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Had anxiety disorder. having headache, tension, tingling sensation. Is it tinnitus or something else?

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ENT Specialist
Practicing since : 1991
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I've had anxiety disorder since September 2011, and since about January 2012 I've noticed increasing amounts of sensitivity with my stomach (I guess heightened anxiety has made my stomach acid activity increase). Fast forward to August 2012, I develop eye strain that won't go away, accompanied by headaches that have slowly gotten worse over time. Even a month away from the computer did not relieve me of eye strain and tension headaches/migraines (constant opthalmic migraine - flickering lights in front of eyes [e.g. streaks of light, kind of looks like little camera flashes from a distant spot], sometimes a tingling sensation on my face).

Now I think since January 2013 at least, I've been having constant, never-ending ringing in my left ear. Just recently, last week, what seems like a second layer of ringing has been introduced to my left ear on top of the first. The first layer seems like, hard to explain it, reminds of my tv static from the old CRT TV's using public TV channels that wouldn't come in all the way. This second layer of ringing in my ear is a shrill high pitched, piercing sound. Notably my left ear (same problematic ear) is currently clogged up, and I'm about to start trying to clean it out with an ear wax removal kit.

Is this worsening tinnitus a potentially serious issue? What should I really be doing about it? I've been under the impression that it's tied directly to my eye strain and headaches, but I'm not a doctor. I've seen my general physician and a few different optometrists to no avail (nothing wrong with my eyes apparently).

Another problem, that seems to have been hinted at before I even had eyestrain, is that whenever I cough, my chest starts to feel irritated, and I feel even more inclined to cough. With each cough, the irritation rapidly increases, and becomes very unpleasant, even painful. So I force myself to not cough, and it settles out. This happened to me today, after a rough sneeze that I seemed to have let out poorly. It was like I did the coughing action a bit with the sneeze, irritating my chest. Not quite sneezing the natural way or something.

I remember in all the recent colds/viruses I've had ('recent' is a weird term here, it's been almost 2 years since my last cold), my cough has had a weird sound to it. LIke a rough, coarse sound to it. My friends have often remarked that it sounds awful, and that I should get it checked out. Is there some danger here that I could be overlooking?
Posted Tue, 14 May 2013 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 59 minutes later

Thank you for your query.

1. Tinnitus is harmless in 99% of cases. Tinnitus is experienced by everyone at some time in their lifetime.

2. First, rule out ear wax by getting your ears examined. Ear wax is the commonest cause for clogged eras and tinnitus. Get a PTA (Pure Tone Audiogram) to confirm your hearing levels. Decreased hearing makes one aware of Tinnitus. In addition, get an Impedance Audiogram (Tympanogram) done as you feel that the left ear is clogged.

3. A Tinnitus with a pitch in two different frequencies may be due to different causes. With the eye strain and headaches, get an MRI Brain done. Have you ever had imbalance or vertigo? Does your hearing fluctuate? If so, this may be the beginning of Meniere's Disease.

4. The cough must be evaluated by a Chest physician. Acid reflux due to chronic anxiety is a common cause for a dry cough. A chest X-ray and Lung Function tests should be done. Exposure to tobacco and alcohol should be avoided.

5. Get a 2D Echocardiography done to rule out MVP (Mitral Valve Prolapse). Panic attacks may be triggered by nasal obstruction , cardio-respiratory problems and so on.

6. It is highly unlikely at your age that something serious could be overlooked. You may follow up with the above reports for further treatment options.

I hope that I have answered your queries. If you have any further questions, I will be available to answer them.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Had anxiety disorder. having headache, tension, tingling sensation. Is it tinnitus or something else? 1 hour later
Thank you Dr. XXXXXXX Bhatti!

Is it possible that it could be a brain tumor? Hopefully that is only a small chance, heh heh. I have so many problems together; maybe they are all linked somehow? Could a tumor cause most of them? Are there other things a brain scan might find?

I do not seem to have imbalance or vertigo. My hearing seems pretty steady. Now that I think about it, my left ear seems to have first gotten clogged when I was using a Q-Tip to clean it out. I pushed too far in and it was clogged ever since (this was like, a month or two ago). Though I think the tinnitus was there before that ear was clogged.

I forgot to mention, I consumed alcohol very frequently since I was age 21 until I just turned 26. Typically, I would drink 2 or 3 six packs of beer a week. I've been completely off of alcohol ever since my anxiety disorder started back during fall of 2011. Perhaps the damage of 5 years of frequent drinking had become significant?

Also, my anxiety disorder initially started because I smoked marijuana with some friends. Specifically, we used a vape bag. We did this for some time during summer of 2011, but then I had my first panic attack after apparently having too much of it. What happened was, after 3 bags worth of vaping, and drinking quite a few beers and little bit of other liquor, I found my throat felt painfully dry and disturbingly uncomfortable when I swallowed (it was like it was lined with a XXXXXXX wire, that is the best way I can describe it). I felt trapped because I could not escape this discomfort, and soon I was trembling - it was a panic attack, though I had never understood what a panic attack was before then. This experience opened the door to me having panic attacks again, when sober.

So I quit using marijuana. Then I wound up quitting alcohol because that also made my anxiety worse and made panic more likely. Then I did a huge diet change; I completely stopped all consumption of caffeine, and only consume things with much sugar very rarely. I limit sugar intake to roughly less than 8 grams a day.

Is it possible that marijuana usage has resulted in some damage to my lungs, throat, and/or chest?
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 12 hours later

Thank you for your query.

1. Get the MRI Brain done. A normal scan will conclusively rule out a brain tumor.

2. Get your ears examined with an otoscope to rule out any ear wax.

3. There is unlikely to be any permanent damage with 5 years of drinking and cannabis. Liver function tests, Cardio-respiratory evaluation and Pulmonary (lung) function tests can help document this.

4. The suffocation and pain induced by the cannabis and alcohol may have triggered off the panic attacks. Cannabis has prominent effects on the neurological system.

I hope that I have answered your queries. If you have any further questions, I will be available to answer them.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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