Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Non-Rx Remedies for Sjogren's and Ear Pain

Many readers have contacted me about my previous posts on Sjogren's and Ear Pain and seem to experience a similarity in symptoms.  On my end, due to a recent productive visit with an ENT (yeah!), I now know that my ear problems are not only neurological, but are also a result of chronic sinusitis and eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) -- common problems for Sjoggies.

When my nasal passages and sinuses are particularly dry and I am congested, my ear symptoms are worse. This makes sense given that the ear, nose, and throat, are of course, all connected.  My previous post described how some doctors suspect that ear pain or otalgia in Sjogren's patients might be partially caused by dryness in the upper respiratory tract, which can lead to ETD (above picture shows how the eustachian tube connects the back of the nose to the middle ear).  

There are a few non-medication remedies and strategies that I have developed over the last few years to help relieve my symptoms of earache and ear pressure. They are by no means a cure all (and please consult your doctor before preceding with them), but anything that helps a bit and allows me to to do more and be more comfortable is worth it.  And I hope that these might be helpful to others so here goes...

  • Saline Nasal Spray -- I use this a minimum of twice a day in each nostril, but sometimes more to keep my nasal passages moist and clear my sinuses.  I also flush my nasal passages with saline prior to using my prescription nasal sprays for better absorption of the medication.  I carry a small size bottle in my purse for emergencies. Saline nasal sprays can be found at any drugstore and popular brands are Ocean and Ayr.  There are also pharmacy brands available at most drugstores, which seem to work just as well.
  • Steam Inhalation/Vapor Therapy --  For me, this is one of the most effective ways to alleviate my ear pain, moisten my nasal passages,clear congestion, and unclog my ears.  I use the Vick's Personal Steam Inhaler and apply about two to three drops each of peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil to the water basin and steam for about 20 minutes at a time.  In their chapter on the Otolaryngologic Manifestations of Sjogren's Syndrome, Drs. Jacqui Allen and Peter Belafsky discuss that steam inhalation is helpful to Sjogren's patients in their practice and recommend trying it two to three times a day.  I would estimate that I have some improvement 60 percent of the time after steaming.  The Vick's Inhaler can be purchased at drugstores and through Amazon.  I usually find the peppermint and eucalyptus oils at a health food store or a place like Whole Foods which carries organic products.
  • Hot Tea --  This is very simple and serves as my version of steam inhalation when I am not home.  If my ears hurt, I will order a boiling hot mint tea and breath in the vapors.  I know it probably looks ridiculous and people around me must wonder why is that woman sniffing her tea, but it can help a bit and sometimes prevents me from having to head home early.
  • Chewing Gum -- Chewing gum with xylitol is already recommended for Sjoggies with dry mouth to stimulate saliva and help prevent dental decay, but it also helps equalize ear pressure especially if you have eustachian tube dysfunction. It is the same principal as chewing gum when you are flying, and it is also a good option especially when I am on the go and cannot use steam inhalation.
  • Keep Ears Dry with Ear Plugs -- When my ears get wet from showering or bathing, it often exacerbates my symptoms.  So I have started to use silicon ear plugs such as those made by Mack or BioEars for showering to keep them dry.  I also avoid putting my head under water when swimming for the same reason.  If my ears still happen to get water in them, I use ClearEars which are a pretty cool ear plug that are specifically made to remove water or moisture from the ears (they also happen to be echo friendly as a bonus).

And these are my main tips for now.  Please share what works for you too so we can start a dialogue and help each other deal with these ear symptoms.

    *I have no relationship with any of the companies whose products are mentioned in this post*
    *Photo Source*


    1. Again a great post, with great advice !
      Thanks !

    2. First, I just wanna thank you! these are some GREAT ideas! Through reading your suggestions, I also found so much similarity of symptoms and that somebody else is dealing with this made me feel so much better! When this first began, I seriously thought I was loosing myy mind! What has helped me through some very uncomfortable ear pressure/thick clogged eustation tube mucus, has been a nasal spray called "Nasalcrom" its been around forever, but seems to work WAY BETTER than the drying steroid nasal sprays. They reduce inflammation, but left me sinus dry as a desert which kept it feeling clogged. For me, Nasalcrom combines the much needed moisture with anti-inflammation at the same time. Its sold over the counter at Walgreens drug store for around 17$ a bottle/lasts a good 3 months with daily use-so its super affordable! Also, I try to never sleep flat on one pillow. I keep my head slightly elevated to keep from clogging up my dry sinuses overnight from lying down. Also, "Ayre" brand saline with aloe vera gel is great for nasal dryness in the nose passages. I apply it to the tip of a cotton swab and sweep it along the inside of my nostrils and then sniffle it up. It helps me alot, because it stays there for a bit and feels just the way my sinuses USED to feel before I got sick..keep the faith, never stop Loving God and know you're so not alone! Praising Jesus!

      1. I am so glad your found the tips helpful and thanks so much for sharing yours too! I will have to try the Nasalcrom, which I just happen to already have in my medicine cabinet. It is truly so important to share tips, suggestions, and advice to make it easier to cope with autoimmune disease. Thanks again!

    3. Thank you so much!! I have been having problems with my ears for the past six years and my doctor just keeps prescribing me different allergy meds and none of them work. This is the most useful post I have found on the internet that I have found! Thank you for some much needed pain relief :)

    4. I also have sjogrens mild case I do not take any meds for sjogrens. I have pressure in my right ear for the last 9 months. I did have my ear drained but a month later my ear plugged back up with pressure. I do not have ear pain only pressure I also have dry skin and my nose feels dry inside. My ENT Doctor wants to put a tube in my right ear but I think I'm going to try Nasalcrom. Did you have any tubes inserted into your ears? Thanks for the information.

    5. Thank you so much for posting this. I live with Sjogren's, RA, and fibromyalgia along with Macular Degeneration. My nose, throat and nasal passages get so dry at night that I wake with terrible pounding headaches and now the ringing in my ears! Crazy diseases! I suspected the Sjogren's to be the culprit for the ringing and your site confirmed it for me. I will definitely try the Nasalcrom! Thank you all for your posts and praying that the Lord will see you through your illness and give you strength.

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