Outer Ear Infections: What You Need To Know
During the summer, engaging in water activities and spending time at beaches, lakes, and swimming pools can increase the likelihood of getting an outer ear infection, also known as swimmer’s ear. The moisture in the ear canal can cause otitis externa, an infection in the outer ear. Hence, it is crucial to prioritize our ear hygiene when we go on vacation during the warmer months.
What is an Outer Ear Infection?
This article discusses the causes and symptoms of an outer ear infection, also known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or fungi and are classified based on the part of the auditory system they affect or the duration of the condition (acute or chronic). Otitis externa specifically impacts the skin in the outer ear canal.
As reported in extensive studies, swimmer’s ear is typically caused by a bacterial infection. It can easily be mistaken for acute otitis media, resulting in delayed treatment with oral antibiotics. Individuals who frequently participate in water sports or spend extended periods in the water are more prone to this type of ear infection, making it more prevalent during summer.
Individuals affected by an ear infection may encounter rapid onset of symptoms, including severe ear pain, redness, and irritation. Additional indicators may include an unpleasant or malodorous discharge, impaired hearing, blockage of the ear, or a fever. In some instances, discomfort may also be present while chewing, or there may be a sense of itchiness within the ear canal. When the natural protective barrier of ear wax is compromised due to excessive moisture, improper ear cleaning, or scratches in the ear canal, micro-organisms can enter and cause an infection.
The outer ear canal can be affected by various types of infections:
• Diffuse otitis externa: The most common type of infection that affects both children and swimmers is one that affects the entire ear canal.
• Chronic mycotic otitis externa: Prolonged use of antibacterial drops or exposure to water can cause a change in the pH level of the ear canal, which creates conditions that can lead to fungal overgrowth.
• Otitis externa: Caused by psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis.: Some skin problems can cause ear infections. Symptoms include redness, flaky skin, and itching in the ear canal.
• Localized otitis externa: This condition, known as folliculitis or furunculosis, is characterized by the development of a pustule or cyst in the ear canal caused by a type of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus.
• Malignant otitis externa: This type of infection can cause inflammation and harm to the bones and cartilage in the head, including the nerves and other tissues. It is a rare but severe condition.
When you have an ear infection and see your medical specialist, they will thoroughly examine your ear using an otoscope and take a swab of any secretion or wax present to determine the specific bacteria causing the infection. This test is crucial in determining the best treatment plan. Antibacterial drops are commonly prescribed to counter Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa to treat the infection effectively. Following your specialist’s instructions when administering the drops is essential, especially if you have a perforated eardrum or have had ventilation tube surgery. Some drops may contain ototoxic drugs, which can cause hearing loss or damage to the ear if not used properly. During the treatment period, it is crucial to keep your ear dry to ensure the drops can work effectively. Your specialist will provide all the necessary guidance to ensure a safe and effective recovery.
If you suspect that you have an outer ear infection, it is advisable to seek help from a specialist, so contact us today. Neglecting proper treatment may exacerbate the condition, and a medical expert can accurately diagnose and recommend the most effective treatment for you.