds richoting in my head when I brushed my teeth or took a shower.  My left arm dramatically increased in neurological sensations.  Doc gave me more Cipro because the ear was actively infected at that time.

July - Started having painful attacks every 2-3 hours on the LEFT side that involved my eyeball, inner ear, outter ear, cheekbone, lower/upper jaws & teeth, left side of nose, eye socket tender to the touch, a phenomenal headache split right down the deep middle of my brain with shingles-like pain on my skin.  They lasted for three days.  I can't afford the ER.  Doc said, "maybe neuropathy" - gave me two months of Doxycycline (warned me this is "unconventional treatment") but was willing to try it to spare me the expense of an ENT.

The first week, I took 2 Doxy a day - it helped - but when I had to drop the dose down to 1 Doxy a day my eye has since felt like someone poked it real hard, not severe but hurts like hell - and my ear / head is ringing louder than usual - and is clogging/clicking all the time and the inner canal feels numb - my outter ear is mildly painful hurts more to lie on it.  (the attacks had stopped before I saw my doc or started Doxy).

I'm going to an ENT Nov. 4 - but really think I need to go see my neurologist instead.  I haven't DARED do my neck stretches because it makes my head WORSE - especially my eye and ear and arm.  

With all due respect, sir ~ there IS a connection of some kind with the arm, neck, ear and eye.  PLEASE give more advice on this issue.  PLEASE help us find the connection.

Very Best Regards,
Avatar universal
Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences. I have had a blocked ET, with pain down my neck, since July and I'm just about out of my mind. ENT thinks it may have been an infection from swimming in a natural quarry (untreated water). And, yes, in answer to someone's post (roger?), it got worse after my GP flushed my ear. ENT says that wouldn't have caused damage, but I have my doubts.

I've had a round of antibiotics, two rounds of steroids, and I take Claritin, Sudafed and two nasal sprays (one prescription). I sit in the steam room at the gym when I can. Nothing helps. Been to the ENT three times. Nice guy, but he's taking this way too slowly for my taste. I'm having hearing tests in January.

Thanks for listening. My husband is probably tired of listening to my woes. I've had two years of non-stop chronic problems.. dental, broken bone, gastric and now this. I can hardly remember when I last felt well. Every morning, I wake up and realize my problem is still there and my heart sinks. I try to tell myself "It's not chemo!" and that helps to make me grateful for the health I do have. But it's a daily struggle to stay positive.
Avatar universal
see a neuroligist.  The nerves in your cervical  spine affect your face, ear, sarms chest etc etc. This sounds like refered pain. If anti biotics/steroids aren't helping the problem is not infection.
Avatar universal
hi iam going through same thing, had a lot of stress started with ear like infection like 3 lots of meds from doc... then to dentist as all my teeth felt rotten , nothing , said i had tmj?? went to ortho, had a dam in mouth aka splint soft food exercises etc 15 advil a day. had flu syptoms sinus earpain jaw clicking pins and needles in hands chest pain arm pain, arm pain feels like nerve and sometimes grinds , sometimes nothing have neck pain and jaw that come and go dizzy spells, snot running in throat wet feeling inside my ears.. have eye twitch too !! my teeth are worn on one side and have broke tooth from grinding, clenching, am an a personality and am high strung person , can any body help dr cant !! this has been 3 yrs and some days i can honestly say i cant move i hurt so bad
Avatar universal
Cactus girl's description is basically identical to what I've been experiencing for the past month. Almost identical symptoms:

--Facial semi-numbness (left side, various spots)
--Similar feeling in left hand (though less often, and less pronounced)
--Generally fine in the morning, worse in the evening
--Mucus somewhere behind the back of my throat, that I can't clear by blowing my nose.
--Doctor says my right eardrum is retracted.
--I hear my pulse loudly in my right ear when the room is silent.

I flew transatlantic twice while I had this problem, and noticed that all my symptoms (including the facial numbness) went away while I was on the flight. Which seems to suggest that it's some kind of sinus/ear issue.

The first thing I experienced was facial numbness (It wasn't actually numb, I could still feel when I touched. More like semi-numb with odd sensation, kind of as if it was covered in a layer of mud). This lasted for a few days and went away, then came back, on and off for the last month. It wandered all over the LEFT side of my face. First felt it around my eye and back towards my ear. Later in my cheek, occasionally in my jaw and teeth. Also, I often had a sore spot at the top of my head, directly above the back of my ear.
My stuffed-up ear was on the RIGHT side, but I did seem to have some mucus at the back on the left also, so perhaps there was a left-side sinus infection that I couldn't feel. After about a month the left-side facial stuff isn't there any more, but just today I felt it suddenly in my right cheek below my eye. Alas. Not done yet.
I've had a couple of other symptoms too, but I was worried sick about the whole thing thinking I was having a stroke, so perhaps the other symptoms were due to anxiety:
--Had some weird very extreme thirst one day.
--Felt a little unbalanced a few days (though my actual balance was fine)
--Misc others, including pains in my abdomen, sudden food intolerances.

