What is external otitis?
External otitis is an infection of your ear canal (the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum). It differs from a middle ear infection (otitis media Ear Infection (Acute Otitis Media) Your middle ear is a hollow space behind your eardrum. The middle ear contains 3 tiny bones that send your eardrum's vibrations to the nerves in your inner ear. Different parts of your ear can... read more ), which is an infection behind your ear drum.
External otitis is especially common after swimming, which is why it’s often called “swimmer’s ear.” But most people who have it weren't swimming.
External otitis is usually caused by bacteria
You'll have ear pain and a white or yellow fluid draining from your ear
Doctors can tell if you have external otitis by examining your ear
Doctors will clean out your ear and give you antibiotic eardrops and pain relievers
Keep water out of your ear until the infection clears up
The Outer Ear
What causes external otitis?
External otitis is usually caused by:
Sometimes it's caused by a fungal infection.
You're more likely to get external otitis if you:
Have skin problems in your ear, such as psoriasis Psoriasis Psoriasis typically causes red bumps or patches covered with silvery, shiny scales. Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) skin disease that causes raised, red patches on your skin. The raised... read more , eczema Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) "Derm" within a word means it has to do with the skin. "Itis" means inflammation. So dermatitis is inflamed skin. Atopic dermatitis, also called eczema, is a long-term type of dermatitis that... read more , or an allergic reaction (dermatitis of the ear Dermatitis of the Ear Canal The ear canal is the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum. "Derm" is a medical term for skin, and "-itis" means inflammation. So, dermatitis is inflamed skin. Dermatitis... read more )
Swim in a lake rather than a pool
Use a hearing aid or ear buds
Irritate your ear canal with cotton swabs
What are the symptoms of external otitis?
White or yellow fluid draining from your ear
If the infection is bad, your ear canal may swell shut and you may have trouble hearing.
Sometimes, the infection affects just one spot in your ear canal and forms a painful pimple. When the pimple breaks open, blood and pus leak out.
In rare cases, your ear infection can spread to the bones of your skull (malignant external otitis Malignant External Otitis External otitis is an infection of your ear canal (the tube that connects the outside of your ear to your eardrum). "Malignant" doesn't mean it's cancer, it just means the external otitis is... read more ).
How can doctors tell if I have external otitis?
Doctors tell if you have external otitis by looking in your ear.
How do doctors treat external otitis?
Use suction or dry cotton wipes to clean out your ear
Have you use ear drops several times a day for up to a week
If your infection is severe, they may place a strip of gauze in your ear for a day or two to help the medicine get into your ear
Cut open any pimples to let the pus out
Tell you not to swim or fly for a while and to keep water out of your ear
How can I prevent external otitis?
To lower your chance of getting external otitis:
After swimming, put drops in your ear made from a solution of half white vinegar and half rubbing alcohol—don't do this, though, if you have any problems with your eardrum
Don't poke cotton swabs or other objects into your ears to try to clean them—this can push dirt further into your ear and hurt your ear canal
Keep hair spray, hair dye, or other chemicals out of your ear
Clean earplugs or hearing aids before you use them