Otitis Externa

 

What is Otitis Externa?

An inflammation of the ear canal, otitis externa is often referred to as “swimmer’s ear” as it can be caused by water which stays in the ear canal where there is a lesion. This condition can be temporary or ongoing however, it usually clears up quickly once treated. Swimmer’s ear can be caused by anything from a bacterial infection to allergies and is not a contagious condition.

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What are the symptoms of Otitis Externa?

Symptoms of Otitis Externa include:

  • An itching or burning sensation inside your ear canal
  • Pain in the ear which can vary from person to person depending on how bad the infection is
  • Experiencing some discharge from your ear, normally a clear, white or yellow in color
  • Trouble hearing quiet sounds and possible temporary hearing loss
  • A red or swollen outer ear and canal
  • Pain experienced when you move your ear or jaw
  • Inflamed and/or sore glands around your throat and ears
  • Scaly skin in and around your ear
  • Discharge which can be either thick or watery

What are the causes of Otitis Externa?

Otitis Externa is relatively common and can have various causes. It is most commonly brought about by a bacterial infection, usually the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus. While bacteria are more common, it can also be brought on by a fungal infection such as Candida albicans (thrush).

Another common cause of swimmer’s ear is seborrhoeic dermatitis, this is a skin condition which causes itchiness and irritation in normally greasy areas of skin on your body and can spread to the inside of your ear canal. Otitis Media can also contribute to Otitis Externa if it produces a discharge and spreads the infection to the ear canal. Finally, Otitis Externa can be caused by an allergic reaction to anything from ear drops, to medication, to a product used near your ears like shampoos or hairsprays.

You are more at risk of experiencing Otitis Externa if your ears are regularly wet, as this provides the ideal environment for bacteria and fungus to grow. In order to prevent the onset of infection, it’s important to avoid overly humid environments, excessive ear drop use and to dry your ears thoroughly after swimming

What available treatments are there for Otitis Externa?

Initial treatment of swimmer’s ear includes cleaning the area and removing debris from the auditory canal. Otitis Externa will usually clear up quickly after a course of analgesics or ear drops are administered, with sufferers usually feeling better after around 7-10 days. While the ear is being treated, the sufferer can take ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve any remaining ear pain.

It is important that while you have the infection, even while treatment is in progress, to remove and thoroughly clean all hearing aids, ear buds and earrings to avoid the spread of infection.

Find out more about some other causes of hearing loss here

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