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Cold, runny nose, popping ear, swollen face. Aneurysm or sinus?

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Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 2565 Questions
Hi -

I have been having a series of odd incidents in the past few week. Here are details:
I traveled to the Bahamas in early July and returned with a very bad cold. I used a number of home remedies and seemed to have gotten over it.

I went to St. XXXXXXX for the first two weeks in August and felt fine, if a little run down. On August 17th I flew to DC and returned to Jamaica on the 21st. On August 22nd, while driving, I felt an odd, electronic sensation course though my head then felt like something was trying to run down my nose. I also had the sensation that I was smelling blood.

I rushed to the doctor who said I have something that sounds like an eyelid drop, gave me some sedatives and told me to do a thyroid examination, which I did this past monday. However, since that first incident, the thing that seems to be running out of my nose feels like bubbles and sometimes they pop out. I also frequently feel my ears popping, though it is not painful.

Just now, I was again driving and was chewing on some onion rings when I felt this odd tightening sensation on both sides of my face, just above my ears. It was horrible. Now my ears feel like they are blocked up. I also think that the area on both sides of my face temporarily got swollen and stiff, though it wasn't painful, just uncomfortable.

My question is, What is happening to me? Am I having a brain aneurysm (sp?). Is it sinus pressure or an infection.

I have been feeling very tired and generally unwell and since the onset of the symptoms, I sometimes feel like the fingers on my left hand are sort of week, though this might be in my head.
Posted Wed, 11 Apr 2012 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 23 minutes later
Hello and thanks for the query.

I will try to provide you with some good information and recommendations regarding what is going on.

You have a collection of symptoms of which is I am sure quite difficult to put together. I am sure this is creating a significant amount of anxiety and we will work on that here today.

I have to say that from what you have mentioned so far I am not concerned you have any type of life threatening problem.

I am much more inclined to think that your symptoms stem from a significant degree of inflammation within your sinus cavities. The sinuses make up a significant portion of the interior part of our skulls. When inflammation occurs it can create a list of symptoms including congestion which we obviously know but also other symptoms including popping sensation Seni years and stiffness within the muscles of the face and neck.

I would recommend that for the time being you focus on dealing with this. I would encourage you to change her diet to diminish any significant amounts of refined sugars and dairy products. The reason I recommend this is because these can cause our bodies to generate more secretions which can exacerbate inflammation within the sinuses. In addition I recommend you go to your local pharmacy and purchase over the counter Claritin. You can take this once daily. I would give it a couple of weeks in order to assess how it is working for you. Sometimes patients need to take a prescription medication such as Flonase which is in a nasal spray. Before you consider something like that I think you should try the Claritin.
Again I am not worried that this is some kind of vascular problem like aneurysm or any type of brain tumor or anything else more worrisome. Try to reassure yourself of this and work on what I have recommended.

If for some reason your symptoms do not significantly improve within the next 7 to 10 days you can make an appointment with your response to be helpful and informative. If you have any additional concerns I would be happy to address them.


Dr. Robert
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Cold, runny nose, popping ear, swollen face. Aneurysm or sinus? 2 days later
I tried sending this follow up question and am resending because it doesnt seem to have gone through:

On Wednesday after I wrote in, I went back to my doctor here in Jamaica who confirmed that my thyroid test came back normal. His diagnosis was similar to yours and prescribed something in the Clarinase group of drugs, which i have been taking faithfully.

On Thursday night I felt a slight tightening in the temoralis muscle while talking on the phone and last night while eating some ice cream (no I did not follow the dairy advice) I felt another twitch in my head, this time toward the back right side of my scalp, on top of the hairline but beneath the skin. Then immediately, I felt it traveling up and the little tighteing in the temporalis muscle again.

The alarming thing is that now I have a lump just above the temporalis muscle, in my hairline. It came up suddenly last night right around the time when I was having the ice cream and feeling the discomfort in my head.

I became very anxious and went to a night clinic where the doctor there seems dumb founded by the list of symptoms. I also mentioned that my fingers on my right hand are tingly and somewhat week sometimes (mostly the three middle fingers). He says I need to increase my B-vitamin intake for that and prescribed Xanax. He told me to try to not think!

He also recommended a CT scan, but says he thinks that that will only serve make me feel better because he doesnt believe this is a neurological event. (I actually agree with him there). He admits that something is wrong but doesnt know what it could be or why.

