February 27, 2007
Aaron Van Gogh (Part 2)
Yesterday in this space I described (and showed a gross picture of) a problem I've been having with my right ear. Yesterday afternoon I visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who diagnosed me with something called an auricular pseudocyst. According to WebMD.com, "the condition is uncommon" and "may be misdiagnosed or underreported by clinicians," although the doctor I saw certainly seemed sure that he knew exactly what it was.
A few more tidbits from WebMD:
Mortality/Morbidity: Without treatment, permanent deformity of the auricle may occur.
History: Clinically, a pseudocyst manifests as a benign, noninflammatory, asymptomatic swelling on the lateral or anterior surface of the pinna, usually in the scaphoid or triangular fossa. Typically, the swelling develops over 4-12 weeks.
Causes: The etiology for pseudocysts of the auricle is unknown, but several pathogenic mechanisms have been proposed, including chronic low-grade trauma. Some have suggested that a minor defect in auricular embryogenesis contributes to pseudocyst formation. This defect may cause the formation of residual tissue planes within the auricular cartilage. When subjected to repeated minor trauma or mechanical stress, these tissue planes may open, forming a pseudocyst.
Exciting, huh? Basically, there's fluid built up in my ear between two layers of cartilage. This has caused swelling and some deformity, as the cartilage gets bent out of shape, which you can see in the picture from yesterday. What makes it different than a normal cyst--and why it's instead called a pseudocyst--is that simply draining the fluid serves no real purpose. If you do that, the fluid will apparently just re-fill the same space eventually, and the problem will start all over again.
WebMD informs me that "no medical treatment is uniformly effective" and offers a half-dozen types of "surgical care" options. My doctor plans to drain the fluid and then eliminate the "pocket" where the fluid forms by removing cartilage and rebuilding the ear around what's left. In other words, I need surgery. The doctor seemed relatively confident that things would go smoothly, but did scare me a bit when he said, "One risk is that, with less cartilage in place, the ear could collapse on itself." Seriously.
A few weeks ago I had a sore ear and now I'm looking at surgery, which is a shock to my system after not visiting a single doctor for anything in at least five years. Now I'll be visiting a doctor for one reason or another at least five times over a six-week span, culminating with someone slicing my ear open and rearranging things in there. The lesson, as always, is that if you stop ignoring a problem and decide to actually get it checked out, it's possible that they might find something wrong with you.
In happier news, bad ear or not I taped a pair of video segments for NBCSports.com that are running this week. One is a stand-alone piece on the Twins' starting rotation and the other is my call-in to the weekly "Fantasy Fix" show hosted by Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal. I'm a little sad that a chunk of my Twins report was edited out, because it takes some of the context away, but more importantly I'm pleased to say that I was featured alongside Shana Hiatt on the NBCSports.com "media center":
If you're interested in watching the aforementioned videos, click here for my solo segment about the Twins and click here for the "Fantasy Fix" show where I call in to chat with Rosenthal about how Adam Wainwright and Jonathan Papelbon figure to handle moving from the bullpen back to the rotation this season. Oh, and since I probably need to redeem myself after forcing that gross picture of my ear on everyone, click here to see why they call Hiatt "The Goddess of Poker."