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Case Study: Ear Problems Caused by Crohn’s Disease

By Kelly Morales

A ten-year-old boy suffered for several years from ear pain and drainage with associated conductive hearing loss from ear canal inflammation. Other than occasional constipation, he had no significant family history or symptoms of Crohn’s disease. He was evaluated by several doctors but received little benefit from commonly prescribed ear infection medications. None of those doctors suspected that a gut issue could be the cause of his ear problems.

Finally, he was seen by Dr. Eileen Raynor, a pediatric head-and-neck surgeon at Duke University Medical Center, who decided to take tissue biopsies of his ears. She discovered a skin disease sometimes seen as a complication of Crohn’s, which was subsequently confirmed by a gastroenterologist.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes swelling and inflammation in the digestive tract. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue. In some cases, additional symptoms may include mouth sores, inflammation of the eyes and skin problems. The literature reports 80 cases with associated skin problems. Of these cases, only 17 had skin problems first, and patients were later diagnosed with gastrointestinal disease. Recently, others also report “brain fog” as another symptom.

Dr. Raynor stated that this is the first pediatric case reported with ear symptoms secondary to Crohn’s disease. The boy was treated with Infliximab, a medication used to treat Crohn’s disease by blocking a protein that causes inflammation. He also continued to take Methotrexate, Cephalexin, and Tacrolimus topical ointment to treat his skin/ear drainage symptoms. After treatment, the boy no longer had ear pain or drainage, and his hearing returned to normal.

To view the article from Live Science via Fox News, click here.

KELLYKelly Morales is a doctoral candidate in audiology at the University of Arizona. She is completing her 4th year externship with Dr. Judy Huch at Oro Valley Audiology and Tanque Verde Audiology.  She will graduate in May 2015.


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