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Sore throat and left ear pain

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This elderly patient’s unilateral pattern of symptoms was key to the diagnosis.



A 79 year-old man sought care at our clinic for pain in his left ear and a severe sore throat that had been bothering him for the past 2 days. He also complained of pain when he swallowed, a decreased appetite, and dizziness. He denied weight loss, fever, tinnitus, subjective hearing loss, unilateral facial droop, or weakness.

On physical exam, we noted vesicles on an erythematous base on his hard palate. They were on the left side and didn’t cross the midline (FIGURE 1). The left pinna was mildly erythematous and swollen (FIGURE 2) without obvious vesicles, although we noted vesicles in the external auditory canal on otoscopic examination. The tympanic membrane was normal, as was the patient’s right ear.



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