Home Symptoms and Prevention of Swimmer’s Ear – Acute External Otitis

Symptoms and Prevention of Swimmer’s Ear – Acute External Otitis


hearing health careAcute external otitis or otitis externa – more commonly called swimmer’s ear – is an infection that affects the outer ear canal, the section outside your eardrum. It was given the name “swimmer’s ear” because it is routinely caused by water remaining in the outer ear following swimming, which creates a moist environment that encourages bacterial growth. It can also be caused by poking your fingers, Q-tips, or other objects into the ears, because these items can scrape or damage the delicate skin lining the ear canal, leaving it open to an opportunistic infection. Although swimmer’s ear is usually very easily treated, you need to know and recognize the outward symptoms of it, because untreated it can cause severe complications.

Swimmer’s ear crops up because the ear’s innate defenses (glands that secrete a water-repellant, waxy coating termed cerumen) are overwhelmed. Moisture in the ears, sensitivity reactions, and scratches to the ear canal lining can all promote the growth of bacteria, and lead to infection. Activities that raise your risk of developing swimmer’s ear include swimming (naturally, especially in untreated water such as lakes), overly aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs or other objects, use of devices that sit inside the ear such as ear buds or hearing aids, and allergies.

Itching inside the ear, mild pain or discomfort which is worsened by tugging on the ear, redness and a clear, odorless fluid draining from the ear are all signs and symptoms of a mild case of swimmer’s ear. Extreme itching, heightened pain and discharge of pus indicate a moderate case of swimmer’s ear. In extreme cases, swimmer’s ear can bring about intense pain that extends to other regions of the face, neck, or head, swelling or redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, fever, and obstruction of the ear canal. If untreated, complications from swimmer’s ear can be extremely serious. Complications may include temporary hearing loss, long-term ear infections, deep tissue infections which may spread to other areas of the body, and cartilage or bone loss. Therefore if you experience even the milder symptoms of swimmer’s ear, it’s a smart idea to visit your doctor immediately.

Doctors can usually diagnose swimmer’s ear after a visual examination with a lighted instrument termed an otoscope. Physicians will also make certain that your eardrum hasn’t been ruptured or damaged. If swimmer’s ear is the problem, it is generally treated by first cleaning the ears carefully, and then prescribing antifungal or antibiotic eardrops to fight the infection. If the infection is serious, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics taken orally to help combat it.

You can help to avoid swimmer’s ear by keeping your ears dry after bathing or swimming, by avoiding swimming in untreated water, and by not placing foreign objects in your ears in an attempt to clean them.

More online at www.VirginiaHearingAids.com.



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