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Otitis Externa; Chronic

Overview

A disorder in which there is infection or inflammation of the external ear and ear canal. Swimmer's ear (otitis externa) is fairly common, affecting 4 out of 1,000 people, mostly teenagers and young adults.


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Causes

It consistsof inflammation, irritation, and/or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. There is often a history of recent exposure to wateror mechanical ear trauma from scratching or foreign objects in the ear. Swimming in polluted water is one way to contractswimmer's ear. Attempts to clean wax from the ear canal, especially with cotton swabs or small objects, can irritate or damagethe skin. Hair spray, hair dyes, shampoos, and other chemicals may irritate the skin of the ear canal.Otitis externa may occasionally be associated with middle ear infection (otitis media) or with upper respiratory infections suchas colds . The presence of moisture in the ear predisposes the ear to infection from fungus or water-loving bacteria such as Pseudomonas or Proteus.


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Signs & Symptoms

ear pain- may worsen on head movement-itching of the ear or ear canal-drainage from the ear- yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling-hearing loss-ear noise or buzzing

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Prevention

Dry the ear thoroughly after exposure to moisture. Avoid swimming in polluted water. Protect the ear canal with cotton orlamb's wool while applying hair spray or hair dye. After swimming, 1 or 2 drops of a mixture of 50% alcohol and 50% vinegarin each ear will help to dry the ear and prevent infection.


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Treatments
Topical Medication Homeopathy

The goal of treatment is cure of the infection.The ear canal should be cleaned of drainage to allow topical medications to work effectively.Topical application of ear drops containing antibiotics to fight infection and corticosteroids to reduce itching and inflammationis usually effective. Ear drops should be used abundantly (four or five drops at a time) since too much is harmless while toolittle may not penetrate to the end of the ear canal. If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick may be applied in the ear to allow thedrops to travel to the end of the canal. Fungal infections may be treated with sulfa-type powders applied to the external ear.Occasionally, oral medications may be used in addition to the topical medications. Analgesics may be used if pain is severe.Warmth to the ears may reduce pain.Protect ears from further damage. Do not scratch the ears or insert cotton swabs or other objects in the ears. Keep ears clean anddry, and do not let water enter the ears when showering, shampooing, or bathing. A 1:1 mixture of rubbing alcohol and distilledvinegar put in the ear canal with a dropper will help dry it out and prevent recurrences.

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