He tod me to watch the lump and come back if it gets bigger. It hasnt seemed to have changed in size since last night but it is definitely still there.

So my question is, should I do the ct scan? Continue with the clarinase business. should I take the xanax and just chill? What is this lump?!

Thanks a million!
Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 19 hours later
Hello and thank you for the follow up question.

Your collection of symptoms is certainly a bit puzzling. I would say that I do not think the CT scan is going to provide very much information. Regarding the lump that you are able to feel on the scalp near the temporalis muscle This is likely a benign inflammatory process. Something that we should consider however it is temporal arteritis.

This is a process by which the temporal artery becomes inflamed. It is generally associated with more painful type of episodes or headaches. In order to diagnosis you have to see if physician and possibly have a biopsy performed. I would keep an eye in the area for the time being and if the swelling persists or worsens over the next 3 to 5 days I would seek the advice of a position.

Regarding everything else that is going on it may be a systemic inflammation. Your body may have been exposed to something that set off an inflammatory series of events. Generally these types of things level often slowly improve over time.

Regarding the medication which you have been prescribed I would hold off on taking it as I do not think it is definitely indicated. Xanax is very sedating and potentially addictive. Next progress for the time being I would try to optimize your lifestyle including diet and exercise and continue to get an adequate amount of sleep. My hope is that all of these things will slowly calm down overtime. Again I do not necessarily think the CT scan is going to yield much information so I would probably not performance.

Again I thank you for your questions. If you have additional concerns please let me know.

Dr. Robert.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Cold, runny nose, popping ear, swollen face. Aneurysm or sinus? 2 hours later
Hi Doctor XXXXXXX -

According to my Dad, there is no way I could have visited his family in DC recently and NOT pick up something! So, you're probably right on the money there.

I agree that I should hold off on the xanax. I read up on the side effects and decided that taking it and having any of those things happening is probably worse than what's going on right now. Instead I bought some molasses and took 1 tbsp before bed last night and that seemed to help me fall asleep.

A friend suggested that the lump could have formed due to my wearing my hair very tightly. Now that she brought it up, I remember that when I had that incident on Thursday while on the phone, my first reaction was to loosen my hair and it was so tight that for a moment I considered cutting the band holding it in place!

Could this have contributed even to the temporalis muscle tightening up if it's range of movement was limited by my hair? Now I'm sure you're having a laugh about women and their militant hair styles! I am more inclined to believe your diagnosis about the general inflammation though.

About the temporal arteritis, what's the worst case scenario there and how is it treated? Initally, the lump did not hurt though it "gave" slightly when touched. Since last night, it now is a bit tender to the touch and feels like if I pressed hard it would definitely hurt. It hasn't gotten any bigger as far as I can notice.

So my final questions, does a tight hairstyle have any role to play in this? I will still follow the other suggestions you gave? Does the lump's slight "behavioral" change (tenderness) alter your diagnosis. Oh and lastnight I was twiching alot all over and the tingling in my hand seemed worse but maybe the molasses helped because I feel fine now except for this pesky lump. I do realize that the symptoms seem worse at night but that could be because my then my body is over tired and that's when I'm most succeptible (sp).

Anyways, thanks for your help. Can I recommend you again if i want to continue to ask questions?



Also, during the night last night,
Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 12 hours later
Thanks for the followup.

As for the temporal arteritis I think this is a less likely cause of your symptoms. It is generally treated with prolonged courses of prednisone. If left untreated it can become more painful. This is really very low on my list in your case and I would not worry about it.

Regarding the inflammation - even pulling your hair back tightly could create a situation of local inflammation so to speak I. The area where you noticed the lump. It could also make the temporalis somewhat more irritable and prone to twitching as well.

I wonder if you are sleeping enough. Ideally 8-9 hours would be good for you especially in a state where you have some inflammation going on.
Lack of sleep can cause twitching for sure and I am wondering if this is the case for you.

I don't think this is anything serious or life threatening and I am sure your body will establish homeostasis slowly but surely in the coming weeks.

I am always available for followups and if you have concerns in the future you can email them to my attention at YYYY@YYYY

Thanks again for the query and followup. I really hope this has proven to be helpful for you.

Take good care,
Dr. Robert
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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