As I said, initially I was terrified it was a stroke, but the doctor said the pattern wasn't consistent with a brain injury, more some kind of peripheral nerve irritation. He couldn't explain the left hand, but chose to ignore it (something else maybe).  
It all started during a period of very dry local winds which are apparently known for causing sinus problems.

I haven't had any antibiotics, but have found that steamy showers help.
1524808 tn?1291434032
i truly hope you read this i am simular to you in some aspects. i am have eustachian tube blockage no infection either. no fluid. ent said i was crazy! my ears hurt so bad and burn all over my whole head has burning pain and i have numbness in face and neck and a tingling sensation in upper back and left arm. also my ear canals swell shut. have you found an answer to your situation yet? i am searching for anyone who can help me...the doctors are just baffled at my symptons and cant find whats causing them. any advice you can offer would be great. hope you feel better soon.
Avatar universal
cactis girl dont give up...i have most of the same symptoms as you..keep praying! i have suffered for over a month now with this and finally making some head way..going to get mri and ct with contrast there might be possiblity that is spinal cervical stenosis. i have much pain and tingling and numbness in arms face and neck gets better if standing walking or lying down. if i squeeze my neck pain subsides after alot of investigation found that cervical spinal stenosis and crane neck can affect eustachian tubes. chiro seems to think could me my prob. plus my switches from ear to ear within minutes. pressure affecting auditory nerve causing ear canal to swell shut.i have not lost my hearing with this just a blocked ear canal comes and goes. this probs with spine also causes dry mouth and throat. antibiotics never done me any good either. these probs also affect pressure in middle ear! keep searching you may find your answer. i will never give up with the help of God i will beat this! i will pray for you that god help you and lead you in the right direction for the answers. and that you find victory in your suffering! hopeyou feel better fast!
Avatar universal
I have every single solitary symptom that you all have mentioned. There is clearly a connection, although the top doctors, neurologists, and ENTs in my area cannot seem to find one. Good luck to you, and keep posting, it really is helpful to read.
Avatar universal
I found this thread and have the same symptoms as people are describing. I have been dealing with this since the end of August. Two doctors though I had a sinus infection but 3 rounds of antibiotics didn't help. One of the doctors thought my ear drums were retracted. Had an MRI (to rule out MS and tumors) and CT scan (to check for sinus infection), saw an ENT who felt I did not have a sinus infection or ear drum issues and he gave me a device called OtoVent for me to blow up with my nose to clear the Eustachian tubes (for 2 weeks) plus a steroid nasal spray. No luck in feeling any better. Had blood work to check for Lyme and a glucose test and both were fine. Saw a neurologist and had a cervical MRI. Am going to a different ENT in a week but just can't get past this. I start off the day feeling pretty well but as I am up for a couple of hours, the symptoms start all over again and worsen throughout the day. I have pain in the tubes running behind my ears, facial pain and numbness, jaw pain, arm weakness and am very fatigued. I cannot do anything by about midday except lay on the couch.I cannot help but feel I have some sort of infection but my bloodwork does not indicate it and no fever but having had multiple sinus infections over the years, I feel that this is somehow related to sinus or ear issues. Please let me know if you had any luck with doctors diagnosing you. Or anyone else reading this thread...let me know what direction you have gone to get over it! Thanks!
Avatar universal
I have all of the symptoms on this page and I have been dealing with it Since March 2011. It is the worst I have ever felt in my life. I have had all the tests as well and nothing has been found except a clogged left sinus that is under developed. I am going to have surgery done next month to fix that and I hope to god this pain goes away.

Anyone else try this.....When i get the ear pain, If I hold my nose, and suck in creating a vacuum in my sinuses  then let go and snort, I ALWAYS get blood that I can feel coming down from my ETs. The doctor thinks Im crazy too....But I only get the blood when I feel the ear pain...something is not right.
Avatar universal
Have a look at C4 and C5 in this figure.
Through C4, I've read, amongst others the nerve to eustachian tube runs.
Through C5, the nerves to the arms run.

