We come across many patients with the condition of Swimmer’s ear. Since the trigger is very common, the condition is quite routine and can recur. Swimmer’s ear is an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head.
It’s often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming, or shower, creating a moist environment that aids bacterial growth. Repeated and vigorous cleaning of ear with cotton buds, clothes or finger, ear scratching with various objects, are some habits that may also cause this condition by injuring the ear canal skin.
We refer to Swimmer’s ear as Otitis Externa in the professional field. The most common cause of this infection is bacteria invading the skin inside your ear canal. Infections caused by a fungus or a virus are less common.
Swimmer’s ear symptoms are usually mild at first, but they may get worse if your infection isn’t treated or spreads. We often classify swimmer’s ear according to mild, moderate and advanced stages of progression. Symptoms vary according to the stages:
Itching in your ear canal
Slight redness inside your ear
Mild discomfort that becomes worse upon pulling your outer ear (pinna, or auricle) or pushing on the little “bump” (tragus) in front of your ear
Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid
More intense itching
More extensive redness in your ear
Excessive fluid drainage
Discharge of pus
Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
Decreased or muffled hearing
Severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head
Complete blockage of your ear canal
Redness or swelling of your outer ear
Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
Call your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room if you have severe pain or fever. Even though the infection is very common, it can take a dangerous form. These are the complications that can arise if the infection is ignored for long.
Temporary hearing loss. You may experience muffled hearing that usually gets better after the infection clears up.
- Long-term infection (Chronic Otitis externa). An outer ear infection is usually considered chronic if signs and symptoms persist for more than three months. Chronic infections are more common if there are conditions that make treatment difficult, such as a rare strain of bacteria, an allergic skin reaction, an allergic reaction to antibiotic eardrops, or a combination of a bacterial and fungal infection.
- Deep tissue infection (Cellulitis). In some cases, Swimmer’s ear may result in the spread of infection into deep layers and connective tissues of the skin.
- Bone and cartilage damage (necrotizing Otitis externa). An outer ear infection that spreads can cause inflammation and damage to the skin and cartilage of the outer ear and bones of the lower part of the skull, causing increasingly severe pain. Older adults, people with diabetes or people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of this complication. Necrotizing Otitis externa is also known as malignant Otitis externa, but it’s not a cancer.
- More widespread infection. If swimmer’s ear develops into necrotizing otitis externa, the infection may spread and affect other parts of your body, such as the brain or nearby nerves. This rare complication can be life-threatening.
Doctors usually prescribe some ear drops, creams or ointments as per condition along with analgesics to treat Swimmers ear. However, swelling, purulent discharge or severe pain may warrant antibiotics for cure. We always ask patients to go for targeted treatments when they have the infection. Consult an experienced ENT specialist at the earliest if you experience any discomfort in the ears.
Consult Dr. Shaswati Sengupta Datta from https://tiyo.in/?doctors=shaswati-sengupta-datta
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