The News-Times

Ear pain may be due to rare disease

- Keith Roach, M.D. Readers may email questions to: ToYourGood­Health@med or mail questions to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

Dear Dr. Roach: The rims of my ears both get so sore I can’t even sleep on them. What can I do?


Answer: There are many causes for pain in the cartilage of the ear, including trauma and infection. However, when both ears are involved, it raises the concern for a rare but serious disease called relapsing polychondr­itis. This is an inflammato­ry and degenerati­ve disease of unknown cause. It is most common in people of European ancestry and is often diagnosed between ages 40 and 60, but it can occur at any age. As the “relapsing” in its name suggests, symptoms can come and go.

The ears are the most affected site in RPC, but anyplace there is cartilage, there can be inflammati­on. This includes the nose, eyes and joints. The disease may also affect the heart and kidneys, which is why it’s so important to get a diagnosis.

The severity can range from so mild as to escape diagnosis to life-threatenin­g.

There are other causes — one is a skin condition called chondro-dermatitis helicis nodularis — but your next step should be to see your regular doctor for an examinatio­n and possible referral.

Dear Dr. Roach: Is it true that eating raw clams or oysters with alcohol can cause acute gastritis? I thought I read this somewhere.


Answer: Alcohol can cause acute gastritis all by itself, especially when imbibed in large amounts, and almost exclusivel­y in people drinking distilled spirits (as opposed to wine or beer).

Raw shellfish, such as clams or oysters, do not usually cause inflammati­on of the stomach unless they are contaminat­ed with bacteria. Several species of bacteria are common, but the most worrisome are in the Vibrio genus. Vibrio parahaemol­yticus causes nausea and cramping, sometimes with bloody diarrhea and fever. Vibrio vulnificus can cause sepsis, especially in people with liver disease, including alcoholic liver disease, which predispose­s to very severe disease with high mortality. People with any kind of chronic liver disease should not consume raw or undercooke­d shellfish of any kind.

Dear Dr. Roach: My local hospital told me that I can’t donate blood because I have a pacemaker and had me sign a form acknowledg­ing that I’ve been told that. My cardiologi­st said he never heard of this. What is your opinion?


Answer: I’m with your cardiologi­st.

A bit of research shows that although some people with pacemakers have been turned down from donating blood, there is no need to do so unless the person has another reason not to donate. This includes some medication­s used to decrease blood clotting. The American Red Cross allows people with pacemakers to donate blood, so long as their pulse is normal. The maker of one brand of pacemakers noted that the pacemaker is shielded from any machines used during blood donation — meaning it’s safe for YOU to donate blood.

Some blood banks want people to wait for a period of time after the pacemaker is placed, perhaps because of the very unlikely event of a blood infection. Each blood bank has its own rules to protect the safety of the blood supply and the donors. Most blood banks allow healthy people with pacemakers to donate.

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