Inflammation of the ear
Ear Nose | Emergency Medicine | Inflammation of the ear (Disease)
Inflammation of the ear is an inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal. Along with otitis media, external otitis is one of the two human conditions commonly called earache. It also occurs in many other species. Inflammation of the skin of the ear canal is the essence of this disorder.
Acute otitis media is usually of rapid onset and short duration. Acute otitis media is typically associated with fluid accumulation in the middle ear together with signs or symptoms of ear infection; a bulging eardrum usually accompanied by pain, or a perforated eardrum, often with drainage of purulent material (pus, also termed suppurative otitis media). Fever can be present.
Young children with otitis media may be irritable, fussy, or have problems feeding or sleeping. Older children may complain about pain and fullness in the ear (earache). Fever may be present in a child of any age. These symptoms are often associated with signs of upper respiratory infection such as a runny or stuffy nose, or a cough.
Causes and Risk factors
The inflammation can be secondary to dermatitis (eczema) only, with no microbial infection, or it can be caused by active bacterial or fungal infection. In either case, but more often with infection, the ear canal skin swells and may become painful and/or tender to touch. Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear; however, many doctors consider otitis media to be either inflammation or infection of the middle ear. Otitis means inflammation of the ear, and media means middle. This inflammation often begins with infections that cause sore throats, colds or other respiratory problems, and spreads to the middle ear. Infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria, and can be acute or chronic.
The buildup of pus within the middle ear causes pain and dampens the vibrations of the eardrum (so there is usually temporary hearing loss during the infection).
Severe ear infections may cause the eardrum to rupture. The pus then drains from the middle ear into the ear canal. The hole in the eardrum from the rupture usually heals with medical treatment.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Mild pain relievers such as Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be helpful, especially for children, because the pain can be quite severe. A doctor may sometimes prescribe a course of antibiotics if the inflammation is thought to be caused by bacteria.