Otitis Externa

The Facts about Otitis Externa (Outer Ear Infections)

Engaging in water activities and frequenting the beach or pool during the summer months can lead to outer ear infections such as swimmer’s ear. The increased moisture levels in the ear canal can cause otitis externa, an infection in the outer ear. Protecting our ears during summer vacations is paramount, along with additional precautionary measures.

Otitis, commonly known as ear infections, may be caused by bacteria or fungus. The type of otitis may vary depending on which part of the auditory system is affected or the duration of the infection. In this article, we will focus on otitis externa, which is an infection that affects the outer ear canal and is commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear.

According to long-term medical studies, swimmer’s ear is typically caused by a bacterial infection. This condition can sometimes be misdiagnosed as acute otitis media and subsequently treated with oral antibiotics, resulting in a delay in resolution. Individuals who regularly engage in water sports or spend an extended period in water are at a higher risk of developing this type of ear infection, which tends to be more prevalent during summer. If excessive moisture, improper cleaning, or scratches and abrasions in the ear canal compromise the natural protective barrier formed by ear wax, it allows micro-organisms to invade and cause an infection.

An individual suffering from an ear infection may experience sudden symptoms such as acute ear pain, redness, and irritation. Additionally, there may be a noticeable secretion of wax or discharge that is watery, pus-like, and has an unpleasant odor. The individual may also experience a fever, decreased or muffled hearing, or a blocked ear. Furthermore, redness in the ear, pain while chewing, or itchiness in the ear canal may also be present. It is essential to seek medical attention promptly to address these symptoms and prevent potential complications.

The Different Types of Otitis Externa and Their Causes

It is important to note that the outer ear canal may be susceptible to other infections. Here are some of the known types.

• Diffuse otitis externa is a prevalent infection affecting children and swimmers. This type of infection can impact the entire ear canal, so it’s essential to take preventive measures to avoid it.
• Localized otitis externa, also known as folliculitis or furunculosis, is a condition where a bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus results in the formation of an abscess or cyst in the ear canal.
• Chronic mycotic otitis externa is a condition that occurs when the ear canal’s pH level changes due to prolonged use of antibacterial drops or frequent exposure to water. This change creates an environment that allows fungal overgrowth to occur.
• Malignant otitis externa is a complex infection that causes inflammation and harm to the bones and cartilage in the head. It can also spread to other tissues, including nerves, and is a rare but serious condition.
• Otitis externa can be caused by skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis. Symptoms of this type of infection include redness, flaking skin, and itchiness in the ear canal.

If you suspect that you have an outer ear infection, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a medical professional. Improper treatment can worsen your condition, and a specialist can provide you with the most appropriate treatment plan based on your symptoms and examination results. The specialist may conduct an otoscope examination and take a swab for an ear culture test to identify the bacteria causing the infection. Antibacterial drops are commonly prescribed to treat otitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. It is crucial to administer the drops correctly, especially if you have a perforated eardrum or have had ventilation tube surgery, as some drops contain ototoxic drugs. During your treatment, you should avoid getting moisture in your ear.

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