Me and my thoughs: More important, I think, is the nerves for the mucos production in the eustachian tube, because if thei're clogged, it may be because they are dry. Mine stopped opening when swallowing. I don't know if it's because of lack of mucos-production, but after flushing them with neti-pot (Don't do it with air-pressure - I've got ringing-tone in my head) they opened again, and now it sounds like they're struggelig to open because of lack of mucos. Sounds like they're wery "sticky" - that they don't produce the oiling mucos themself. Gives me swallowing pain, becaus air don't elevate to the ears while swallowing, but are being pressed down into my swallow and get stuck, because  the swallow misunderstand it for food. (Yes it's been terrible, before I managed to re-open my tubes).
Did you ever find any relief? Sure hope you did! :-)
Avatar universal
i doubt anyone checks this anymore its been so long but just incase did anyone actually find releaf from this i hate this feeling head neck arm all of it I've had all of these symptoms for at least a month now...it started with an ear infection i took amoxacilin and it went away then about a week later this arm feeling started and hasn't stopped i got a cold with bothered the ear again and now im on a zpack and some ear drops...please if anyone did find an escape from all of this post back i have a  one and a half year old and am scared there is something seriously wrong with me and i just wanna be able to play with him without all these worries.
Avatar universal
I have had the same symptoms for about 3 weeks now as described in the comments above. I was told I have a clogged eustachian tube...Is anyone else getting severe vertigo at times almost til it makes you sick to your stomach??? Please let me know. Also experiencing jaw pain.
Avatar universal
I am experiencing many of the above symptoms including three bouts of severe vertigo over the last 5 years, lasting up to six weeks each time,. The last vertigo attack was August 2012. I had just recovered from the flu ( Type A) followed by a bad outbreak of cold sores inside my nose. The vertigo started soon after preceded by blurred vision, constant yawning and nausea. After the vertigo episodes abated I was left with badly blocked ears, foggy, tight head and a whooshing noise in my ears. I also have a numb/buzzy feeling in my left arm and hand, sometimes my legs as well. Like others have said it's worse from late afternoon. I now suffer from insomnia and am constantly tired. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, steroids, sudomyl and a steroidal nose spray to no affect.  I finally saw an ENT specialist hoping he would tell me my eustachian tubes were blocked. Instead he told me my ears were perfectly healthy! He suggested I suffered from Vestibular Neuritis caused by a virus damaging a nerve in my middle ear. I discovered through research that this condition has a strong link to the herpes virus. I have been taking a Lysine supplement daily along with Vitamin C, B, D. It seemed to be helping at first although the last couple of days have been pretty bad as far as my arm numbness and blocked ears go. I seem to have a good week followed by two or three bad weeks. I believe stress makes the symptoms worse which in my line of work is not easy to reduce. The winter probably doesn't help either. The more I learn the more I think many of my symptoms are due to anxiety brought on from the vertigo attacks and worrying that they will return.
Avatar universal
My problems started EXACTLY like cactus girls!! After 3 MRIs z packs prednisolone one ER trip and several to ent and  lots of anxiety and misery I FINALLY FOUND RELEIF!!! I went to a very good chiropractor specializing in the GADSTEIN METHOD.  HIS X-RAY FOUND 3 places in my back putting pressure on my spinal cord. Even i could see the bends! i had no idea since I never had back pain. It all started in my ear then down my arm and eventually my leg all on the right side with muscle spasms. After several months it moved into my rib cage and neck. Desperate for RELEIF and answers my boss talked me into going to his chiro. I started jan of this year and am still going. I'd say I'm 75 percent back to normal. It takes time but its better than an operation! I urge all of you dealing with this to find a good chiro and try it. I'm SOOOO thankful I did!!!
Avatar universal
Please read my post and try a chiro! Stress made mine worse and once I discovered the cause of my symptoms the relief from the anxiety of not knowing what was wrong was a HUGE relief in itself. I feel so much better knowing I'm on my way to getting my life back! Good luck to you!
Avatar universal
I have the exact same problems. I also decided to treat myself. It has been 2 years for me and all they ever want to do is send me for hearing test. I  started taking prednisone which would clear up my ears but i could still feel it deep in my ear. And the pain in my head seemed worse along with facial numbness and left arm numbness. I think i have finally figured it out and hopefully i can convince my ENT. what i believe is that the back of my throat is blocked {nasal pharynx} . The first ENT i saw told me to run hydrogen peroxide through my ears and alternate it with vinegar. Deep in my ear itched horribly and i felt throbbing above the roof of my mouth, so i ran a few drops through my ear And as it traveled the facial pain and the pain in the middle of the back of my head got worse. I could feel where the peroxide stopped, and what i thought was still my ear was actually my throat. I was able to get some stuff out through my throat but it is still blocked. And the peroxide does relive that deep inner itch until it builds back up again.
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